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The Cult of the Dead Cow hacker collective has been credited with the original coining of the term, in their text-files of that era.One theory is that it was developed to defeat text filters created by BBS or Internet Relay Chat system operators for message boards to discourage the discussion of forbidden topics, like cracking and hacking.Some consider emoticons and ASCII art, like smiley faces, to be leet, while others maintain that leet consists of only symbolic word encryption.

Text rendered in leet is often characterized by distinctive, recurring forms.

Derivation of a noun from a verb stem is possible by attaching -age to the base form of any verb.

These nouns are often used with a form of "to be" rather than "to have," e.g., "that was pwnage" rather than "he has pwnage".

Either is a more emphatic way of expressing the simpler "he pwns," but the former implies that the person is embodying the trait rather than merely possessing it.

Signs that show the numbers "1337" are popular motifs for pictures and shared widely across the Internet.

One of the hallmarks of leet is its unique approach to orthography, using substitutions of other characters, letters or otherwise, to represent a letter or letters in a word.

Nouns such as lulzness and leetness are derivations using this suffix. "This is the s&box," "I'm sorry, you've been b&", "&hill/&farm"). An alternate form of "B&" is "B7", as the ampersand is typed with the "7" key in the standard US keyboard layout.

When forming a past participle ending in -ed, the Leet user may replace the -e with an apostrophe, as was common in poetry of previous centuries, (e.g. It is often seen in the phrase "IBB7" (in before banned), which indicates that the poster believes that a previous poster will soon be banned from the site, channel, or board on which they are both posting.

Creative misspellings and ASCII-art-derived words were also a way to attempt to indicate one was knowledgeable about the culture of computer users.

Once the reserve of hackers, crackers, and script kiddies, leet has since entered the mainstream.

For example, leet spellings of the word leet include 1337 and l33t; eleet may be spelled 31337 or 3l33t.

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