Thursday, April 7, 2011

Zoinks! OED update includes OMG and LOL

oedTime to get annoyed when your spellcheck scribbles red underneath your 21st-century vocabulary. The Oxford English Dictionary now includes several words popular with millennials, surely to the ire of English professors everywhere.

The latest update legitimizes initialisms (abbreviations consisting of sequential first letters from a name or expression) borne out of online interaction. That’s right, OMG and LOL are now totally viable words according to the OED. But it’s not just their useful on Twitter that earned them passage into everyone’s favorite English lexicon.

Such abbreviations are cropping up in print and everyday speech, and convenience isn’t the reason, say the OED folks:

“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.”

For a generation that grew up in AOL chat rooms and now groans every time their parents text them “LOL u r so funny,” this is exactly the usage of Internet initialisms. Writing for Thought Catalog last November, Leigh Alexander called for an end to online use of LOL, citing ironic use and the fact that it’s rarely ever true. Think about it. I’m more likely to type “hahaha” to friends online than LOL, unless I’m being cute or snarky.

There’s a hope (or perhaps fear) that the inclusion of OMG and LOL will open the OED floodgates for more Internet speak. Ben Hardwidge over at Bit-Tech asked OED principal editor Graeme Diamond if we’d ever see l337 in the dictionary. “It’s got a good chance, but it may not quite cross the line yet,” says Diamond. The inclusion of numbers won’t prevent it (check out 1471), but its niche usage might.

What other Internet words should we see in the OED? ROFL? idk? Butthurt?