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Jun 02, 2006

Comments

1.

I can say from personal experience that I rarely use lol to say that I laughed at something, and that I find this assesment to be quite accurate.

2.

We have to make contextual judgements no matter whether we're engaged in 'netspeak or conversing verbally or whatever.

The way I use the word "sweet" can have a few meanings depending on how it's framed.

I don't think the shift is any more dramatic simply because the medium of discourse has changed.

3.

What I find equally interesting is to watch the internet abbreviations slip into everyday speech. I heard someone a while ago say "Roffle" in response to something that one of their friends said. I wonder how long it will be before "lol" /lal/ and other internet slang abbreviations enter regular speech on a daily basis? A generation or so?

As for the OP, I think its simply that these chat memes have expanded their meanings beyond the original use to imply a greater range of meaning. Its possible they are becoming conversational markers, almost devoid of meaning strictly speaking, but used to indicate the mood of the speaker. In the instance mentioned, the "lol" would seem to imply "don't take offense" or "treat that casually", which implies more about the mood the speaker (sic) meant to convey when they typed that but is prevented from doing so by the typed medium. There are many languages which use linguistic markers for a variety of reasons to help clarify meaning.

4.

Okay, this is pathetic, but I will own it for the moment.

Sometimes in real-life, face-to-face conversation, I want to say "lol" at the end of a sentence for precisely the effect you have described. Let me be clear: I don't want to actually chuckle or even grin, I want to say the acronym, L-O-L.

I take this as evidence that I, at least, do indeed distinguish between an original meaning of laughing, and a nuanced textual shared cultural connotation, the intent of which is to undercut the seriousness of my utterance with a kind of "heh heh" punctuation mark.

Clearly I spend too much time in textual interaction...lol.

5.

Sorry, that was my comment. DIdn't mean to be anonymous.

6.

I have to admit that the use of Internet acronyms in verbal conversation bothers me. (Actually, the use of Internet acronyms on the Internet often bothers me, but I've lost the war on that one.)

7.

Text is hard.

So many visual, aural and body language cues are lost. And the speed of verbal communication is so much greater than typing speed, that we tend to abbreviate text and IM even more than "regular" written communication...

So. What do you do? Eventually, come up with "short hand" (lol... that's a pun, folks) for all kinds of non-text cues. I have a friend who introduced me to the joys, for example, of intentional elongation of certain words in order to connote saracsm. Her fave?

Riiight.

Works great in IM. She also typed this to me quite a bit:

mmmhmmm

Until I asked if I was boring her. She meant it as a recognition that she was "still there" during a pause, or as a kind of humming, "Yes," affirmative response. To me, it "sounded" like she was disinterested.

Text is hard. Hard to get right. You hear yourself in your head when you read the other's words more than you hear them, I think. Until you establish a relationship. And we're hard on ourselves.

8.

but was your mother truly 'clueless'? it seems that there's not a lot of new pragmatic content involved in 'utterances' where 'lol' is appended to a clause the speaker thinks may incite offense or whose content is controversial, etc. It seems to be used in the same we we often append an actual laugh (out loud) to such statements.

either way, i take your point. :)

9.

It looks fairly clear-cut to me that 'lol' and the like (including emoticons) are textual metadata - intended to convey side-band information about how the basic text is intended to be taken, rather than conveying information on their own.

Even if there is no basic text - from "I mean this with a semi-serious edge to it" to "I don't have anything to say, but this is how I feel".

10.

Warren Grant: not only have I heard the phrase in use, I have used it myself. Lawl is a more typical spelling, one of which I am sure you have seen, and relating back towards the oc, as a parody of lol it can be seen in use more typically in regard to the root. Maybe it's just me but the whole "I'm just kidding" vibe better captured by the phrase ":-)"
And yes, a series of punctuation marks constitute a phrase.

11.

Text is hard. Hard to get right. You hear yourself in your head when you read the other's words more than you hear them, I think. Until you establish a relationship. And we're hard on ourselves.

Speaking from a personal standpoint, it's no easier in person. I'm personally a strange kind of person: I don't seem to pick up on social cues the way others do with unconscious ease. As a result, I'm very blind about the subtles of social communication in person, where people assume that you do know it.

On the other hand, I favor text precisely because those standard cues are largely minimized such that I have a better grasp of what's going on. I still make mistakes and blunders, but they seem less pronounced, perhaps because the tolerance for error is higher.

12.

I expect lol to become a word on its own, meaning something like "funny or absurd situation or event", as in "He tripped and fell, that was a LOL".

13.

"He tripped and fell, that was a LOL".

I've heard it more frequently as a verb: "I lol'ed."

14.

Bonnie>To replace it's original meaning, we have new favorites, like "rofl." And who knows what that will come to mean, someday.

ROFL isn't new - like LOL, it's been around since at least the late 1980s.

The use of LOL as verbal tag to express something that English hasn't been able to express before is a handy spin-off from textual communication online. There are obstacles, though, not least of which is that in some virtual worlds it's not just linguistic, it's a command. In MUD2, for example, if you type LOL then your character laughs out loud; if you ROFL, your character rolls on the floor laughing. More pertinently, if you say LOL in WoW your character will actually laugh out loud, which ties the utterance solidly to its origins. Does this happen in SL? If not, then it could be that SL-like smiley-substitution LOLs are less likely to take in WoW, because they're still grounded in their acronym; if so, well that makes it even more interesting!

Richard

15.

Actually, I regularly say ", lol" at the end of sentances IRL (no not "L.O.L." but "lawl"). So far I've noticed myself using it two different ways: one as a 'smiley' punctuation at the end of a sentance, using it exactly where I would use a smiley in text. That is to say sentances of sarcasm get noted as such and sentances that carry too much 'gravity' get softened. When there is a chance something I say (usually out of the blue) will get taken too seriously, I can add 'lol' (or sometimes 'lool') at the end of a statement and guarantee the correct response.

The other way I tend to use it is like one might use a bad accent to mimic or put yourself in the shoes of a stereotype while speaking. Using "lol" at the end of these types of statements is sort of mimicing the 'accent' of the 'below average internet masses' (typically stereotyped in my circles as a 15-year-old boy). This takes myself, the speaker, out of the first-person, noting that I didn't say this, but the internet would've if it were here.

Just my 0.02 lindens

16.

"ROFL isn't new - like LOL, it's been around since at least the late 1980s."

Hi, Richard. My point there isn't that "rofl" is new, but that it's more recently come into the foreground of popularity. Of course, that observation is based entirely on my own experience, and -- I'm more than willing to admit -- is highly subjective.

"In MUD2, for example, if you type LOL then your character laughs out loud; if you ROFL, your character rolls on the floor laughing. More pertinently, if you say LOL in WoW your character will actually laugh out loud, which ties the utterance solidly to its origins."

Wow, I didn't know that; that certain would change things in those linguistic environments. Have you yourself seen a difference in "lol" use in worlds where this is the case? It would make an interesting study...

Chip: "We have to make contextual judgements no matter whether we're engaged in 'netspeak or conversing verbally or whatever."

Oh, of course. A parallel commentary could be written up for the use of any common, spoken phrase. But, to the best of my knowledge, little linguistic work has yet been done in (what I consider) the ripe, ripe, fascinating world of cyber text. Any links to such work would be welcomed with open arms :-).

17.

"haha" still works though, and isn't nuanced. haha.

18.

my friends and i have taken to saying "jk" (jay kay) at the end of sentences, as in the less-popular-than lol shorthand for just kidding.

19.

I see "LOL" used a lot as a throwaway line.

Moi? I use "LOLEX" because it keeps me on time. :)

I know some who go "kekeke", "jejeje", "rarara", etc.

20.

Out of curiosity (not to dispute), is there any significant difference between saying "LOL" and saying the words "groan" or "sigh" instead of actually groaning or sighing?

Does the origin of "LOL" as text, or as an artifact of technology, make it substantively different from earlier examples of verbalizing sounds?

--Bart

21.

Richard>> In MUD2, for example, if you type LOL then your character laughs out loud; if you ROFL, your character rolls on the floor laughing. More pertinently, if you say LOL in WoW your character will actually laugh out loud, which ties the utterance solidly to its origins.

Bonnie>> Wow, I didn't know that; that certain would change things in those linguistic environments. Have you yourself seen a difference in "lol" use in worlds where this is the case? It would make an interesting study...

In SWG (one of the most emote-rich games I know of) your character will "laugh out loud" or "roll on the floor laughing" if LOL or ROFL are included in your (public) chat. In addition to this are the emotes of /lol and /rofl, which simply produce the character emote animation and a descriptive " laughs out loud at . This allows a refinement of the emotes in question -- when used in speech, the emote can take on subtle meanings similar to the way the OP has described. The slash command is used when you wish to express LOL or ROFL literally, without accompanied chat.

22.

Bonnie>Wow, I didn't know that; that certain would change things in those linguistic environments. Have you yourself seen a difference in "lol" use in worlds where this is the case? It would make an interesting study...

I haven't, but then I don't play a lot of SL. Also, I don't use LOL or ROFL myself anyway as I consider them new-fangled (I don't use smileys either for the same reason). Yes, this is indeed reverse snobbery!

I agree, it would make an interesting study.

Richard

23.

@Bonnie's original article

I think you hit on something more pervasive that might be specific to certain cultures, in this case western culture, maybe it's universal, I really don't know. But it seems like normal social taboos are accessible through the vehicle of humour. A clever joke/jovial manner will allow insults and other forebidden things to be mentioned with little or no consequence. The lol you quoted above is just an example of how visible these social mechanisms are when communication happens through text. Western culture definitely leans on humour very heavily for a wide variety of social taboo.

24.

Bart: "Is there any significant difference between saying 'LOL' and saying the words 'groan' or 'sigh' instead?"

First off, I suppose it depends on the world. In a world like Second Life, where text is in some senses only secondary, saying "groan" would indeed be removed from it's action the way "lol" has become. But, in a text-based world, where action and the written word are one in the same... Also -- and again, this is just subjective observation -- I haven't seem "groan" or "sigh" used nearly as frequently, or with such changed meanings, as "lol". If someone addes "sigh" to the end of their sentence, I would take that more of less literally.

Richard: "Also, I don't use LOL or ROFL myself anyway as I consider them new-fangled (I don't use smileys either for the same reason)."

In general, I feel the same way. As a writing student and a journalist, some part of me can't help but cringe at that sort of language (Yes, snobbery). At the same time, it definitely has it's uses -- especially as a female presence online. It's a topic I'm hoping to address more closely in the future, how gender is constructed through online text... but trust me, it's hard to seem feminine sometimes without the occasional winking smiley ;-).

Yitz: "But it seems like normal social taboos are accessible through the vehicle of humour."

Good point -- though I would say that's a more anthropological comment than a linguistic one. Interestingly, I think what's actually taboo in this case isn't the bold-on-record sexuality (which, in real-life, could be pretty offensive). In Second Life, the rules of rudeness change. What's being covered up instead, in my opinion, is the taboo of crossing the line between virtual and RL sex.

25.

in WoW, our guild tends toward LMAO, in caps, as an escalation to lol. and, there is also the highly popular bwahaha or buwahaha, which, unlike lol, is intended to capture and represent real sound. (btw, if you append LOL to a sentence in WoW, it does NOT make you laugh out loud. the acronym merely stands there at the end of the sentence. only when it is on a line by itself does it function as an voice emote command)

point is, there are interesting iconic and textual signs being co-constructed and set loose in the digital text world as people wrestle with the constraints of an historically formal medium in informal locations. no surprise then that game chat, forum postings, and such, seem closer to oral conversation forced through a written representation system, than to school or journalistic writing. so, it would seem that context trumps format, as it probably should.

i have another proposition, based on my own play on consoles with friends, in MUDs, WoW, and SL. i have the feeling that MMO social chat, as it permeates game play oriented chat, is partly about signifying one's rapier wit or stunning humor. it is another game being played during the game time. people riff on other people's remarks or on things that happen in the game play. it's fun to participate in, as a way of claiming membership in a group. ...and of course, in such instances LOL is a kind of applause or acknowledgement.

buwahaha

26.

Linda Polin>there is also the highly popular bwahaha or buwahaha

This seems to be along the same lines as the classic MUAHAHAHA, only less maniacal.

>there are interesting iconic and textual signs being co-constructed and set loose in the digital text world as people wrestle with the constraints of an historically formal medium in informal locations.

There are indeed. If you're really interested in this stuff, Lynn Cherny's Conversation & Community is the book to read.

>no surprise then that game chat, forum postings, and such, seem closer to oral conversation forced through a written representation system, than to school or journalistic writing.

The players regard it as "saying" rather than "writing", so yes, it's going to veer towards the conventions of speech rather than those of literature. The interesting part is the inventiveness that people have in finding ways to write things so they convey the same impression as what they want to say (and the fact that there are often reinventions of the same thing).

Richard

27.

I usually regard "lol" as shorthand for "I am too cretinous to express myself in text, please ignore me".

28.

Along the lines of what Cael said, I've also seen "lol" used in distinctly non-jovial ways.

1. Disparaging or mocking remarks are concluded with "lol," as in, "cry more n00b, lol".

In this case the speaker isn't "laughing with," he or she is "laughing at."

2. Critical remarks can have "lol" appended to them to insulate the speaker from retaliation, as in, "You're not very good at tanking, lol".

If the target objects to being criticized, the speaker can point to the use of "lol" as though this takes the sting out of the criticism.

More examples of the Humpty-Dumpty-like flexibility of language....

--Bart

29.

Of course, in many countries, "LOL" means "Lots of Love", which makes "naked in a lawn chair, LOL" mean something else entirely...

30.

Personal anecdote - I almost never use "LOL" to mean I'm laughing audibly. Rather it's used interchangeably with "heh" to denote a brief, muffled laugh. As mentioned, it also serves a useful purpose as a replacement for a comedic or amused voice inflection, something that's otherwise almost impossible to convey by mere text. When I do want to convey real laughter, I use the literal sound "hahahahaha."

Something I've noticed is that there's a number of articles used to substitute for voice inflections or nuances but they're almost all descriptive. Examples are LOL (humor, playfulness) and cry (sadness, pity). Actual, strong emotions are transmitted via the translated sound of the emotion: hahaha, sniff, grrr. My theory is that in the absence of visual and audible cues, the best way to convey emotions in text is to resort to primal, animalistic sounds. These are unambiguous. But when you need something more sophisticated like nuance, inflection, or sarcasm, articles like LOL and cry give you more "flexibility" and rely on conversation context for the meaning.

I'm not a linguist by any means so I probably butchered all the terminology but I hope what I'm saying came across OK.

31.

"Along the lines of what Cael said, I've also seen 'lol' used in distinctly non-jovial ways."
True, true. Although in either case, it's still strayed far beyond its literal meaning.

"Of course, in many countries, 'LOL' means 'Lots of Love', which makes 'naked in a lawn chair, LOL' mean something else entirely..."
Hmm, weird. Where exactly? I don't mean to sound disbelieving, it's just not a use I've come across...

32.

Re: LOL = Lots of Love

France, at least. I was under the impression it was a euro/aussie thing, but France is the only one I know of in particular.

33.

Why would LOL = "Lots of Love" in France, when that's an English initialism? Not saying it ain't... as I don't know. It just makes no sense to me.

34.

Apparently, it's less common than I thought. I originally encountered it back in very early CoH among the French crowd. They used "mdr" instead of "lol" for "laugh out loud".

Also, I know someone who did a rather extensive cross-cultural texting analysis, and they mentioned LOL="lots of love" in some countries. I said, "oh, yeah, I remember that!"

Searching the internet produces dozens of results, and apparently "lots of love" is a distant second behind all the various kinds of "*laugh*" versions. It is still significantly more popular than the other non-laugh variants like "little old lady".

Hrm.

35.
Patrick: Personal anecdote - I almost never use "LOL" to mean I'm laughing audibly. Rather it's used interchangeably with "heh" to denote a brief, muffled laugh. As mentioned, it also serves a useful purpose as a replacement for a comedic or amused voice inflection, something that's otherwise almost impossible to convey by mere text. When I do want to convey real laughter, I use the literal sound "hahahahaha."

I'm going to agree here. For me, "lol' in a text chat environment ranges in use from the "heh" or the forced chuckle, to a textual tic that is similar in nature to what "like" was for me in my teenage years (or if you listen to my wife, I still have a problem with it).

I agree with the assessment that lol is functionally interchangeable with :) (I prefer =), I think the = is more readable than :) or =P, and that in many cases it is better thought of as a referent to the mood or mannerism of the 'speaker" since obviously body language, facial expression and tone are absent.

You need a way to say "Boy, someone sure messed that pull up" in a way that everyone hearing you knows that you are not being plainly critical of someone else's abilities or actions, but just poking fun/making light of a disappointing occurrence.

The above was just one example of the use of lol, but I think I've made my own point by now.

And yeah, it's tough to actually express true "laughing out loud" with the loss of lol. I also usually say something like "HAHAHAHAHA" or similar to express that my laughter is audible.

As an aside, does anyone find people who spell their emotes creepy? I once was chatting with a guy who ended each line with =SMILE=, and it creeped me out pretty good.

Hypothetical:
creepy: LFM for SM, PST

me: hey, 42 resto druid here. Need a healer?

creepy: Let me ask the group =SMILE=

me: ok.

creepy: have you been there before? =SMILE=

etc.

I think the reason it creeped my out was that it had a visceral effect on me, as if he was somehow shouting his smile at me, and this made his smile feel forced and I guess disingenuous. It was weird, almost like I was talking to a grinning mythical creature that I realized would eat me when we got in the instance.

/shudder

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40.

I'm not a long time user of internet chat, but I am doing research on the origins of online chat linguistics, and would appreciate any imput concerning your views about HOW the language such as LOL gets adopted and further accepted globaaly as common practice.

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