a.k.a. textonyms, homonumeric word, txtonym, or T9onym

A term that describes the automatic spell checker suggestion you see on a smart phone while typing a word. Often, you have to be on your watch to avoid selecting and sending the wrong suggested word!

Specifically it describes the same key sequence which also corresponds to other words, that occurs when texting on a cell phone. As opposed to a QWERTY keyboard, some cell phones only contain 12 to 15 keys, and the 26-letter alphabet (for English - more for some other languages) has to be made to fit. The overloading of each key has led to several strategies for symbol selection all of which are awkward and time-consuming. For example, to get the sequence "def":

  • you press the 3 key, this gives you d
  • you wait for the time-out to complete (shown by the appearance of flashing cursor on the screen)
  • you press the 3 key twice, making sure that your second press follows the first quickly before the time-out effect, this gives you e
  • you wait for the time-out to complete
  • you press the 3 key three times, again making sure that your second and third presses follow the first quickly before the time-out takes effect, this gives you the f.

The sequence "def" therefore takes six key-presses plus two pauses. For punctuation marks, further key-presses would be required. Some phones replace the time-out with a "next" key, or a "long-press" system, or a "two-key" method or "three-key" method.

Anything that reduces the problem of multiple key-presses and pauses is considered a good thing and this has resulted in the development of predictive texting: where the phone uses a dictionary to guess what you want to say. This significantly reduces the number of key-presses however, mistakes can be made. For example, the key-sequence 288866 gives both autumn and button; 7378378 produces both request and pervert. These results are referred to as textonyms.

Some sequences generate a dozen or more alternatives and has led to a game: Find the oddest or most poetic groups of textonyms. The sequence 2665, which produces both book and cool, has resulted in a practice where some texters deliberately use the former word instead of the latter: "u like the movie?" asks Jack; "book" replies Jill.

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NetLingo Classification: Online Jargon

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