Learn what subligaculum means and amaze your friends


According to my imagination, texting began in ancient Rome but never caught on. Much like today, everyone wanted a tablet, and once the price of chisels dropped, the Romans spent most of the day carving messages in stone.


Keeping in touch with a friend involved writing a message on a tablet and then lugging it over to your friend’s house to read. You can imagine how tiresome, cumbersome, bothersome, and boresome that was. If you had a lot of friends, you would be buffsome from carrying around all those tablets, but it involved talking face-to-face, which somehow seemed barbaric.


Not only was carving a tablet difficultsome and timesome, but it was also hard to write straight on stone. People began using chalk to make guidelines for the letters, and soon writing on a tablet began to be called writing “online.”


Since everyone could read these tablets, young people developed acronyms and “online names” so that the adults around them wouldn’t be able to figure out what they were saying.


Subligaculum were easy to get into a knot. This is where we get the modern expression, "Don't get your panties all in a knot." (Photo: courtesy of Wikipedia; History and phrase etymology: courtesy of yearstricken.)


Aurelius Aquila1 (online name: The Golden Eagle2), a young Roman teen, chiseled himself a place in history by his prolific writing in the Caesarean section of Rome. He was also famous for starting the fad of wearing toga belts suggestively low on the hips. When his enraged parents told him to pull the belt higher, he famously, flippantly and frivolously replied, “Don’t get your subligaculum all in a knot.” However, he missed the mark with his idea of carving generic messages on pavement around town and having his friends go to the text, rather than the text going to the friends.



Sadly, we have only one extant example of texting by The Golden Eagle, and I have not been able to decipher all of the message. I’m working on it and will not rest until I do or until night falls, whichever comes first.

Text by Aurelius Aquila. This is possibly the Rosetta Stone of early texting. POS = Parents over shoulder; OB = Oh, baby. My imagination and I believe the rest may be rather racy3. (Photo: courtesy of http://www.flickr.com/photos/horiavarlan/4793133652/)




In the photo you see that I kindly underlined what I have been able to figure out so far. The caption gives the explanation.







1 Aquila means eagle, eagle means feathers, and feathers mean quills. Ergo, ipso facto, this is where we get the word “quill.”

The Golden Eagle was a prolific writer, eagle means feather, feathers mean quills, quills mean pens. Ergo, ipso facto, this is where we get the name of  The Golden Pen award.

3 In my research I have discovered two things: one, I cannot use a superscript in a photo caption, so the 3 looks weird after the word “racy,” which is irritating; and two, those nude statues the Romans were so fond of may have been, in fact, just an early form of sexting.

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I started out today writing a very short introduction to a list of texting acronyms for Boomers that my sister and brother-in-law sent me. But I write the same way I live. I need my glasses, I go into the bedroom, I notice the mirror is dirty, I clean it, I remember I need to clean the bathroom sink, I see that I haven’t combed my hair, then I remember I need to make a hair appointment, I look for my phone, I see that I have an email, I sit down to read it, and realize I need to find my glasses.


What follows is the equivalent of finding my glasses, and unlike my meandering introduction, it  is worth reading.  I did NOT create this list. I wish I did, but I didn’t. The email has been passed around to a lot of people and does not include the author’s name. If you know who it is, please let me know. I want to be his or her friend, and I would like to give credit to the author. Enjoy.