Thursday, January 14, 2010


Aurgh! This eats me up! "Lol" used to mean "laughing out loud." Today it is a punctuation mark.

Allow me to explain. An exclamation mark doesn't tell the readers anything new. It just tells them how the writer feels about what he or she wrote. For example:
"I'm going home" tells us where the author is going. "I'm going home!" tells us the exact same fact, but also tells us that the author is excited about this trip.

"Your mother-in-law called you an ugly bitch" tells us what your mother-in-law said about you. "Your mother-in-law called you an ugly bitch?" tells us the same fact and also tells us that the author is feeling surprised and incredulous.

Now we turn our attention to the new punctuation mark: "lol."

Below is an actual Facebook conversation:

Friend's status: everytime (sic.) I go to a cemetery I think "those lucky sons of bitches!"

Sympathetic friend comments: One day (unfortunately) you and I will be there as well. In the meantime try to enjoy your luck that you are of the "lucky" carbon to be alive. Afterwards you'll have eternity to be those "lucky sons of bitches."
*sigh* if only I can heed my own advice and preachings lol.

Suicidal-sounding status updater: I am enjoying it. Very much. Don't you see? lol

Please. Neither of these people was laughing out loud. "Lol," like the exclamation and question marks, tells us how the author feels about what he or she is writing. "Lol" means "Don't take what I'm writing too seriously. I don't really mean it. I don't know what I mean, so let's just pretend that I'm joking. After all jokes don't need to make sense lol"


  1. I didn't quite get what that conversation was all about, but yes, I support this latest evangelical mission of yours.

  2. isnt cynicism also originally made of humor?

    it seems lol is following this pattern, at least with the examples cited

    and here is a dose of empathy and support!
    yah I totally agree! Thanks for posting.

  3. A bunch of people posting lol in response to this post was as predictable as e writing Fermat's theorem in answer to my offer to prove anything that e would write.

    I in general avoid using "lol" unless I in fact have laughed out loud. I use smileys or write "haha".

  4. TRS: he was depressed, and she was trying to tell him that life is good. To lighten the mood, they punctuated the conversation with lol's.

    CA: :) haha

  5. Very strange, I remember leaving a comment here.
    In either case, this is why I prefer a charming mwahahaha or perhaps a snort.

  6. ya I'm guily of being a loler, BUT (ya I'm also guilty of occasionally locking caps), I try not to do it tooo much. I do throw in a :) and a haha occasionally, but for me lol is not exclusively used when laughing out loud. lol is like saying "hey that was funny", even though I'm not literally laughing out loud.
    mwahahaha is more "hey that was devious". Snort is not manly.

  7. A snort is not manly? I beg to differ.

  8. Whenever someone writes things like roflmao, I feel like I just walked in on someone and have an urge to respond, "Oh, sorry. The door was unlocked."

  9. Modeh B'MiktsasJanuary 14, 2010 at 9:25 PM

    I usually stick to heh or some variant thereof but chutzpa is chutzpa and I have standards even when it isn't funny.

  10. I'll drop dead before I use all that "lol" texting crap.

    *plump!* (me, dropping..ahem). lol.

    ok, that didn't work as well as it might have.

  11. lol is for people who aren't sure how what they're saying will be taken... like a 'just in case;. (lol.. :P)

  12. By the way, nice grammar lesson.. great examples....

  13. Arguing with MyselfJanuary 17, 2010 at 2:52 PM

    Who said we cannot incorporate new punctuation marks in our language?
    Who said letters cannot be punctuation marks?
    Nothing to hate. It is.

  14. People can do whatever the need to do. Including incorporation of new punctuation marks.

    But it has to be done intelligently.

  15. Arguing with myself:
    This is a line from one of the links which CA posted which addresses your point:
    Of course, strikethroughs and smileys are a feeble substitute for sharp wit and an ability to communicate the point.

  16. Arguing with MyselfJanuary 18, 2010 at 3:18 AM

    re: e/CA
    We can also can convey a query without any special punctuation marks.
    Or for that matter whole ideas.

    Good writing does not mean better words and less punctuation.
    It means accurately conveying intent. Our language has incorporated punctuation as a legitimate part of writing since the beginning (Eastern languages, not until much later). Nowhere in the rules does it state that if you could possibly relate the intent using words rather than punctuation, that one should.
    Especially considering the fact that our language was not built for the elite, but for the masses, of which many require simplified methods of communication.
    And it does not even have to be intelligently. Why is language only the realm of the analists? Its democratic.

    As far as the link of CA, quoted by e.
    The "intelligence" you speak of is one of aesthetics, not whether or not it is grammatically correct. In fact, it would probably (assumption here) be considered normal and pleasing to the eye to have emoticons and strike-throughs once we have passed a couple of generations and analists are relegated to the ranks of those who do not begin sentences with prepositions.

    Language is not just for the intelligent.
    Intelligent is not aesthetic.
    Accepted punctuation marks are legitimate, even when they can be skipped using better wording.

    For further interesting bits:
    The Interrobang: ‽ combing the !? into one character.
    The irony mark: ؟

  17. Arguing with MyselfJanuary 18, 2010 at 3:30 AM

    ...But then again, two-thousand and ten

  18. Arguing with MyselfJanuary 18, 2010 at 3:32 AM

    and just for you, I joined the group on FB: two-oh-one-oh

  19. Aesthetics is application of intelligence to the beautiful.

    Nothing that was built for masses was ever more aesthetic than something that was built for elite.

    Somebody saying "two-oh-one-oh" sounds like he is sitting in a room without mezuza.


Forth shall ye all hold.