The ways that the informal speech of women impacts the language is soooo underexplored.
For the past five years, Sali Tagliamonte, a linguist at the University of Toronto, has been gathering digital-communications data from students. In analyzing nearly 4 million words, she’s found some interesting patterns. “This reduplication of letters, it’s not all crazy,” she told me. Certain vowels—o, a, and e—are the most-frequent candidates for multiplication. Words are most frequently elongated by two or three letters at a time. Elongations are common in instant messaging and texting, but less frequent in e-mail. And as with other linguistic trends—Tagliamonte mentioned the use of like for quotation and so for intensification “I was like, ‘That’s so funny!’ ”—“women are at the forefront.” But why is anyone adding extra letters in the first place?