DOTI (downgrading of text initialisms)

Garson O'Toole adsgarsonotoole at GMAIL.COM
Sun Nov 28 23:23:48 UTC 2010

The meaning of LOL shifted over time for different subgroups of
speakers I believe. An entry dated 2005 August 10 at urbandictionary
evinces irritation at perceived overuse, a catalyst for redefinition:

It's original definition was "Laughing out loud" (also written
occasionally as "Lots of Laughs"), used as a brief acronym to denote
great amusement in chat conversations.

Now, it is overused to the point where nobody laughs out loud when
they say it. In fact, they probably don't even give a shit about what
you just wrote. More accurately, the acronym "lol" should be redefined
as "Lack of laughter."

Depending on the chatter, its definition may vary. The list of its
meanings includes, but is not limited to:
1) "I have nothing worthwhile to contribute to this conversation."
2) "I'm too lazy to read what you just wrote so I'm typing something
useless in hopes that you'll think I'm still paying attention."
3) "Your statement lacks even the vaguest trace of humor but I'll
pretend I'm amused."
4) "This is a pointless acronym I'm sticking in my sentence just
because it's become so engraved into my mind that when chatting, I
MUST use the meaningless sentence-filler 'lol.'"

On Sun, Nov 28, 2010 at 4:22 PM, Benjamin Barrett <gogaku at> wrote:
> ---------------------- Information from the mail header -----------------------
> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       Benjamin Barrett <gogaku at IX.NETCOM.COM>
> Subject:      Re: DOTI (downgrading of text initialisms)
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> Thank you for the kind follow-up.
> Ultimately, I think this has to be considered looking at intra- and inter-speaker variation.
> One person I spoke with, about 25 years old, told me that LOL can be used for just about anything, from sarcasm to genuine humor. Because the initials "LOL" stand for "laugh out loud," there will always be people who use them that way, which then gives people the ability to differentiate social usage according to their interlocutor.
> I, too, noticed the switch with WTF, and quickly adapted it to mean LOL for certain interlocutors (quickly meaning I noticed and adopted it this year).
> BB
> On Nov 28, 2010, at 1:00 PM, Victor Steinbok wrote:
>> 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.
>>     VS-)
>> 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-)
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