Language Morphs: Cool LOL

Language has always been subject to cultural influences. Those influences are often generational in nature. Words and phrases come into fashion and are injected into the popular vernacular for a variety of reasons. Depending on your age or line of endeavor, it can be difficult to keep up.

If you are a college student, it is probably not difficult to stay current with relatively new changes in language, especially those born online. For better or for worse, abbreviations have entered the English language as spoken words. From time to time, for example, someone will say to me, “LOL.”

I suspect many people, and almost all text-senders, know what LOL means. For those who do not, it is “Laugh(ing) Out Loud.” LOL, born in the text realm, was originally meant to express that something provoked laughter. Today, you text me something I think is funny and I text back LOL. You cannot see me, but the abbreviation tells you what my reaction is or at least what my sentiment is.

This originally began within online, text-based, chat platforms. As handheld devices like smart phones and tablets entered the scene, more folks began utilizing text and availing themselves of its shorthand.

Currently, so many people use and rely on text messaging that some abbreviations have made their way into plain old spoken and written English. This is to be expected. And considering how long the Internet has been around, LOL, and abbreviations like it are not new at all.

I suspect LOL has been around more than 20 years, since people first began utilizing the Internet to communicate via snippets of text. When people started actually saying LOL to each other, I am not sure. The first time it happened to me was on a phone conversation about two years ago. Now, some people use it face to face.

The use of text oriented words and abbreviations in a non-text context is predictable. When we get used to using something, we often forget why we began using it in the first place and we begin to overuse and misuse it. There are plenty of examples of this within the English language.

“Cool” is a word which entered the lexicon decades ago. It would take too long to get into all the shades of meaning this word holds. In a broad sense, calling something, someone or a particular proposition cool is a way of announcing approval, appreciation or agreement.

Cool is also a word that some people use so much that it ends up being more linguistic placeholder than useful part of speech. And that is not cool, which takes us back to where we entered. If I am having a face to face conversation with someone and say LOL, but I am not laughing out loud, that is just not cool.

Image: Gregory Szarkiewicz /

*Authors note: You might see this column pop up online in a newspaper, under the name Both Sides. I am publishing this column here first at For a bunch of years, I have been writing newspaper columns. Since my columns have received a good response on CYInterview, I thought I would share it with you. Hope you enjoy.

You can reach me with your questions and comments at Like today’s column? Check back frequently.