The Etymology of LOL*

Posted on April 19, 2012

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*Warning: the language in this article may be extremely irritating to language purists.

I realized recently I’ve been using LOL a lot when I speak. And so do a lot of other people. Like if someone says something funny, or they describe a funny situation you go: “Hahaha lol.” Which is a bit redundant because you already laughed, but there it is. And you do the little emoticon eye roll thing too as you roll out the ‘o’— Loooool. It’s quite satisfying really, saying lol. Lol. Say it, you like it don’t you? I thought it was the stupidest thing when I first came across it in ICQ chat rooms some ten or twelve years ago. ICQ! Lol, that’s so 1990’s. (Like that pharse just there, it’s not the same as writing:  ‘ICQ! It’s really funny how it’s so 1990s now right?’) See the lol just summarizes an entire feeling. It’s not about laziness, it’s about having people getting it quicker. And back then people talked about how chat abbreviations were incomprehensible and would never catch on. Who uses ROTFL anyway? Secretary of State Hillary Clinton does, that’s who.

I bet Barack lols as well. See it’s a verb now: to lol or not to lol. A friend of mine from France was responsible for my realizing how truly “global” (or should I saw Western Hemispheric) the lol was. They say it in France too, except it sounds much more like leul than lol. I wonder if Frenchies type it as leul. But what’s really interesting is that it’s turned into a phrase. Some say ‘“tu me fais loler” instead of “tu me fais marrer” or “tu me fais rire” (‘You make me lol’ instead of ‘you make me laugh’).

Wikipedia has a really funny article on the etymology of LOL, complete with pompous linguists criticizing its use:

David Crystal notes that use of LOL is not necessarily genuine,[18] just as the use of smiley faces or grins is not necessarily genuine, posing the rhetorical question “How many people are actually ‘laughing out loud’ when they send LOL?”. Franzini[2] concurs, stating that there is as yet no research that has determined the percentage of people who are actually laughing out loud when they write LOL.

Hahaha omg rotfl. Research on the percentage of people who are actually laughing out loud when they write lol. Seriously? They just don’t get it, do they? That it’s not the meaning behind lol which matters. Back in the olden days when people had to write ‘hey that’s funny’ when they read something funny did anyone ever even question whether they actually meant it or not?

But what scares late internet users is the creeping of lol into our daily lives. The erosion of language and professionalism:

Laccetti (professor of humanities at Stevens Institute of Technology) and Molski, in their essay entitledThe Lost Art of Writing,[12][13] are critical of the terms, predicting reduced chances of employment for students who use such slang, stating that, “Unfortunately for these students, their bosses will not be ‘lol’ when they read a report that lacks proper punctuation and grammar, has numerous misspellings, various made-up words, and silly acronyms.”

Hehe “their bosses will not be lol” They don’t even know how to use the term right. It’s their bosses will not lol. You don’t be lol, you just lol. And well booyah on them. I skype chat with my boss at work and she uses lol, omg and ;) and :P all the time. Granted I don’t work for [insert name of some really serious company here] but it’s an otherwise very professional NGO.

The thing is, it’s not about whether you’re professional or not, or about whether you can actually spell or not. You can be an erudite and lol. It’s a social thing, not an education thing. And we don’t use it on job applications— lolz, bitch please, we’re not that stupid.

An exemplary lolcat

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Posted in: Random