Idiosyncrasies of the English Language
You know something’s wrong with us when the most commonly used word in the English language is not even a universally-recognized English word.
I am, of course, referring to the three-letter acronym starting with an ‘L’, ending with another ‘L’, and with an’ O’ in the middle.
Lol! You exclaim in epiphany. And you are quite right, of course.
A major part of Internet chat-speak originally standing for “laughing out loud”, once used to express great amusement at something, now is used to express… everything, and nothing in particular. It has, in less than the ten short years of its existence, evolved into something larger than chat-speak. To date, it has found its way into many face-to-face conversations as well.
It is a very useful communication tool, no doubt – for the most part of life, when expressing your amusement would be enough to get by most conversations. In fact, many people have the opinion that ‘lol’ would be a suitable reply to just about everything under the sun.
Now, Bobby and Timmy are two teenage boys who have just met each other (via highly complicated circumstances which I shall not care to elaborate on) in a park. Bobby is your typical boy-next-door, He is amiable, boyish, and friendly. Timmy is your typical boy-next-door-with-a-computer. He used to be like Bobby… until he met the computer, and the nifty application within dubbed the ‘Internet’. He has been learning chat-speak, sex and violence through the Internet, and it seems nothing outside of the Internet can sustain his attention anymore. While Bobby tries to make conversation with Timmy, Timmy is listening to his I-Pod, pretending he’s listening to Bobby.
Bobby: Hey, Timmy, I got a new haircut!
As you can see, Timmy got away with not paying attention to Bobby, by expressing his amusement at Bobby’s new haircut, even if, in truth, Timmy hadn’t heard a **** about what Bobby had said. Bobby is therefore satisfied with Timmy’s reply, finding Timmy a particularly cheerful chap, and a nice supportive friend to boot. They walk on along the rugged path, Bobby looking around excitedly at flowers and butterflies and things of nature, and Timmy listening on his I-Pod and staring blankly in front.
Bobby: Oh, Jesus! Timmy, is that a caterpillar on your shirt?
Bobby is beginning to think that Timmy is a fine lad – he appeared to be perfectly comfortable, even with that large green caterpillar crawling all over his shirt! Surely Timmy must be a man of the outdoors, just like Bobby himself. As you can glean from this exchange, ‘lol’ can be used in a dismissive nonchalant tone, indicating apathy and/or moxie, very attractive qualities in a man. Eager to make friends, Bobby presses on.
Bobby; So, Timmy, what are you doing in school this week?
Bobby is bewildered, now slightly suspicious of Timmy’s strange replies, but being a simple boy, he decides to ignore this – after all, Timmy DOES seem like a nice boy, with those cool MP3 cords dangling down his ears. Bobby’s already starting to warm up to the silent, yet reaffirming Timmy. He decides to confide in Timmy.
Bobby: You know something, Timmy? My… my favourite grandfather just died last week, of an aneurysm! Isn’t that absolutely horrid?
‘Lol’, as mentioned above, has very many varied uses – but when somebody has just reported a grievance to you, I am sure we all agree that amusement is not exactly the correct emotion you should approach the conversation with. And therein lies the limitations of everyone’s favourite acronym. Bobby, genuinely wounded by this act of nonchalance and unfeeling, runs away from Timmy, who is now listening to “Hips Don’t Lie” and appropriately gyrating his hips on the spot, unaware of what has just happened.
Lol is the best medicine.
(Coming up next issue: A plethora of ways in which you can use the word ‘suck’)