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LOL is an abbreviation for “laughing out loud”, “laugh out loud”, or sometimes “lots of laughs.” Depending on one’s opinion and manners of usage, its longhand interpretation may slightly vary from one to another. However, “Laughing out Loud” is the most common definition of the term.
LOL is one of the few existing internet acronyms to be massively and continuously used online by every kind of people, from seasoned older users to the newbies and youngsters. It is transmitted through everything from text messaging to chatrooms and video games, included in pictures, and is even used verbally sometimes in a neologic verb form with its own conjugation.
The acronym was not created on Internet, and had a completely different meaning offline.
According to Wikipedia, The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language states that LOL was already historically used in letter-writing:
Other unrelated expansions include the now mostly historical “lots of luck” or “lots of love” used in letter-writing.
Moreover, LOL carries its own meaning in some foreign languages, mainly Dutch and Welsh, also defined by Wikipedia:
Lol is a Dutch word (not an acronym) which, coincidentally, means “fun” (“lollig” means “funny”).
In Welsh, lol means “nonsense” – e.g., if a person wanted to say “utter nonsense” in Welsh, they would say “rwtsh lol”.
History of Online Usage
In an online article entitled The origin of LOL, that has been reused in a 2008 list of popular Internet initialisms from Computer World, Wayne Pearson asserts that he is the original creator of the slang:
LOL was first coined on a BBS called Viewline in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, in the early-to-mid-80s. A friend of mine who went by Sprout (and I believe he still does) had said something so funny in the teleconference room that I found myself truly laughing out loud, echoing off the walls of my kitchen. That’s when “LOL” was first used.
Crediting himself and one of his friends on a Canadian BBS chatroom called Viewline as the ones who spread its usage as a slang through chatrooms and Telnet-based channels, he also adds:
The use of the phrase LOL spread quickly around Viewline, but it wasn’t until a bunch of us got free GEnie accounts that it really became popular.
GEnie, was one of the big online services at the time, similar to Compuserve and Prodigy. It had hundreds of chatrooms, including trivia rooms (run by script bots -- quite fancy at the time!) A bunch of us Viewliners found these rooms and, of course, our jargon mixed with the regulars of GEnie. (One thing that I took from there, and still use today, is “my” smiley -- *:^) )
Unfortunately, he states at the end of his article that there is no backup copy of that initial chat log in order to provide proof of his claim:
If I had any idea that such a thing would spread, I would have saved the original conversation that led to the acronym’s inception. Alas, I don’t even recall what was so funny! While I can picture in my mind where I was when it happened, I can’t narrow the time down any further.
I don’t expect you to believe this, really, as so many others don’t. Still, it ought to be written out so there’s at least a record of it somewhere on the Internet.
Yet, there is, also covered in Opinion: FWIW -- The origins of ‘Net shorthand, a definite date, the 8th of May 1989, dealing with the issue of a FidoNews Newsletter (if it redirects to a blank page, the entire newsletter can be found in the webpage’s source code) in which, at page 10 and entitled MO_ICONS_PLEASE, it offers respective definitions concerning various internet acronyms and emoticons. Among them can be seen “LOL – Laughing Out Loud”. It is believed to be one of the first known instances of the “LOL” acronym on the web.
Evolution & Impact
- While it remains unclear if the birth of other types of laughing acronyms, like ROFL or LMAO, were directly the result of LOL’s increasing popularity on Usenets and other kinds of BBS, those simple 3 letters had an impact in their widespread respective translations to the foreign non-English world. As documented on Wikipedia:
Most of these variants are usually found in lowercase.
* mdr (and its own derivatives) : French version, from the initials of “mort de rire” which roughly translated means “dying of laughter”, although many French people now use LOL instead as it is the most widely used on the internet.
* חחח/ההה : Hebrew version of LOL. The letter ח is pronounced ‘kh’ and ה is pronounced ‘h’. Putting them together (usually three or more in a row) makes the word khakhakha or hahaha (since vowels in Hebrew are generally not written), which is in many languages regarded as the sound of laughter. The word LOL is sometimes transliterated (לול), but its usage is not very common.
* 555 : The Thai variation of LOL. “5” in Thai is pronounced “ha”, three of them being “hahaha”.
* asg : Swedish abbreviation of the term Asgarv, meaning intense laughter.
* g: Danish abbreviation of the word griner, which means “laughing” in Danish.
* rs: in Brazil “rs” (being an abbreviation of “risos”, the plural of “laugh”) is often used in text based communications in situations where in English lol would be used, repeating it (“rsrsrsrsrs”) is often done to express longer laughter or laughing harder. Also popular is “kkk” (which can also be repeated indefinitely), due to the pronunciation of the letter k in Portuguese sounding similar to the ca in card, and therefore representing the laugh “cacacacaca” (also similar to the Hebrew version above).
* mkm: in Afghanistan “mkm” (being an abbreviation of the phrase “ma khanda mikonom”). This is a Dari phrase that means “I am laughing”.
* In Chinese, although 大笑 (da xiao; “big laugh”) is used, a more widespread usage is “哈哈哈” (ha ha ha) on internet forums.
* هاها: The Arabic هـــا makes the sound “ha,” and is strung together to create the sound “haha”.
* In some languages with a non-Latin script, the abbreviation “LOL” itself is also often transliterated. See for example Arabic لــول and Russian лол.
* In Japanese, traditionally the kanji for laugh in parenthesis was used in the same way as lol; （笑）. It can be read as wara and so just w has taken over as the abbreviation.
Usage as a Verb
- In a manner similar to the Fap slang, “LOL” has been transformed into a verb, with its own set of temporal conjugations :
Lol as an infinitive, LOLed or also Lolled (often reduced in lol’d => Macrochan’s own set of pictures) for preterite and past participle, and Lolling as a present participle.
In addition to its neologic verb form, several other instances of modified versions started appearing as well. Wikipedia offers the folowing list :
* LEL: An abbreviation for both “Laughing Extremely Loud” and “Laughing Eccentrically Loud.”
* lolz : Occasionally used in place of LOL. (circa 1999)
* lulz : Often used to denote laughter at someone who is the victim of a prank, or a reason for performing an action. Can be used as a noun -- e.g. do it for the lulz. This variation is often used on Encyclopedia Dramatica and 4chan image boards. According to a New York Times article about Internet trolling, “lulz means the joy of disrupting another’s emotional equilibrium.” (Theoretically appearing with the creation of imageboard 4chan circa 2003, made popular by the 2007 Fox News report)
* lolwut : lol + wut, used to indicate bemused laughter, or confusion. (see also Lolwut)
* Lawl or Lal: Pseudo-pronunciation of LOL. Saying “lawl” is sometimes meant in mockery of those who use the term LOL, and usually not meant as serious usage.
* lqtm: Laughing quietly to myself.
LOL as a Catch-all Expression
The use of the term LOL may have contributed to the birth of many related memes on the Internet, for it seems to be an easy term to be placed anywhere in a sentence to change its initial meaning, and provoke a token effect/reaction from the public. Here is a list of many of them.
- LOL ASCII (2003)
- LOL JESUS
- LOL, Internet (2005)
- The widely known LOLcats (2006)
- LOL WUT (2006)
- LOLrus (2007)
- LOLgraphs (2008)
- LOL Guy (2010)