with the proliferation of online games, i would think that l33tsp33k would be fairly ubiquitous, but appearantly it is not because the question about what the hell i am talking about seems to come up fairly often. so here i will attempt to explain just what l33t is and how to speak it.
l33t cannot be spoken, nor should it be hand written. it is a contrivance meant solely for mediums that involve electronic text: online chat, email, and webpages. l33t is often considered the lingua franca for the denizens of online games, chat rooms, and message boards: the 13 year old. indeed, there is a little annoying 13 year old in all of us, yearning to spew forth flames, profanity, and other unsettling internet noise, and that little punk speaks l33t.
so for me, when i really want to say something that shouldn't be taken seriously, or is to be taken in the purest sense of geekdom, i use l33t to say it. l33t is the essence of online arrogance, pretension, and elitism. the word l33t itself comes from the word "elite", or a person who is on a higher level than someone else. in hacking circles, being l33t means being more technically savvy than someone else, in gaming terms it means being a tougher competitor than someone else. naturally, the only people who take these notions seriously are annoying 13 year olds.
l33t isn't so much a dialect as it is a set of rules. in general l33t sp33k is simply a modified version of english, these modifications (mods) are applied to varying degrees, depending on just how annoying you want your l33t to sound. a light dose of l33t might be easy to read, while a heavy dose might be virtually indecipherable.
lesson 1: exchanging letters for numbers
all l33t, even the lightest of applications, contains numbers in place of certain letters. most often, these are vowels, but other letters work as well. the most common substitutions include:
a = 4 e = 3 i = 1 0 = 0
lame = l4m3 loser = l0s3r geek = g33k fear= f34r
other substitutions can be more complicated, and include more than just letters:
b = 8 c = ( d = |) h = |-| k = |< m = /\/\
n = |\| s = 5 t = + u = |_| v = \/ w = \/\/
wet = \/\/3+ sweet = 5\/\/33+ nuked = |\||_||<3|)
the letter 'z' can be used in place of the letter "s" to indicate a plural, but it is reserved for things that are stolen, pirated, or otherwise of an illegal nature:
software = warez files = filez passwords = passwerdz
lesson 2: selective spelling
there are nifty ways to misspell words so they look vastly different from their normal spelling, but retain their original pronunciation. sometimes you simply spell words phonetically:
dude = dood cool = kewl speak = speek sex = secks gay = ghei
or to trade the correct spellings between words:
phone = fone freak = phreak
phonetic spellings are subject to the actual pronunciation of the word, however subjective that my be. some words are spelled with extra pronunciation. in particular is the work "hacker" which in l33t is spelled "haxor". this practice is then applied to any word that ends in "ck" and therefore any word that ends in "x"
chick = chixor suck = suxor rock = roxor sex (secks) = sexor
another creative spelling is to use deliberate typos. anyone who has ever used a keyboard has made a typing mistake. some mistakes are so common that they are universally accepted as correct. some examples include:
the = teh porn = pron own = pwn girlfriend = grilfiend
another way to spell things creatively is to assume an accent of some form and then spell words the way they would be pronounced using said accent. asian accents are a common source of assumed accents, as are those of gangster rappers:
uber = ubah sexy = sekseh you = joo fool = foo me = meh ever = evar
lesson 3: putting it together
the primary use for l33t is to taunt or to make fun of others. gamers and hackers often borrow words and phrases from other forms of taunt and transform them into l33t. rap music is an excellent source of taunts to use. using the right words, spellings, and proper character replacement will help you to deliver l33t that is both annoying and representative of just how much time you have on your hands.
vocabulary is another consideration for sp33king l33t. there are a handful of words that are unique to l33t:
w00t = an interjection, based on the word hoot.
pwn = an accepted typo of the word own, used to describe victory over another person in competition. when you shoot someone in a first person shooter, a common taunt is "omg!! pwned!!"
uber = (also 00ber, ubah, or oobuh) based on the german word for "super", it can be used as an adjective to describe raw power ("i am so ubar"), or as a prefix for an adverb to indicate intensity (ubah sexeh).
lewt = loot, the reward fr something in the game, or as an expression for material or financial gains.
crack = a means of defeating copyright protection on a piece of software. once the item has been compromised, it is "cracked".
n00b = also newb, short for newbie, a person who is new to a game or someone the sp33k3r considers to be less skilled or experienced than him or herself. used most often as an insult i.e. "STFU N00B!".
leech = to use a high speed connection to accessand download materials from warez servers and/or peer to peer networks.
example phrases in l33t:
i am elite = 3y3 a3r l33t
you are not elite = j00 a3r t3h suX0r
this is swell = R0X0R!! OMFG!!
dave has made and excellent point = STFU N00B!
i am pleased with my accomplishments = p33r m3h
your abilities will improve with practice = WTF N00b?
other sources for l33t:
the megatokyo speek leet comic which is a spoof on a famous scene from the movie "airplane".
another MT strip, this one with english subtitles.
google in l33t
wikipedia l33t translator