The Oxford English Dictionary, which is approaching 130 years old, contains over 600,000 words, definitions and pronunciations. As the premier authority on the English language, they like to update their word lists quite frequently. This month, this means the inclusion of some text-speak classics.
The OED has posted an overview of their latest update which went into effect late yesterday. Out of the 45,437 new words and meanings and over 285,000 revisions, a select few have filled internet tech lovers with joy, amusement and most likely a little shame. LOL (laughing out loud), FYI (for your information) and OMG (oh my god) have been added alongside their buddies IMHO (in my humble opinion), TMI (too much information) and BFF (best friends forever) in the newest edition of the OED.
Graeme Diamond of the OED explains:
Of course in such a context initialisms are quicker to type than the full forms, and (in the case of text messages, or Twitter, for example) they help to say more in media where there is a limit to a number of characters one may use in a single message. OMG and LOL are found outside of electronic contexts, however; in print, and even in spoken use (see, for example, the 2003 quotation for LOL int.), where there often seems to be a bit more than simple abbreviation going on. 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.
Basically, the OED feels as though many of these “initialisms” have permeated our society in such a way that three simple letters can suggest excitement, parody and sarcasm. And let’s be honest, if you ever saw anyone write “laughing out loud” instead of “LOL” you would punch them in the face. Be honest.
Diamond also provides us with a tidbit of which I was unaware:
As such usage indicates, many people would consider these recent coinages, from the last 10 or 20 years, and associate them with a younger generation conversant with all forms of digital communications. As is often the case, OED’s research has revealed some unexpected historical perspectives: our first quotation for OMG is from a personal letter from 1917; the letters LOL had a previous life, starting in 1960, denoting an elderly woman (or ‘little old lady’; see LOL n./1); and the entry for FYI [FYI phr., adj., and n.], for example, shows it originated in the language of memoranda in 1941.
Along with the initialisms, the first emoticon was also added to the database. The word “heart” was already established as a verb in some case, as in “I heart pizza,” but the OED has added a sense of the verb “heart” with “<3.” As Diamond explains, “in this update may be the first English usage to develop via the medium of T-shirts and bumper-stickers.”
And 13 year old girls.
On Monday, we told you how the AP stylebook was staying current with the swapping of “e-mail” for “email” and the addition of “cellphone” and “smartphone” into their list of proper usage. The update from the OED is just another example of the universal impact of technology in our current culture. So among the Shakespearean words of linsey-woolsey and lubberly goes LOL. Even with this development, I’m not holding my breath to see ROFLcopter in the OED any time soon.