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ELLE-O-ELLE

Suppose we explore the various social stages of the following geeky internet speaks: n00b, 1337, and pwn.

all of these started out as being fairly isolated to the internet geek culture in which they were bred and no one else really knew about them. 1337 and pwn have their history in the 80s, mainly from the BBS sort of days before the internet became this huge mainstream thing.

at some point, these terms emerged from computer-geek obscurity into more mainstream culture as what i'm going to call "teenage trends". It was generally used as a statement of generational gap rebellion - the use of these well-understood-but-not-accepted-as-proper-english terms was a way to either confuse adults who had no idea what those-darned-kids-are-talking-about or to irritate adults who preached how 1337 speak was a sign of deteriorating communication skills and writing skills.

The usage of these hasn't changed all that much even though they're not as trendy as they were a few years ago. Ask anyone in my place of employment in their 40s or older if they know what pwn, n00b, or 1337 is, and you'll usually get blank stares. The younger people working here may know what those terms are, but they don't use it in IM or email talk unless they know the other person understands or acknowledges it.

And then... theere's LOL.

LOL has to be the oddest internet slang term out of any of them because it's somehow moved beyond that generational gap and become a widely understood pop culture term regardless of age or context. People who i receive business emails from at work but don't know at all will sometimes in more conversational emails throw in a lol when they write something that warrants a chuckle or a laugh. The same people who scratch their head at pwn or 1337 and are old enough to have grandkids will throw in a LOL into IM conversations.

and the funny thing is that the idea of LOL to represent its literal defintion of "laughing out loud" is hardly used in that context anymore. People that type lol aren't usually actually laughing out loud. They're using it as a term of general mirth, replacing the ideas ranging from chuckles to full on mirth. And it's become so commonplace to perceive the term that way that people don't even translate it in their head anymore, even more exemplified by its use in spoken language, and the idea of extending "lol" to "lolololololololol" in the same way one would extend "hahahahahahahahaha!"

personally i don't think i've ever used LOL in any context except to poke fun of it. Even in its literal meaning of "laugh out loud", i prefer to use the accepted form of "written actions" (e.g. *shrug*, *laugh*, *cough*). I probably wouldn't have a problem with it if it weren't for the fact that i feel it's too general a term that doesn't properly convey what sort of mirth i'm feeling at that particular moment and i don't want that to get lost in translation.

[enter concluding paragraph here]

Comments

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dr4b
May. 23rd, 2007 08:38 pm (UTC)
Huh. Did "pwn" really start in the 80's? I don't really remember encountering it until the last 4-5 years, and I mean, I started BBSing in Philly in 1987. I definitely remember "31337", mostly because we made fun of those people on IAI/KAOS/Cellar/etc back in the day... the BBSes where we simply didn't really have file uploads or ratios or any of that crap.

To be perfectly honest, I've never used "lol" either. I just write "heh" if I sort of half chuckle at something, and "hahaha" is my equivalent of the actual meaning of it. I've actually bothered typing out things like "damn, that's awesome. I actually laughed aloud at it".

I guess to some extent it's like the word "awesome" actually. I mean, nowadays if we actually do see something truly awe-inspiring, the word "awesome" sounds like a really dumb way to describe it. Similarly for something that makes you actually laugh out loud, it sounds dumb to use "lol".
lifeofmendel
May. 23rd, 2007 08:47 pm (UTC)
i never really used pwn or saw pwn in my bbs days. i'm going off of what wiki says about it, stating that it was used as the equivalent of "hack" as in hacking/phreaking into a system or phone line.
zqfmbg
May. 23rd, 2007 08:49 pm (UTC)
I think I've mentioned the extreme oddity of "lol :(".

But yeah, I never use it except to mock it.
taren_
May. 23rd, 2007 11:22 pm (UTC)
So I'm not the only one that uses "lol" as a normal word in casual speech? Example: "He lolled so-ardie shiddizpants"

I don't use lol to stand for the acronym, either. To express amusement, I either say "lawl" or type "EL OH EL".

I think the phrase is so well known because of its ubiquity in popular media (newspapers, magazines, etc.) informing the older generation about the popular/tame online slang "those little rascals" were using on AOL at the time.
cidgregor
May. 24th, 2007 03:08 am (UTC)
I'm the same way. I absolutely never use lol if I can help it. Hell, I avoid that thing like the plague. x_X
miss_skillet
May. 24th, 2007 04:49 am (UTC)
yet at the time that LOL enjoys it's increasing popularity, oldies like PEBKAC, ROTFLMAO, and others so obscure I can't even dredge them up from the depths of my IRC years have fallen out of common usage even amongst those qualified/aged appropriately.

I frequently use the "O RLY?" prompt as a litmus test for whether an individual is or is not 1337 enough to use all the geekspeek on them. Incorrect response (ie, blank stare, dissertation on lame topic they actually think I have interest in) brands them n00b until otherwise proven.
trunks7j
May. 24th, 2007 08:22 am (UTC)
lol is so outdated.

lol->lols->luls->LULZ
lifeofmendel
Jun. 10th, 2007 08:47 am (UTC)
hey, where the heck are ya? comoe play poker tomorrow. 1pm. i'll try to have scott call you or something.
trunks7j
Jun. 11th, 2007 05:59 am (UTC)
bah, im sorry i missed it, i was busy most of the day. After wednesday though i will be officially DONE with school and down for poker.
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