There's spoken language, sign language, dead languages, programming languages ... and then there's leetspeak, which doesn't quite fall in any of these categories. It was born in the 1980s and really took off in the '90s, when Internet access became commonplace. Forerunners to leetspeak were the kind of letter-number substitutions people made on license plates or using calculators -- "8" representing the letter "B," for example, or "3" instead of "E." Later, chat rooms and text messaging made abbreviations commonplace, like "BRB" for "be right back." But leetspeak goes a bit further. A complex, fluid language, it uses alphanumeric language, hacker slang and sometimes deliberately incorrect grammar ("are" for "is") to create an argot that can be incomprehensible to the uninitiated.
And that was the point: Although not the main purpose of leetspeak, at least initially, it became a language that separated the insiders from the outsiders. (Really, isn't that the point of all jargon?) Leetspeak is something you use at your peril; using it badly can mark you as a "noob" like nothing else.
How familiar are you with this still-used online language? Are "pwnd," "lulz" and "B&" part of your vocabulary? For that matter, do you know how to spell "leet" in leet, or what it stands for? (If not, the rest of the quiz might get kind of tough; just sayin'). Test your leetspeak skillz here, and 600d 1uck!