I randomly dropped lol onto the end of that title because it seems that’s what you do these days, regardless of whether something’s funny or not.
Its about the songz
An extract from rapper Trey Songz song, which is actually called LOL
‘Shorty just text me, says she wanna sex me/LOL smiley face, LOL smiley face/Shorty sent a twitpic/saying come and get this/LOL smiley face, LOL smiley face’.
It’s about the modern-day booty call, referring to Twitter, Blackberry, Myspace, and of course, sexting (omg I love that word). Aside from the fact that it probably sexualises teenage girls, if they’re not sexualised enough already, it’s also vacuous and inane, and also slightly disturbs me from a gender perspective in a way I can’t quite articulate. But then, what can you expect from a musician who changes his last name to ‘songs’ with a Z?
Wtf is ‘lol’. where is it from.
Internet-derived shortened forms such as LOL have around as long as, well, the internet. They started in the 80s, amongst nerdy cliques using online gaming and BBS (precursor to online forums) and proliferated as electronic communications (email, texting, social networking, blogs), became more widely used.
Grammatically, they are abbreviations (soz, devo), abberant abbreviations (4get, sum1) and initialisms (LOL, WTF?). As they creep their way into our speech, they are also pronounced as words rather than individual letters, becoming acronyms (lol, asap).
They save time typing, as well as saving space with texts and Twitter, which limit the amount of character they can use. But internet slang isn’t merely pragmatic: like other forms of slang, it shows that you’re a member of an in-group and excludes outsiders.
Leet, a form of speech that originated in BBS in the 1980s, is derived from the term elite, and gave rise to forms of modern internet slang such as ‘powned’ (showing domination over someone in a video game or argument, or a successful hacking) and adding Z to words (Songz!). It was used to defeat filters and to create unique passwords, encryptions, and user names. Using Leet gave you elite access to a community, demonstrated your online savvy, and prevented newbies from knowing what was going on.
In March this year, the word LOL was added to the Oxford English Dictionary, along with IMHO (‘in my humble opinion’), TMI (‘too much information’) and BFF (‘best friends for ever). In their note of explanation, the Oxford researchers note that these initialisms connote something slightly different than the phrase they stand for:
‘The intention is usually to signal an informal, gossipy mode of expression, and perhaps parody the level of unreflective enthusiasm or overstatement that can sometimes be used in online discourse, while at the same time making oneself an ‘insider’ au fait with forms of expression associated with the latest technology.’
In other words, these initialisms are more than a mere substitution for their lengthier forms. How many people actually laugh when they use the word LOL? Not many, I suspect. It doesn’t have the warmness of a laugh IRL (in real life), or the human connection. It connotes something more playful, detached and ironic. Like ‘liking’ something on Facebook or doing a status-update, the importance is in the self-reporting. To an extent, the truthfulness of that state is irrelevant; hence the irony *winks*.
And they’re fun. When I use these words, it’s definitely in a jokey, self-mocking kind of way, although I wonder whether young people, for whom it’s more normal to use those words, say them more naturally and with less self-consciousness. Permit me to go through a catalogue of some of my favourites, which unsurprisingly, reference some of my favourite states: angst, confusion, life-hating, making fun of stuff, wilful ignorance, love, and sex.
Initialisms: WTF, which is said with cheeky irreverence, and possibly disdain, in response to something judged to be so random, weird or stupid that it’s not worthy of a sensible response. FML: Fuck My Life – speaks for itself. CBF: Can’t be fucked. ILY–I love you.
They are becoming acronyms too. My friend told me a story about how when she was busting her kid for taking her car to Mildura without permission, her kid bleated at her, ‘illy mum, illy’. What about LOL? When spoken, is it pronounced Lol or Lole or L-O-L? Does it need caps? Who cares? The beautiful thing about emergent language is that you get to decide for yourself.
Abbreviations: devo, which means devastated, but in a lighter and often sarcastic kind of way, for example, you’d might profess to being ‘devo’ if your mum didn’t let you go to a party, but not if a member of your family died. Defs (definitely), totes (totally), for shiz (for sure) and soz. Again, soz has that slightly ingenuine, teasing kind of feel, because if you were really, earnestly sorry, you’d probably take time to write the word.
The Oxford dictionary has actually recently added the word ‘to heart’, an emotion-derived verb-cum-noun, these kind of switcheroos being quite common in the grammatically subversive world of internet slang. In terms of portmanteaus (two words smooshed together), there’s the ‘interweb’ or ‘interwebby thing’, which is used to parody inexperienced users. And sexting. Everyone’s so worried about sexting, but the way I see it, it’s just another medium through which teenagers experiment sexually and making bad decisions, which has been their specialty since time immemorial.
Why are borings always trying to ruin my fun. lol. Fail
So, as you can imagine, there are some people blaming internet slang (blame the youth! the ‘puters!) for the decline of the English language.
Here’s a hyperbolic John Humphreys in the Daily Mail, back in 2007: ‘It is the relentless onward march of the texters, the SMS (Short Message Service) [I love how they feel the need to spell that out!] vandals who are doing to our language what Genghis Khan did to his neighbours eight hundred years ago. They are destroying it, pillaging our punctuation, savaging our sentences, raping our vocabulary. And they must be stopped.’
And a slightly more nuanced, but still righteous, criticism from Will Self: ‘I’m still of an age – and a bent – where I can’t help finding the bowlderisation of texting quite insufferable. I’d rather fiddle with my phone for precious seconds than neglect an apostrophe; I’d rather insert a word laboriously keyed out than resort to predictive texting for a – acceptable to some – synonym.’ Hello: bowlderisation? WTF?
To an extent, these anxieties reflect a deeper discomfort with the instantaneous world of online communication, where speed and quantity trumps quality, perhaps at the expense of deep-thinking and creative abilities. These shortened forms are used because they save time and space, allowing fast-paced, and potentially less well-thought out, communication. But they are ambiguous, and if substituted for more precise terms, could lead to a loss of meaning.
Perhaps this doesn’t matter as such with one-on-one communication, where the words take their meaning from their context and the relationships between communicators. But as writers, we strive to be understood by a wide target audience. We’re looking for the most evocative and perfect forms of expression, and most standard English words can’t be substituted by these shortened forms.
But this is missing the point a bit, because internet slang words aren’t just cheapened forms of their derivative; they take their own unique meanings. They’re a choice, rather than a substitute, and they expand, rather than restrict, the linguistic choices available to us. And because they’re emergent language, they’re not bound by strict grammar rules, they allow people to play and be creative.
I’ll be totes devo if I fail my exam. lol
Will kids forget how to use standard English, and therefore suffer in their exams and job applications? In 2003, Laccetti and Molski commented, in their essay The Lost Art of Writing: ‘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.’ You can almost hear the pomposity dripping off those words.
But studies so far have found no basis for fears that using text speak or internet slang impacts on children’s literacy, spelling or grammar ability. Sali Taliamente and Derek Denis’s 2008 study found that using shortened words in text messages doesn’t ruin teenagers’ ability to communicate – they simply pick and choose from formal and colloquial language. Another study had more mixed results, finding no correlation between text speak and low literacy rates, although some teenagers reported it was interfering with their ability to remember proper words.
It’s worth remembering that people have been complaining about the degradation of the English language for years. It’s worth noting that people have been complaining about the decline of the English language and trying to get people to forsake their slang and dialects and speak ‘properly’, which usually equates to the language of the rich, well-educated classes. Language, in other words, is an instrument of social control, and slang deprives these classes of power by undermining their control and legitimacy.
And there’s nothing that new about abbreviations, although they do seem to be getting more common in the internet age. In the Victorian era, emblematic poetry combined letters, numbers and logograms. This is Charles C Bombaugh, from Gleaning from the Harvest Fields of Literature, in 1867: ‘He says he love U2 XS/UR virtuous and Y’s/In XL NC U XL/All others in his I’s.’ For those who didn’t get it: ‘he says he loves you to excess, you are virtuous and wise, in excellency you excel, all others in his eyes’. Gen Y suitors would do well to heed the beauty of the expression in their amorous text messages. From the 1950s: YY UR YY UB/ ICUR YY 4 Me (Two wise you are, two wise you be, I see you are two wise for me).
The Oxford English Dictionary researchers revealed some unexpected historical perspectives to modern initalisms: the first quotation from OMG was from a personal letter in 1917 and LOL in 1960 meant ‘little old lady’.
finally, IMHO, internet slang is totally FTW
Be alert but not alarmed: If you love language, the most important thing is to be critical and analytical about the words we use, and aware of their potential to shape our attitudes and culture. But don’t be afraid to try new things.
I leave you with a killer subcontinental acronym, LSHMTUAFIMC: Laughing so much my turban unravels and falls in my curry!
And finally, this (soz!)
xoxoxoxoxoxoxox (normal to do hugs and kisses these days, so don’t get the wrong idea)