So I’ve been laying here for hours now pondering on that one little, overused word … “LOL”. Now I might be showing my age here but I remember when LOL was born. It stood for “lots of love” and adorned many a letter or card between friends and family. For better or worse, that meaning is considered old school now. Funnily enough, I have an old school friend (pun intended) who still signs her emails to me with the “lots of love” acronym. But she is a rare-breed, a lone voice of defiance in a world where LOL has come to mean “lots of laughs” and is more prolific than a bunch of 20-something’s on a Saturday night.
But here’s the thing about LOL. Its meaning completely changes depending on the context in which it’s used. Oftentimes making it a linguistic nightmare for the recipient and forcing your average over-thinker into hours of mind warping analysis and dissection. Yes, our little friend is versatile. Let me show you what I mean.
LOL can fly solo. A single three-letter response to some poor bastards attempt at humour or conversation. In its truest form, a simple LOL reply means you got a laugh out of your conversational partners comment. I would argue this is the one appropriate time to use said remark. While you’re at it, and this is a personal preference, add a little emoji for some flair ;). Here’s the kicker with the solo LOL. Sometimes it’s offered up, not because you actually burst into peels of laughter but purely as a fallback response, as you find yourself stumped for a witty and sophisticated comeback with which to dazzle your listener. In the worst case scenario, LOL is used as a full stop. It’s the quick and dirty version of “conversation over, I’ve had enough of you for today, fuck off”. In this form, it is the tolling of the bells to signal your conversation has died a tragic and awkward death.
As if LOL solo was not bad enough, it also comes attached to sentences and questions, a veritable minefield for misunderstandings and suggestion. The most obvious and well known example is when a woman says “lol enjoy!” or “lol have fun”. Either option, or variation of said options, is almost exclusively directed at a man and translated, it means you’re fucked. It is essentially a passive-aggressive verbal kick in the nuts and if you fail to take appropriate action, that kick is going to take a non-verbal form.
In my opinion though, LOL is most often used as a light-hearted addition to a more serious comment. It’s vulnerability masquerading as levity. For example “LOL you’re totally into me” is a pitiful plea for reassurance masked behind a “get out of jail free”. It’s the word that allows us to run from rejection and embarrassment by hiding behind the farce that we were “just kidding”. At times, it even allows us to cover a deep felt hurt with a brave smile. The face-saver if you like.
I have a confession. I am guilty of using and abusing LOL in all these forms and more. Hell, I’ll even admit to accidentally letting it slip into verbal conversations once in a while. And that’s scary. Because you know what I wish for? The return of real, vocal conversations – either in person or via good old fashioned phone calls. The enjoyment of sitting down with an intelligent, interesting, possibly like minded person and just talking the hours away. Complete with comfortable silences and the absence of the word LOL. Because let’s face it, LOL isn’t needed when you see a smile break across someone’s face or hear that sweet laughter rolling up through them. And personally, I’d rather have that any day than a thousand texted “LOL”. Hopefully that day is coming, I don’t know though. LOL you figure it out 🙂