Language and Societies

ANT/LIN 5320 at Wayne State University

ALKFJD: The changing metalinguistic understandings of keysmash practices

ALKFJD: The changing metalinguistic understandings of keysmash practices

Mikayla Swasey

Nearly everyone currently speaks to others via the Internet in some way, shape, or form, although not every Internet user speaks the same way. These differences, like whether users include emoticons like “:)” or Internet slang like JK for “just kidding” are ways people can speak online, and are increasingly being studied by linguists. Another part of Internet language are keysmahses, the action of hitting random letters on the keyboard in ways like “alshfldhf”. While this action is not studied heavily by linguists yet, there are perceived rules around this phenomenon, along with online communities associated with the action. In this paper, I describe the metalinguistic beliefs around keysmashes, as well the changes surrounding them over time.

April 16, 2020 - Posted by | abstract


  1. Cool topic! Something I’ve noticed in the past few years is the apparent repurposing of the term “random,” mostly among younger speakers. It appears to have acquired the sense of “unexpected.” I wonder if keysmashing has some shared aspect: the interjection of something unexpected, or (provisionally) nonsensical as a means of derailing an act of discourse. You imply that there are patterns in keysmashes (influenced by the layout of the QWERTY keyboard and the anatomy of the human hand?); if so, they are no more truly chaotic than other phenomena termed “random.” Rather, their meaning is coalescing around their effect. Which is…?

    Comment by Dan Harrison | April 17, 2020 | Reply

  2. This field of linguistics on the internet is certainly growing. I wonder what some of these metalinguistic ideas about keysmash are and how does capitalization or other changes in the keysmash impact the meaning and the associations with it.

    Comment by Shannon Yee | April 22, 2020 | Reply

  3. I am familiar with keysmashing and I remember you were talking to me about your project after class. I wonder if there are any patterns and meaning to the type of keys people smash?

    Comment by Georgina Gill | April 25, 2020 | Reply

  4. I love looking at the differences between the language people use in real life vs. the internet. I think internet language and culture is an area of study more linguists should look at. Most related studies that I’ve seen are done by Communication majors who study Computer-mediated or Mass Comm. If keysmash practices convey intense emotions that cannot be expressed though words, then I wonder about the relationship between common feelings and if certain keysmashes are somewhat similar in use. Taking this further, you could ask a sample of people to provide a keysmash in different conversation scenarios and analyze any similarities/differences. Unrelated and yet this reminded me of it: There are certain feelings that are hard to express in the English language using a single word or small phrase, and yet German can express the same thing in a single word.

    Comment by Nicole Markovic | April 28, 2020 | Reply

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