The venerable Oxford English Dictionary has entered the age of Internet memes.
In an statement posted on Friday, which begins by rhapsodizing about significant revisions to words in the “R” range — including rotund, rude, rumble, and ruthless — the editors go on to note that they have also made room for two interesting additions, OMG and LOL.
“For the March 2011 release of OED Online,” they state primly, “we have selected for publication a number of noteworthy initialisms—abbreviations consisting of the initial letters of a name or expression. Some of these—such as OMG [OMG int. (and n.) and adj.]: ‘Oh my God’ (or sometimes ‘gosh’, ‘goodness’, etc.) and LOL [LOL int. and n./2]: ‘laughing out loud’—are strongly associated with the language of electronic communications (email, texting, social networks, blogs, and so on). They join other entries of this sort: IMHO (‘in my humble opinion’) [IMHO at I n./1], TMI (‘too much information’) [TMI at T n.], and BFF (‘best friends forever’) [BFF at B n.], among others.”
“OMG and LOL are found outside of electronic contexts,” they continue, “The intention is usually to signal an informal, gossipy mode of expression, and perhaps parody the level of unreflective enthusiasm or overstatement that can sometimes appear in online discourse, while at the same time marking oneself as an ‘insider’ au fait with the forms of expression associated with the latest technology.”
Well, of course. Who among us has never wanted to mark him or herself as being “au fait with the forms of expression associated with the latest technology” or even part of “a younger generation conversant with all forms of digital communications”?
But it’s not all LOLs out in OED-land. The editors also note the addition of new food terms — such as banh mi and taquito — along with “the ten- (or three-, five- etc.) second rule [second n.1 Additions (b)], which allows for the eating of a delicious morsel that has fallen to the floor, provided that it is retrieved within the specified period of time.” The appended list includes such further neologisms as heteronormative, tinfoil hat, and smack talk.
Altogether, it appears that the editors of the OED are well-equipped to brave the perils of the 21st century, armed with the best methodology of the 19th. One can only say, “Huzzah.”
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