I am, I must admit, acrimonious about most acronyms, but one in particular inspires my disdain: LOL. To explain my contempt for LOL in a measured manner, I have conducted a little research and gathered the uses (and misuses) to which I have seen it being put, for your digestion.
LOL: as a response to show you acknowledge that what I said was funny.
Fine, as a congratulatory nod that says, “good one!” I can abide it and its fellows, LMAO, LMFAO and ROFL. Even better to make a joke in return, but sometimes it’s nice just to show some appreciation. The thing is, I’m a bit concerned it’s losing its power. Given it’s supposed to be shorthand for “I am laughing out loud right now. Oh my goodness, that was so hilarious that I’m so overcome with mirth that I can only muster three letters,” I often find it to be a somewhat disproportionate response, especially since it’s so often used in reaction to something that was not even or wasn’t intended to be funny.
LOL: To communicate that what YOU are saying is a joke.
In this case, it could be argued that people should work harder at expressing themselves and telling jokes more artfully. Having said that, some forms of humour aren’t as effective when written and, even more crucially, some people just don’t share the same sense of humour and there are times you have to point out that you’re saying something funny. I recently resorted to actually using “LOL” in real life (or IRL, if you prefer—I do not) with a friend who, though dear and kind and intelligent and generous, is quite earnest and often fails to remember that 99% of what I say is nonsense and meant to be taken lightly. So I’ll be all, “Right, all I need is a pet pig and I’m good to go!” and he’ll be like, “But don’t you live in a studio flat? Do they let you have pets in your building?” So I have to say “No, no! LOL, Fred – LOL! It was a joke.” And he’ll look at me like, “Well, it wasn’t funny.” And I’ll be ashamed and remember that sarcasm is no substitute for wit. So, y’know, everyone wins. Once again, let’s all remind ourselves that this acronym stands for “laughing out loud”. So when you write something and want to add a little levity, ask yourself this: is it really worthy of a vociferous cackle?
In the above two instances, may I posit, then, that we substitute “LOL” for something more fitting. We have so much expression at our fingertips. Consider the difference between “HA!”, “Heheheeee”, “Ohohoho” and “Mwahahahaa”, just for starters. If you are indeed LOLing, tell us more. Is it a dry bark of wry mirth? A mischievous giggle? A knowing chortle that says, “Oh very droll, I see what you did there.” Or perhaps an evil cackle? Let us LOL for the occasion, I say.
The third, and perhaps most troubling use of LOL that I have seen, though, is:
LOL: to soften something.
This one is tricky. While I can perhaps see the argument for having a quick and easy device to temper tone, to show that something that might otherwise sound bitchy or nasty should be taken in a jolly way. Maaaaybe. But that gets easily exploited. See: “Yeah! Because all Asian people look the same, LOL!” “What? That’s a bit…racist.” “Nah man, I was just being ironic, lighten up, it’s just a joke—LOL.”
This strategy is implemented when the sender is unsure of how something is going to be received. See: “Whoa! What are you doing?” “Sending you a pic of my dick, LOL!” Just add a cheery LOL and no one can be offended; it’s all fun and games and #TopBants.
My point in summary is let’s all try to be a bit funnier, cleverer and more sensitive. Aka, stop being lazy.