Do you even wonder where these acronyms come from? Who starts them? Is there a secret cave full of the movers and shakers of the internet world who spend all day trying to come up with the next ‘lol’?
Well, wonder no more, my feathered friend. This is the story of ‘np’.
Our tale begins more than ten years ago, around 1995 or so. AOL was popular, the web wasn’t so popular, porn was just as popular as it’s always been.
I, unfortunately , was not popular. A good deal of my time was spent behind a computer screen, much like it is today. Now I spend my time aligned with noble causes such as writing this blog and checking my e-mail, but back then it wasn’t so innocent.
I was deep in the warez scene.
Warez is pirated software, and my hobby was trading it. It was kind of ridiculous, actually. I wouldn’t use most of the software I donwloaded, I would just trade it with someone else. Back then there was no Bearshare or Limewire or BitTorrent, so if you wanted a file you had to find someone who had it, and then trade with them one on one. Over the state of the art 28.8kbps modems we all had, this was a bit of a task.
Here’s how a typical interaction might take place :
<tynan> Hey, does anyone have Sim Penguin?
<l337dud3> yeah, i have it. do u have Barbie Makeover?
<tynan> Of course I do. You send first.
Now, here l337dud3 would start directly sending me Sim Penguin. This could take hours and hours. When it finished, I would start sending him Barbie Makeover. Pay attention, because here’s the action:
There are two things you need to realize here – first, no one EVER said “np”. It wasn’t in the lexicon back then. Everyone said “you’re welcome” or “no problem”. Really, acronyms weren’t even that popular back then. People were more into substituting numbers for letters. There were a few basics : lol, thx, imho, but not much beyond that.
Also, I was high up in the warez scene. I was a member of some major organizations and a moderator on the biggest chat channel for this stuff. That meant that I had an audience.
The warez scene, in conjunction with the hacker scene which it shares a lot of members with, is where most, if not all of these sorts of chat abnormalities come from. The members of these groups represent the bleeding edge of technology and also the most time logged online. Or at least they used to. Slowly you’d see things they said trickle down into the general population of 40 year olds posing as 16 year old girls on AOL… and others, of course.
Many trades would go down each day, so there were a lot of repeats of the above conversation. One day I was feeling rather spunky, and somewhat lazy, so I switched up the conversation. It went a little something like this :
<l337dud3> what does that mean?
I know the conversation seems belabored and made up, but I distinctly remember him asking me what it meant. I told him it stood for “no problem”. I decided that I like “np” and was going to keep saying it. For a month or maybe two, almost everyone asked what it meant. I guess people figured it out after a while, because eventually they stopped asking me. Then all of a sudden someone said it to ME one day. I was shocked, because I knew that I was the only person who said it. In the next month or two after that, EVERYONE was saying it. Soon it was part of the vocabulary of every slightly rebellious teenager on the internet. A new acronym was born.
What proof do I have? None, unfortunately. This is very unfortunate, because very few people believe me. My ex believed me, but I don’t think she cared. Also, she wasn’t really into computers and probably had no idea what I was talking about. I don’t actually think I’m the first person in history to use the abbreviation “np”. That would be ridiculous.
I am, however, certain that I came up with the idea independently and was responsible for popularizing it in the most influential chatting community at the time. And I’m also certain that it became mainstream shortly after that.
Does this all matter? Maybe not, but I care. I actually feel a slight bit of pride every time someone says “np” to me. I think it’s really fascinating to think about how the word was passed from one person to another and ten years later it gets back to me.