Tiny Dissertation 1: OMG QWERTY WTF

Disclaimer: This post is about the process, not the result. You may be wasting your time by reading it. 

Premise: I am left-handed (and proud!) The QWERTY keyboard is preferential to the left-hand. 56% of keystrokes happen on the left-side. More than 3000 English words can be written with the left hand alone (i.e. reverberates), while only 450 are possible with the right hand (i.e. lollipop). There are various models of  letter frequency in English, one order from most used to least is: ETAON RISHD LFCMU GYPWB VKXJQ Z with the left-hand letters in bold.

Question: Do internet acronyms follow the pattern of 56% left-handed frequency? What is the letter frequency for the most used internet acronyms?

Hypothesis: The top 2 vowels are on the left-side, and I think it’s mostly the vowels that creates this imbalance. Most words are not vowel-initial, so their frequency should go down in a study of acronyms. This means that the top consonants TRSDF would need to appear more frequently to maintain this ratio. I think overall, left-handed frequency should go down in acronyms.

Sample Data: Taking the longer version of internet acronyms (LMFAO not LMAO, IMHO not IMO) I will list 26 acronyms I personally deem popular and relevant, trying to avoid acronyms which originated long before the internet, mostly from the military (MIA, FYI, POW, SOL, FUBAR, ASAP, AWOL). PWN and THX are not acronyms, but they’re very common and I thinkthey should  be included. I will then record the hand placement of the 26 acronyms, and come up with some data regarding the total keystrokes vs. left-handed frequency, as well as the number of acronyms which only require one hand.

AFK llr                     away from keyboard
BBL llr                     be back later
BRB lll                      be right back
BTW lll                    by the way
FML lrr                    f* my life
FTW lll                    for the win!
GTFO lllr                get the f* out
IDK rlr                     i don’t know
IMHO rrrr              in my humble opinion
ILY rrr                      i love you
IRL rlr                      in real life
JK rr                         just kidding
LMFAO rrllr           laughing my f* a* off
LOL rrr                    laugh out loud
NP rr                        no problem
NSFW rlll                not safe for work
OMG rrr                  oh my god
PWN rlr                   pwned! (owned)
ROTFL lrllr             rolling on the floor laughing
RTFM lllr                 read the f* manual
STFU lllr                  shut the f* up
THX lrl                     thanks
TMI lrr                     too much information
TTYL llrr                  talk to you later
WB ll                         welcome back
WTF lll                      what the f*

Total characters in 26 acronyms: 85 characters.

Left hand Total: 44/85
Right hand Total: 41/85

Just left-hand: 5 – brb btw ftw wb wtf
Just right-hand: 6 – imho ily jk lol np omg

Results: The left-hand types 51% of the time, which is below the normal hand frequency for QWERTY keyboard but still above even. I was correct that the percentage went down. The letter total and frequency for these 26 acronyms is: T(11) F(10) L(9) BMO(6) WI(5) R(4) N(3) AGHKPSY(2) DJUX(1) CEQVZ(o) with the left-hand side in bolded letters. I predicted that TRSDF would need to be more frequent to keep the left-handed bias of QWERTY, and T & F were, but surprisingly B & W lept up the most. The bottom 6 letters are on the left side. There are no E’s at all, a complete reversal from its normal frequency. No words like email and e-commerce are represented, in fact only ‘keyboard’ shows up from tech vocabulary. PEBKAC (problem exists between keyboard and chair) has an E, and could be on the list. More acronyms can be spelled with the right-hand only than with the left, but only wins by one word, 6 to 5.

Discussion: QWERTY is not a perfect typing system, apparently the kinds of strains people get from sitting at computers is due in part to the finger stretching one must do to hit the keys which are mostly above home row. 5 of the 10 most frequent keys are in the top row. It doesn’t appear that internet acronyms have been intentionally designed to flip between hands, or favor the right hand, or use home row. The acronyms just use the real letters from common phrases used online.  Fun Fact: L is on the right side of a QWERTY keyboard, and R is on the left.

Conclusion: I’m glad I did this experiment, but it doesn’t pass the SO WHAT? test that all dissertation proposals must pass to commit to spending more than one morning thinking about and researching. Oh well.


January 25, 2012

in alphabet,computers,dissertation,University of York,Words & Origins

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Ben January 25, 2012 at 9:23 PM

What about the Dvorak keyboard?


MuM January 26, 2012 at 5:31 AM



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