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A Tale of Grievous Abbreviation
I suppose we’ve all seen that the Oxford English Dictionary will now include the abbreviations “OMG” and “LOL” among its entries.
And I’m sure we all had pretty much the same reaction:
(For those of you not burdened by the miracles of modern communications technology – and believe me, there are days when I envy you – OMG is the abbreviation for “Oh My God” and has become the standard text/instant message/email expression of surprise. Also anger, disgust, worry or any condition other than dull normalcy. For example:
“Let’s go get a hamburger.”
“OMG! I can’t because it’s a Friday in Lent.”
“OMG! I totally forgot you were Catholic.”
This is what passes for “conversation” these days. And then everyone LOLs. That means “Laugh Out Loud.” Except LOLs would mean Laugh Out Louds, wouldn’t it? So I guess everyone L(s)OL. Or something.
When it comes to granting legitimacy to “OMG” and “LOL,” I am of two minds.
On one hand, I understand perfectly well the need for English to grow and change with the times. If it hadn’t, our conversations today would all sound like chapters from Beowulf, and I would have to move. I read Beowulf in school and hated it. HATED it.
So language that grows and evolves is fine. Also groovy, cool, solid, all reet, the bee’s knees and dandy.
On the other hand, I tend to think official status for words should apply to things that are commonly spoken as well as written. “OMG” and “LOL” do not pass this test. In fact, it would be weird if they did.
Conversationalist One: “Take my wife, please.”
Conversationalist Two: “Ell Oh Ell.”
“OMG” and “LOL” were created, along with a pestiferous host of other such abbreviations, when the modern communications came along to dictate speed over spelling. The thinking, if you can call it that, was that “Oh, my God” and “That’s so funny I laughed out loud” took entirely too long to type.
I suppose you could consider them timesavers, even if they do only save a second or two at most. Then again, considering the number of text messages flying around the blabosphere these days, the overall savings could be considerable. I have a nephew who communicates primarily by text message. He LOLs and OMGs constantly. At two seconds’ savings per message, he could, in a 24-hour day, save three or fourth months. Which he could then devote to more texting.
I love English. I really do. I can communicate, with varying degrees of success, in Spanish, German, French, Latin and Russian, but English is the only language for which I harbor deep feelings, probably because it is the language I use to order pizza.
I fear the slippery slope may be underfoot. If OMG and LOL are OK, it may only be a matter of time before those little smiley face emoticons are language too. The OED has already decided to include the heart symbol used as a synonym for love, as in “I (Heart) New Socks.” Any further and we might just as well go back to cave paintings to tell our stories.
OMG indeed, OED. Some of us might even include another abbreviation, something along the lines of What The Heck, only worse, but that would be naughty. Besides, it’s not in the dictionary. Yet. LOL.
© 2011 Mike Redmond. All Rights Reserved.
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