I’d heard the worrying stories about South African girls trading sex for mobile phone airtime. On South African mobile chatroom, 2Go (a similar low-cost messaging service to the mobile instant messaging service, mXit), a similar kind of exchange is taking place. Every message on 2Go costs a small amount of credits (less than one South African cent). The 2Go website explains that you can send your friends the credits used for chatting, “so that they can be connected with you all the time”. It seems that, among the SA teens who congregate on 2Go in order to chat to strangers and friends via their cellphones, a “bikini pic” might be traded for 300 chat credits, although, in the following case, the offer was rejected:
SlimstaBlont: Suk imand n bikini pic [Anyone want a bikini pic]
Perepiel: Nee vok nimand like terte ni domblond [No f**k no one likes tarts dumb blonde]
SlimstaBlont: Nee ek wil 300 credits he inruil vi dit [No I want 300 credits in exchange for it]
Biets: Slimsta jy’s seka kak lelik? [Slimsta you’re probably extremely ugly]
SlimstaBlont: Hukom sal ek n pic wil stu as ek lelik is? [Why would I want to send a pic if I’m ugly?]
Beerq: Slimsta jou slet [Slimsta you slut]
Biets: Want jy’s n dom blond [Because you’re a dumb blonde]
SlimstaBlont: has left the room
It is certainly entertaining to log in to 2Go and be a chat voyeur, every time I got stuck writing my last PhD chapter I logged in and would always be mildly amused but was often somewhat shocked as well.
On the positive side, there is so much linguistic creativity in the textspeak used. In the example above, I changed all the names to protect the anonymity of the chatters, but they are nonetheless typical of what I saw. Unfortunately it’s really hard to translate the humour of the names into English. (For example, Perepiel (horse d**k) is both far more vulgar and less vulgar than its English equivalent – possibly because of the farming associations and “call a spade a spade” matter-of-factness that are still associated with certain kinds of vocabulary in Afrikaans.) I also love it that so many of the names are made up of a multimodal alphabet, the names themselves are all festooned with visual icons such as smileys, devil’s horns, halos, etc.
I also love the creative Afrikaans spelling, as seen in this parodic example:
Beerq: Is dar enige kak lelike girls waarmee ek kan chat wnt x ni n oil painting, danq, danq [Are there any s**t ugly girls who I can chat to cause I’m no oil painting, thank you, thank you]
Despite wearing the brave new lipgloss of “mobile social networks” hype, there’s nothing new here to anyone who’s ever logged into a chatroom. While ASL (Age Sex Location) is the global standard greeting when strangers meet up in synchronous chats around the world, it’s disturbing that the South African version is ASLR (“Age Sex Location Race”). Here’s how it goes:
4FunAddMe: ASLR PoraBabe?
PoraBabe: 15 [years old], f[Female], Jhb [Johannesburg], Wit [white]
All I can say is SHAME on you, kids. People died so that no one in this country would need to be put in a little box because of their A, S, L, and most particularly, their R.