n. A shorthand method of spelling found on many British academic bulletin boards and talker systems. Syllables and whole words in a sentence are replaced by single ASCII characters the names of which are phonetically similar or equivalent, while multiple letters are usually dropped. Hence, 'for' becomes '4'; 'two', 'too', and 'to' become '2'; 'ck' becomes 'k'.
"Before I see you tomorrow" becomes "b4 i c u 2moro".
First appeared in London about 1986, and was probably caused by the slowness of available talker systems, which operated on archaic machines with outdated operating systems and no standard methods of communication. Has become rarer since.
See also talk mode.