I’m going to hazard a guess and say that we all know what ‘lol’ stands for. If you don’t, then lol is the online acronym for ‘Laugh Out Loud’ and is used to express, through text, either generic enjoyment at a subject or (as the name suggests) actual laughter. In the very beginning, the use of ‘lol’ was to convey that the person sending had actually laughed. Now days? Well, here is a little test for you. How many times over the last, lets say, week? 5 Times? 20 Times?
Ok, now tell me how many of these times you have actually been laughing?
I’m willing to bet money that it wasn’t very many. That’s because the word has evolved over time to fill a much needed position in cyber language vernacular- one that just expresses amusement, mild amazement or enjoyment. I guarantee that one of those definitions was what you primarily use ‘Lol’ for. A friend sends you a text saying that they just got a test back and they get a distinction, you might reply ‘Lol, nice!’. You aren’t laughing at them (or you might be if the person isn’t that smart and you are a dickhead), you are just expressing a level of happiness or excitement that isn’t as intense as actually laughing, but isn’t so subtle you would use ’ :) ’ to express it. Lol has developed to form a middle ground. A base symbol for generic enjoyment.
And, interestingly enough, the use of the word ‘Lol’ has been around for a very long time, even before the beginning of the Internet. Perhaps now the most commonly used acronym in either Text Language or Cyber-Speak, used by everyone from the very young to the very old (my Mother often texts my Grandmother and they both use ‘lol’), ‘Lol’ as an acronym was actually used as early as the turn of this century as an acronym for ‘Lots of Love’ or ‘Lots of Luck’ (for more info, search ‘Lol’ in ‘The American Heritage Abbreviations Dictionary, 3rd Edition)’. Another interesting use of ‘lol’ is in the languages of Welsh and Dutch. In both of these languages, lol is actually a word, not an acronym. In Welsh the word ‘Lol’ means ‘Nonsense’ while in Dutch it means ‘Fun’ while ‘Lolig’ means ‘Funny’.
Even more interesting is that the use of ‘Lol’ is not confined to English. In French, though they have the acronym ‘mdr’ (‘Morte de rire’ roughly translates as Dying of Laughter), it has been noted that Lol is much more widely used. Widespread use of ‘lol’ has also been noted in many other European cultures, including German and Dutch. So, as you can tell, ‘lol’ is a pretty popular word, being used on the Internet and in the real world to convey laughter or great enjoyment.
But now, as usual on the Internet, a problem occurs. How do we convey actual laughter or intense amusement now that the original word no longer holds it’s original definition. Well, we invent new words to take it’s place. However, unlike when lol (or the very obvious ‘Hahahahahaha’) was used to convey a wide range of emotions with only one word, the cyber-speak vernacular has evolved to include many different words, each conveying a separate and unique, but not often very different, type of amusement. Seriously, there are 100’s of words, and it is in fact possible to make up your own word on the fly and, if you have stuck within the confines of some generic conventions, you can still be understood (but more on that later). What I will now do is list some of the more popular and more widely used definitions of laughter in cyber-speak, ‘The Favourite Children of Lol’ you could say, and attempt to define each for what they are: very unique and specialised meanings of a common emotion. Enjoyment.
Firstly, lets just talk quickly about how you can place emphasis on any of these definitions of ‘lol’. There are two main ways: Capitalization and Word/Letter Addition. If someone sends you, in a hypothetical text, the word ‘lol’, you can assume they are mildly amused. However, if they send you ‘LOL’, you can perceive that they are getting a greater amount of enjoyment from this exchange than just a smile. Similarly, if someone sends you the phrase ‘looooool’,’lolololololololol’,’lolercopter’ or ‘lolgasm’, you can go ahead and assume that they really liked what they are referring too (Especially if they use that last one). Whatever word you use doesn’t have to have any relevance it’s important to know, however, that you can only add a word that is either a noun or a verb, and if you use a Noun the object that it describes can not be something that is alive or perceived to be alive. For example, I can say ‘Lolercopter’ and have it used as an emphasis, but if I say something like ‘lolcat’ or ‘lolpatinson’ it implies that I am laughing at or deriving enjoyment from the attached noun. However, this is not set in stone and there are definite exceptions to this rule that can be created from personal word combining.
These two rules, particularly Capitalization, apply to all variations of ‘lol’ and its successors, and can usually apply to any Cyber-Speak or Text Language word. Lol can also be used as a verb, such as ‘lol’d/loled’ to say that you laughed at something, ‘loling’ to say that you are laughing (as in “I’m loling!” as opposed to just conveying the emotion by saying ‘Lol’), or ‘lol’ as future tense (“I will lol at this”).
Right! On to the Variations!
(NOTE: The following definitions are my own and are based on my own knowledge and research. As far as I could find, nowhere was willing to define them anymore than saying they meant ‘Laughter’.)
Rofl- Rolling on the Floor Laughing: this definition is used, by simply knowing the meaning of the acronym, to convey ecstatic or over emphasized laughter. However, like lol, it is now often used to convey an emotion that is only just above mild amusement. The most widely used Word Addition to add emphasis to this word is Roflcopter.
Lmao/Lmfao- Laughing My Arse Off/Laughing My Fucking Arse Off: Similar to Rofl, this is used to convey an inordinate amount of enjoyment. However, it’s use seems to be more common when you are laughing at mistake that the other person has made as opposed to mutual enjoyment of a topic. If a person makes a particularly bad spelling mistake or is telling you of something awkward they have done, people seem more likely to use ‘Lmao’ as opposed to ‘Rofl’ or ‘lol’. Strangely enough, the most popular word to add to Lmao for emphasis is Rofl (Roflmao).
Zomglol (Usually ZOMGLOL!)- UNKNOWN: No one is really sure what the Zomg in Zomglol means. Most likely, it is a variant of OMG (Oh My God) with a Z added to the front for emphasis of the OMG. When Zomg is combined with lol to form ZOMGLOL the definition of laughter that results is true to it’s roots in OMG: That of surprised or shocked laughter. When your best friend tells you that he came home and his parents bought him a Ferrari, “ZOMGLOL!” is an appropriate response. When he tells you that his parents just died it is not.
Lolwut?- *Laughter* What?: ‘Lolwut?’ is used as a written double take. A non Cyber-Speak version of this would be Laughing and then saying “What?” or saying “I’m sorry, What?”. If someone is talking about eating in a Food Court, and then tells you an Elephant walked past, ‘Lolwut?’ is appropriate.
Lawl- N/A: Lawl is used to satire or poke fun at people who say Lol a lot, or at yourself if you indeed say lol a lot. Lawl can also be used as a type of enjoyment less than what ‘lol’ infers. You can use Lawl to dismiss something off that is mildly amusing but you don’t really want to focus on. If he had a phone, I’m sure Caeser would have used Lawl every time he became bored of an event in the Colosseum.
Lolz- N/A: Exactly the same definition as Lol.
Lolercaust- N/A: The definition of Lolercaust is context sensitive. If used as describing something (“That was a Lolercaust”) it means that what you are describing had an overuse of the word lol, and you are mocking that fact. However, if you use Lolercaust on yourself as a description of emotion, it means (perhaps a bit insensitively) that something was so funny you could die, or that your laughter was so powerful it could wipe out everyone. As a bit of added information, there is a generic picture representation of ‘Lolercaust’ which is the word ‘lol’ arranged into a Swastika.
Lqtm- Laughing Quietly To Myself: This variation is not widely used, except within the forum community. Depending on context it can either be you trying to hide your laughter out of politeness (Sensitive) or you laughing at something stupid someone else has done (Insensitive).
Heh- N/A: Heh is a derisive scoff to yourself. Here’s an experiment- Say ‘Heh’ as if it was laughing. You sound like an evil prick don’t you? The easiest definition for ‘Heh’ would be a laugh or scoff of superiority over the person you are talking to or talking about.
Lul, Lulz- N/A: Lul is perhaps used the most incorrectly out of all of of the variants of Lol. At its most basic sense, Lul is the laugh of a Troll. If you Lul at something, it is because you are laughing at the pain of another person, or the chaos and confusion you are witnessing. Lul is the Cyber-Speak version of Schadenfreude. A person most commonly uses Lul when they are not only laughing at misfortune, misery, panic or anger, but when they themselves (or someone they are affiliated with) has caused it. It is not surprising then that this variation began, and is most widely used, on 4Chan. it is also often used by Anonymous who often reply, when questioned about why they do the things that they do, that they did it “For The Lulz” (‘Lulz’ becomes a noun in this situation, and this phrase is occasionally shortened to ‘FTLULZ’).
Now, there is no humanly possible way I have got them all. If you can think of any more versions of ‘Lol’ just post them in the comments and I shall have a look at them and add them to this list.
Have Fun! :D