Monday, July 16, 2012

How I Learned to Stop Hating Acronyms and LOL

Don't be misled by the title of this post: I've been laughing out loud for most of my life. In fact, I do it at least five times a day, sometimes in public, for no apparent reason.

But LOL? I'm afraid that's a relatively new phenomenon for me. I probably would have started doing it much earlier, if I'd known WTH it was. The first time I stumbled upon it was about 15 years ago, at the dawn of the email era, back when "You've got mail" still meant that the postman was at the door. (In this era of Facebook and text messages, how quaint do movies like You've Got Mail and The Postman Always Rings Twice now seem?)

My friend Jason and I had been spending a large part of the work day exchanging emails, thoroughly excited about this novel form of conversation. It was the first time we'd ever communicated with each other when we weren't face to face or talking on the phone, and apparently, Jason had discovered a new side of me, the me that comes out in writing but not necessarily in oral conversation. "Until today, I never had any idea that you were so dry and sarcastic," he wrote shortly before quitting time. "LOL!"

LOL? What is that supposed to mean? I thought. Over the next week, it must have popped up about three times per email. I figured it must involve "love." Back in high school, I remembered all the girls used to write "LYLAS" (for "Love you like a sister") in each other's yearbooks. With Jason, he obviously approved of the "new" me, so it must have been love: Lots of Love? I was confused, though: What's "love" got to do with it? Jason and I were only friends.

It would be more than a decade before I realized that he wasn't expressing love; he was laughing out loud -- with me, not at me, of course. I think I must have been on Facebook when I had my epiphany -- or maybe one of my FB friends explained it to me. I can't remember, and I suppose it doesn't really matter now. All I knew (at the time) was that everyone on Facebook was doing it, which gave me the perfect reason not to.

For a while, I studiously avoided LOL, in much the same way that I refused to stoop to using ":)" and ";)." Those people weren't fooling me. I saw through the way they'd say something kind of bitchy and follow it with "LOL" and/or a smiley face. It was like they were saying, "I'm not trying to be an!"

Eventually, though, I finally gave in, not only because I, too, wanted to be free to be as passive aggressive as I wanted to be. I realized that it was also an excellent time saver and the next best thing to turning on the webcam. Now my friends could read my words and imagine my facial expressions, without having to see what a mess I was looking, and without my having to explain that I was only joking (though I sometimes wasn't). The smiley faces and winks were most useful when I was chatting with my Argentine friends in Buenos Aires. Sarcasm doesn't translate so well in Spanish. People were always misunderstanding me, and a well-placed smiley face was the best way to avoid a fight.

So fucking what?: How did S.F.W. never catch on?
Now I LOL nearly as often as I laugh out loud. I also regularly use GF, BF, BFF, WTH, WTF, BTW, OMG, and TPTB (the latter usually when I'm on the soap boards, where everyone is always referring to "the powers that be"). And although I still have no idea what "SOS" actually stands for, I love the song by ABBA, which, BTW, is one of the most clever acronyms ever. I use smiley faces and winks more sparingly. Yes, in graphic-icon form, they look pretty, and they reveal the spirit in which my words were written, but to overuse them is to risk coming across as trivial.

One has to draw the line somewhere, though, and I draw mine at ROTFL and LMFAO. (I also never use TTYL, BRB and IDK, but not because I have anything against them. I just never get around to them.) It's bad enough that one of the worst pop acts in the history of music has adopted the latter as its moniker, but really, does anyone ever actually roll on the floor laughing? I don't. I've never laughed my fucking as off either, and if I did laugh harder than LOL, I'd probably leave it at LMAO, since I'm still not entirely convinced that "ass" and "fucking" belong together. TMI? (Too much information?)

Last night, thanks to Facebook, I finally discovered the meaning of an acronym that's been puzzling me for a while now: SMH. It's always looked sort of awkward to me, perhaps because it lacks a vowel and doesn't quite roll off the keyboard. I figured it must mean something like "shut my hole," which is even cruder than LMFAO. Almost immediately after I posed the question "What does SMH mean?" as my status update, an FB friend responded: "Shaking my head." (If you can shed some light on FTW, FTL and/or IRL, please do!)

Oh, yeah! Why hadn't I thought of that before? Possibly because in everyday life, I shake my head about as seldom as I LMFAO and ROTFL. (I'm prone to headaches, so I avoid unnecessary head movements.) If someone says -- or writes -- something that I find particularly ridiculous, I'm more likely to roll my eyes, which is something I've been doing probably longer than I've been laughing out loud.

Alas, RME looks even more awkward than SMH. It reads like it should be part of a college course listing, not something one does in everyday conversation. But the next time someone feels the need to SMH mid-conversation, RME is exactly what I'll be doing.

10 Music Acronyms That Are So Much Better Than LMFAO








"TSOP (The Sound of Philadelphia)" MSFB


tracey said...

FTW = "For the Win"
IRL = "In real life"

Not sure about "FTL." I'm with you -- a good chunk of time, I have to Google some of these acronyms to figure out what people are talking about. And you mentioned the soap boards -- how about all the acronyms for actors' names and "squish names" that go on there? (Maybe your next piece could be on squish names?) ;)

Jeremy Helligar said...

I get such a kick out of all the acronyms for actors' names. It surprises me that so many soap fans actually know their names. I guess the days of fans running up the them and calling them by their characters' names are long gone, which is probably a good thing. But the other day, I was writing something about "RH," and when I finished the sentence, I wasn't even sure whether I was talking about Roger Howarth or Rebecca Herbst!

I must admit to being a fan of squish names. I think more people should use them in real life. I was trying to come up with a squish name for my ex and me, and since I couldn't think of a good one, I convinced myself that the relationship had been doomed from the start!

tracey said...

Yeah, with Rebecca Herbst, Rick Hearst and now Roger Howarth, there are too many RH references for GH now! I've seen Roger referred to in some places as "RoHo," which at least differentiates him... but then you have those who refer to Rebecca as Becky, so they call her "BH"... my head hurts!

I always feel a little weird about using the squish names for soap characters for some reason, but some of them really do make me laugh, particularly since people seem to make them up for virtually *any* two people on a show, romantic couple or not. My favorite has to be "Ducky" (Dante/Lucky) -- for some reason that always makes me giggle when I see it. (Lucky's name has always lent itself to some funny ones -- but I never understood why the people who hated him and Sam together never got "Sucky" to take off, ha ha).

What soap boards do you post on, just out of curiosity?

Jeremy Helligar said...

Oh, Rick Hearst! Every time someone mentions him, my heart skips a beat. I miss Ric Lansing. (Wonder why he dropped the "k"!)

I've never heard Sucky, but it so describes that coupling. What were the writers thinking?

What about Anal (for Anna and Luke)? I think that's really gross, but I guess so are those two as a couple.

I've started posting on Daytime Confidential. I always post my soap-related blog posts, and I sometimes comment on other people's comments. I love DC (uh oh, another one!) because the people who comment are quite intelligent, and they know their stuff. I actually learn a lot whenever I go there. I enjoy reading the commentary on YouTube, too, but it's more for the comic value. Reading the comments after Perkie's GH recaps on DC have become as much a ritual as watching the show!

tracey said...

I love Rick Hearst. Ric really needs to come back (but if he does, they need to make him not obsessed with Sonny -- I'm totally over that and Rick is capable of playing so much more than that).

I've never actually seen anyone use Sucky -- I came up with that in my head all on my own, and was surprised that everyone seemed to be using "Lusam." But yeah, I hated them together, too -- though I guess they had their fans because of the prettiness of the Vaughan/Monoco combo.

Dying at "Anal." OMG! (and yes, I guess it fits!)

I've never really read the boards at DC -- I'll have to check them out. I've read a number of boards, but have only actually posted on Soap Central. It's interesting how the tone varies at the different sites. Some of them (like Soap Opera Network) are SO overwhelmingly negative and bitchy about every single little thing, I stopped looking at them. I've found I'm liking the board at Television Without Pity -- they're pretty articulate, funny and knowledgeable, tend to give credit where it's due and criticize where it's warranted, and support their opinions with commentary other than "(fill in the blank) sucks." But if you are posting at DC, I will most definitely check that out since I know there will be an elevated level of discourse there. :)

Terence said...

Very interesting and lovely post.