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“Teh” is an Internet slang term derived from the common typographical error of the English definite article “the.” The word has been since embraced by English-speaking internet users as a stylistic preference in l33tspeak, similar to the usage of “1” as a suffix after an exclamation point. In addition, the slang term can be used ironically to pose oneself as a noob or mock someone’s lack of online communication skills.
While the typographical error “teh” most likely became commonplace with the advents of personal computers and QWERTY keyboards, its deliberate usage is thought to have started in the late 1990s to early 2000s with real-time chat in online gaming. The earliest Urban Dictionary definition of “teh,” submitted on November 23rd, 2002, also explains the phenomenon as a “deliberate typo error of ‘the’ used in online gaming discussion.” As of May 2012, Urban Dictionary lists a total of 63 entries defining the meaning and usage of “teh.”
In 2004, Metafilter user bshort posted a question in the AskMeFi (Ask Metafilter) subforum about the meaning of “teh,” which led to a discussion regarding the early adaptors of the term. In the thread, at least three users pointed to Something Awful’s columnist and video game specialist JeffK, who became infamous for his complete disregard and ineptitude in proper grammar and spelling. Beginning in the mid-2000s, intentional use of “teh” became even more widespread with the rise of LOLcat image macros on 4chan.
In online publications, the slang term has been used as the headline in a number of blog posts and discussion threads, some of the more notable references including a 2008 Jezebel article titled “Josh Peck is Teh Hotness in the Wackness” and a 2010 Media Bistro article titled “Hollywood is Teh Suck for Women.” The intentional error may be also invoked when citing an overused quote or axiom, as to neutralize any unwanted connotation of loftiness or pompousness by using faulty grammar.
The word has been also adopted by developers and programmers as the name of software projects. The most notable example is TEH, a minimalist blog engine written using Google App Engine. TEH Engine is a prototype 3D game engine, with TEH being a recursive acronym for “TEH Extremely Hardcore.”
In l33tspeak, the word “teh” is used as an intensifier for English nouns and adjectives with an underlying implication that the typographical mistake had been produced as a result of excitement.
- When “teh” is placed before an adjective, it is used as an intensifier for its superlative form; for example, “that is teh lame” can be interpreted as “that is the lamest” in conventional English. This is also comparable to the use of the definite article el in Spanish language, according to the Wiktionary article.
- The article can be also used with proper names to put extra emphasis on a particular subject or for humorous effect, as in “teh John.” A number of equivalents to “teh” have been cited as similar examples in cross-comparison of different languages like Greek, Latin and colloquial German.
- In addition, “teh” can be used in front of a verb in a novel form of gerund, turning nearly any word into an intensified noun in its superlative form; for example, the phrase “this is teh suck” can be read as “this is the suckiest” or “this is the worst.”
Google Answers – Music and composers in Russia after teh Revolution in Sept 2003
University of Louisiana at Lafayette – IS THERE A TRANSLATOR IN TEH HOUSE?”: CULTURAL AND DISCOURSE
ANALYSIS OF A VIRTUAL SPEECH COMMUNITY ON AN INTERNET
Università di Pisa – A Causal Classification of Orthography Errors in Web Texts
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