DOTI (downgrading of text initialisms)

Victor Steinbok aardvark66 at GMAIL.COM
Sun Nov 28 21:00:08 UTC 2010

It's a useful concept to note, but I doubt that a trend like that can be
dated with any precision. The problem is that you can only recognize it
once it already happened and it's not always clear what to watch for as
it's happening. What I said is old is the scale--from <g> to ROFLMAO and
beyond (it might have been GRVVF, not just RVVF). The more you use
chat/txt features, the more likely you are to note the frequency of each
element. I was not a frequent chat user, but between 1997 and 2005,
there was a marked increase in use of LOL as a generic response--so, it
went from "very funny" to "I hear you" in meaning. Obviously, the other
abbreviations appeared with increased frequency as well, although I am
not entirely convinced that LMAO is now as frequent as LOL was 10-12
years ago.

My other point is that scale inflation is completely natural. For
example, the more one uses expletives in his speech, the less expressive
they become--in extreme cases, they nearly serve the function of commas
and other punctuation more than a semantic function. When expletives
become initialism, the transition is even faster. It's a bit harder to
notice in writing, but, for instance, "WTF" is now as proverbial as
"LOL"--everyone is perfectly aware of what it means, but it's now used
in contexts where plain "fuck" would not normally be acceptable--if all
txting initialism were expanded, most people would sound like Dennis
Hopper in Blue Velvet. Another one is "STFU" which is not used in its
more "traditional" meaning but also in the sense "You're kidding!" or
the meek "I don't want to hear this" (but more frequently is the
equivalent of "Bite me!"). But I don't think that scale inflation is
limited to initialisms.


On 11/28/2010 1:36 PM, Benjamin Barrett wrote:
> I rarely chat or use these initialisms, so I'm probably behind the times. I think I understood this downgrade a year or two.
> You say it's old. I looked in the archives for mention of this downgrade and did not find anything. Do you have an approximate date for when it started?
> BB
> On Nov 28, 2010, at 4:01 AM, Victor Steinbok wrote:
>> I'm a bit puzzled by this presentation. Although I would not dispute the
>> general "downgrading", in principle, all of the information below would
>> be "new" if we were somehow stuck in 1998, Groundhog Day style.  I still
>> have my email archives from the late 1990s that include all the
>> initialism listed below and more. LOL is indeed the lowest (even though
>> one friend still insists on using "<grin>" for being smug about one's
>> own attempt at humor--not so much funny/not funny). This is followed by
>> both ROFL and LMAO--perhaps ordered, perhaps not--and further by ROFLMAO
>> that folds the two together. Some use an enhanced version that reads
>> ROFLMAO-RVVF. I am not entirely sure why this is the top of the comic
>> food chain, but RVVF means "running very very fast". The entire LOL
>> scale was introduced to me--a chat novice, at the time--in 1997.  There
>> has indeed been a LOL scale inflation, with each rung being less funny
>> now than it used to be, but, as I said, none of this is new. The only
>> change, as far as I can tell, is that we no longer use brackets to
>> highlight the initialism--largely because both LOL and ROFLMAO have
>> become so ubiquitous. (Note that<g>--which means either grin or
>> giggle--and<grin>  still get the bracket treatment. There is also<@>.)
>>      VS-)

The American Dialect Society -

More information about the Ads-l mailing list