Mar 11, 2009 09:20:41 AM, &&&&&&@aol.com wrote:
What does “lol” or “l.o.l.” mean?
Those are the 3 most common ways to say you think something is drop dead funny
The questioning message was prompted by an exchange between Professor and Wife as they disputed what ‘LOL’ stood for. For wife, this was obvious: “‘LOL’ stands for ‘Lots of Love’.” Professor was quite sure that it stood for “Laugh out Loud.” So Daughter-in-Law was asked for instruction.
Her answer is unambiguous, but a professor cannot let matters stand. Who says that ‘LOL’ stands for ‘Laugh Out Loud’? Does Daughter-in-Law settle the matter? Or is it ‘everybody’ these days? Was wife ‘ignorant’? Or simply not very powerful on this matter? And what is ‘LOL’ made up of, in any event? What are the contexts in which it appeared and in which the dominant mode of interpretation appeared?
I got to wonder about this as I was teaching Jakobson on “Linguistics and poetics” (1960), and the following is a take on his model. ‘LOL’ is code for ‘Laugh out loud’ which itself is, to simplify, a signifier for at least two possible mental images (“laughing” and “loud”). It is also heavily marked for electronic messaging by particularly kinds of people. In that sense writing ‘LOL’; participates in constituting the context for the message either as electronic message or as about electronic messaging. It also constitutes the addresser as someone who “thinks that something is drop dead funny.” And it is built as a kind of play (poetry) with possibilities within English orthography. It is also particularly useful given the technical constraints of electronic personal communication (a matter of the support for the means of contact between people). And finally, it is a metalingual commentary on what was said before.
What Jakobson’s model does not quite do is allow us easily to explore the matters of control over most of these matters. Saying “‘LOL’ stands for ‘Laughing Out Loud’” is a matter of metalinguistics that leaves open the grounds for the legitimacy of the statement or its power over future conversations. This is where we need to call on the pragmatist tradition. We need to find a way to add a third dimension to Jakobson’s model, perhaps in the following fashion:
The “factors” might be:
The “functions” might be:
The “functions” might be:
I am not quite sure about all this, and particularly not about the words in parenthesis. Furthermore I am trying to fit all this within the graphic representation Jakobson proposed, and this may not be the most fruitful way to proceed.Print This Post
4 thoughts on “‘LOL’: on the construction of a cultural fact”
After reading this, I thought about all the occasions I express humor and how I express it. I typically use lol or haha or :), depending on the situation and receiver. Using “lol” seldom means that I’m literally “laughing out loud”, just as “ROFL” almost never literally means that one is rolling on the floor laughing. (There is difference in opinion regarding whether IMHO means “in my honest opinion” or “in my humble opinion.”
I am also reminded me of the different cultural uses of smiley faces 🙂 or ^_^ (http://www.nytimes.com/1996/08/12/business/happy-in-the-east-or-smiling-in-the-west.html). It is interesting to note that a lot of Asian emoticons also tend to be very graphic (guess what Orz means). (Answer: It represents a person kneeling in submission, where the “O” is the head, the “r” is the body” and the “z” is the kneeling legs).
So many things to respond to here! It warms the cockles of my heart to see you hacking about in the jungles of my topic — though I would certainly love some feedback on my drafts right about now ;D
A few quick thoughts — there’s an error in the message cited — it should be
rather than laughing twice in the second. Also, I think the signifier is for the mental images “laughing” and “OUT loud,” implying audibility. Which is always in question — there’s been a number of mass media references to incidents in which the sender of a LOL is NOT actually verifiably making a noise out loud, and is certainly not laughing loudly, which causes much soul-searching about the appropriateness of the acronym!
I am very interested in instant, unprecedented acronymizations of phrases, which seems to happen often in some communities. This morning I ran into “IIUC” — which, I am guessing, is “if I understand correctly.” IIRC (“if I recall correctly”) is one I’ve seen before, but IIUC is not. However, having IIRC (and IMHO, “in my humble opinion”) available seems to make neo-acronyms available on a moment’s notice. I imagine there are places where they are not considered decodable, and places where they are.
Finally, you may be interested in, well, the entirety of Encyclopedia Dramatica. Heaven knows I am. ED/4chan/Anonymous is basically a self-documenting Internet network which generates tremendous numbers of acronyms, memes, and other Internet detritus which sometimes spread far beyond their own network (they’re responsible for LOLcats, for example: http://www.icanhascheezburger.com ). Among other things, ED has invented a shifted meaning and pronunciation of LOL: http://encyclopediadramatica.com/Lulz Uh, that’s pretty definitely Not Safe For Work (NSFW), by the way. I think part of what fascinates me about ED and 4chan is the way they generate meaning, police it, spread or fail to spread it, and attempt to cement it through documentation of their own history.
anyway! The foregoing text should be treated as a srsly casual capture of initial thoughts, and not fodder for anything to go in mah dissertatiunz. XD
Welcome to Internets, Dr. V! http://welcometointernet.org/
Here’s a recent article on “lols” that might be interesting: