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  • Dean Smith

The Curious Case of Reddit Slang, and the Reality of Zerging

For our next online guide from the UK company National Online Safety (NOS), we’re going to look at one designed for adults. The company typically publishes guides aimed at children and educators, but this one’s for the parents, specifically the ones who think Reddit’s “just a bunch of forum threads.”

What makes NOS’s guides unique is simple. They’re up to date, and, *gasp*, are written by people who have realistic, experience-based, knowledge, unlike the vast majority of public service announcements or educational materials.

The terribly titled, “Learn the Lingo,” section makes a surprisingly good point. Despite the atrocious title, the author’s not wrong. You may think you know internet slang and abbreviations because you rocked a dial up modem and paid per minute to hang out in AOL’s chat rooms. You were there at the beginning. You saw it all popularized and then shift to texting. It was LOL in ’95 and it’s still LOL in 2020.

If you don’t know how to zerg something, think again. You’re about twenty years behind, and that’s an easy one.

What do Zerg have to do with Reddit? Nothing. Due to the popularity of online gaming, and its depiction in movies, TV, etc., even the most internet illiterate have an understanding how gamers form unique communities and interact using unusual vocabularies. We’ll use this to draw an analogy with the unique sub-Reddit terms and abbreviations.

For those who aren’t aware of “zerging,” we won’t leave you hanging. We’ll do the definition first, analogy second.

Zerg’s a gaming reference that swarmed into internet culture and stayed, and because English is awesome, the word is, now, both a noun and a verb. Initially, Zerg was the name of an alien race. To zerg, or zerging, means to rush something and overwhelm it quickly, typically through cheap, mass produced units. It’s a tactic often used by the alien race throughout the StarCraft franchise, and voilà, the noun became verb.

It’s a common practice in every online gaming community. Depending on the game, the vocabulary may include slang from the producing company’s other products or franchises, despite bearing no obvious relationship. Occasionally, these terms make their make into the larger discourse, but that tends to be a bit on the rare side. Ergo, to understand the people playing the game, you need to understand their unique language.

Sub-Reddit’s are exactly the same. Depending on the community (the sub-reddit), the topic, and what the moderators deem acceptable, the terminology, slang, and abbreviations can exist only for the purpose of that thread. Thus, if you’ve got a child who Reddits, you’ll have to put a bit more effort into monitoring their activities and content consumption. Learning a new community isn’t always easy, especially if you’re jumping into it cold, but nobody ever said the internet would make our lives easier, right?

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