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To LOL or not to LOL

30th January 2012

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The word “LOL” has taken the world by storm. It dominates everything from our text messages to Facebook and it sometimes, quite accidentally, appears in our essays. However, for it to appear in the Oxford English Dictionary (which, entering into the spirit of things, I will now refer to as OED) really puts its prominence into perspective.

LOLNow that it’s recognised as an actual word, does this signal the start of the degradation of the English Language? Traditionalists will argue that it is and it’s the addition of words like these which could degrade the linguistic value of the 130-year-old OED.

It is not hard to see why some may undermine the word “LOL” as it is commonly associated with the younger generation. But wait – “LOL” has a history – arguable though this may be, the word “LOL” has actually been used back in the mid-20th century. It made its not-so-celebrated debut back in the 1960s and stood, not for “laughing out loud” but rather, for “little old lady”. But by the 1980s, the “LOL” we know today was born and took off with the invention of the internet.

But why antagonise the word to begin with? Surely its use was born out of necessity just like how humans evolved to have brains out of the need to survive; No, I am not implying that the use of the word “LOL” is a matter of life or death. However, it is worth considering the fact that we now live in a society which craves quick and easy solutions. And really, “LOL” helps meet those goals.

In fact, the addition of words like “LOL” could actually be complementing our language. After all, “LOL” is just like any other abbreviation – it is practical, shortening words which would normally take up a lot more space on a page. Realistically, “LOL” can’t be any worse than the word “CD” or “ASAP”.

OED editor, Graeme Diamond, explains that “[Words like ‘LOL’] help to say more in media where there is a limit to a number of characters one may use in a single message” and so tis’ true! While I am not advocating students using “LOL” in their essays, it serves a practical function, keeping things quick, short and simple while still allowing us to bring the message across effectively.

“LOL” appeared on the scene for good reason. Its practicality (and also sometimes, the humour it provides) has made it a linguistic companion of today’s society. Now the OED has added “FYI” and “OMG” to their comprehensive list of words. Does this mean the end of language as we know it? No, it doesn’t. It just means we have developed different expressions to be used in situations which were not necessarily available way back when (like in Facebook, for example). Let’s face it: why write, “Oh my god! That is the funniest thing I’ve ever heard in my life,” when you could write, “OMG LOL! I’m ROFL!”.

And so the OED made its verdict – we now have “LOL”, “OMG” and “FYI” floating about amidst words like “antediluvian” and “colloquialism”.

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