LOL: How we speak to one another matters
Many of us have grown up to think of the Oxford English Dictionary as the judge of what should be considered as proper speech. Among the news items this week is the somewhat bizarre ruling, by those whose job it is to judge our language of the recent inclusion of the text message letters LOL. It is now an official part of our language. The Oxford English Dictionary includes and defines LOL as an interjection used in electronic communication. Just in case you are not sure what it means; when signing off a text it is not as some might think shorthand for ‘Lots of Love’ but instead ‘Laugh out Loud.’
Alongside the Oxford English Dictionary’s decision, this week’s news has been full of the Levinson enquiry. One of the facts that has emerged is that the press and politicians in texts to each other have used LOL in their messages. How they have used the term and what they have intended to convey is a matter of conjecture. However, given the sad facts that are emerging there is perhaps in all of this a sad irony.
Advocates of the Oxford English Dictionary’s decision justify such an abbreviation as simply part of the digital age, a moving with the times. Advocates suggest that it can add some humour and signify emotion in a form of communication where such things are difficult to convey. Others see it as a corruption of the English language. There is even, I understand, a Facebook site opposed to LOL. Whichever side of the argument you might find yourself on, there is I think an agreement that language can be used in subtle as well as obvious ways, for good or ill and that this is true for LOL. How we speak to one another matters more than the means by which we do it. Jesus had much to say about speaking plainly and about ensuring that our yes means yes and our no means no. What we say, how we say it and the consequences all matter.