Anatomy of an LOL

I was just reminiscing the other day with someone about AIM. Side note: you know you are getting old when you are old enough to reminisce about anything ever. But back to AIM. Anyone remember good old AOL Instant Messenger? I know right. I’m dating myself. And not to say that I’m dating myself like old people say it when they say something like “I graduated in 19…well it’ll make me sound old if I tell you.” I mean, it seems that of my generation (which I believe is “Y” or “the Millenials”), only a small portion of us even used AIM. Mostly because it was in and out so quickly, having been replaced by a billion other faster and better instant messaging platforms, texting, Facebook, etc. AOL couldn’t keep up I guess.

ANYhooz.

Back to the reminiscing. I think AIM (and Yahoo and whatever else…for shortness sake let’s stick with the acronym) really paved the way for abbreviations. People who had not ever taken a proper typing class were prone 2 typing like this, not using rel spllings, tking out imprtnt vwls and using #s to portray thoughts. And things like LOL and TTYL and LYLAS..no wait, that’s the yearbook sorry. We had some new acronyms to remember. I remember when LMAO and LMFAO or whatever it was became popular, I could not for my life figure out what it stood for. I was obviously teased for not knowing this, since back in those days, knowing and being familiar with various uses of curse words, especially those beginning with f and ending with uck, was how to tell if you were cool. I was SO uncool by this standard, at least until after my first high school boyfriend. He was definitely way cool.

Anyway, digressing again. LOL was always my favorite, because in the beginning I could never decide how to express my laughter or enjoyment. I went through quite a few phases of expression. One was when I refused to use LOL at all and would just use “haha.” Simple, straightforward, and in general a mostly accurate representation of my laugh. Then I decided that “haha” didn’t sound anything at all like what I sounded like when I laughed, so for a while I changed to “hehe” which probably should have been “heehee,” but that’s 6 letters rather than 4 alternating ones, which is harder to type. Then I think even “hehe” wasn’t accurate enough for me (too reminiscent of “heh-heh” which sounds creepy if you say it out loud) and I switched to simply writing “hee” or even “tee” with a smiley face after it. I remember thinking this was the most accurate typed representation of what my little giggle sounded like when I was amused.

Eventually (in teen years, a few months) I decided I wasn’t too cool for LOL and it was in my regular type-speech like it was my job. I LOL’d at everything, but I was obviously cool enough by this point to use it in lower case: “lol”…only adults who didn’t know better had to use all caps. Then I was LOLing when I wasn’t even actually laughing out loud in real life. And THEN I was using lol only when I was smiling or smirking at things, and “haha” when I actually laughed. And if I was really laughing, like sort of hard or loudly, it was just repeated ha’s – always at least 3 or 4 in a row.

But seriously, look at the difference here: LOL vs. lol. One looks really enthusiastic and one looks like “eh, that was kind of funny and I might have laughed or chuckled or maybe huffed out a laugh-breath.” Right? So you had to be careful because you didn’t want to be the weird one who overreacted to something that wasn’t actually that funny. People talked a lot of smack back in those days and you had to watch your own back.

Now times are very different. Sort of. I still sparingly use LOL. And I still use “lol” like it’s my job. I “lol” pretty much everything. If I even thought about smiling at something you wrote, I will give you an “lol” right back. Made me smirk? lol. Made me raise my eyebrows? lol. Said something that is really ironic or witty perhaps? lollllllll. Notice the repeated letter there. That means there’s an emphasis on it. Like, it’s really funny! But not necessarily so funny that I laughed out loud in real life. I also “lol” at myself, like the time I slept through an 11am exam (I know) and texed Foxy: “i just slept through my exam lol” …obviously I wasn’t laughing, but it’s funny in its own way. You see?

You’ll only be absolutely sure that I laughed out loud if I use “LOL” in all caps. I intentionally save it for actually laughing out loud. Also I use multiple ha’s for actual laughing. Typically just depends on my mood. Sometimes I will even type “I actually am laughing out loud for real” just to be sure you know for real that I am indeed laughing.

Using instant messaging in the corporate world I thought would mean no more abbreviations, necessitate correct spelling, grammar, and punctuation, and therefore no more LOL. But this is not the case.  Despite an atmosphere in which we speak with people of varying ages, generations, AIM experience, and technical know-how, it is almost worse than it was back in the new AIM days. “Adults” are the worst about this, if it surprises anyone. I love getting a message from one of the older ladies: “hi how r u” …I mean seriously. I LOL at that for real. Also “brb otp” is quite popular.

I must also share that recently I have started hearing people use “lol” in sentences when they speak aloud. As in, “I loled when he told me that.” And it’s not pronounced by using the letters like “el-oh-el”. It’s more like “lulled” like how you “lull” a baby to sleep. I draw the line here. I mean, is it not just as effective to say “I laughed” than to say “I loled.” Plus one makes you sound sort of very unintelligent.

And if I encounter anyone doing this, I will LOL to your face.

Unrelated: big huge congratulations goes out to my awesome friend Dr. P on her wedding tomorrow! Couldn’t be more thrilled to be a part of the celebration.

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