Word Up

I was watching this commercial recently that depicted a family playing scrabble and the young daughter and hip Grandmother are spelling out ‘rofl’ and ‘lol’ and the like. The mother is exasperated and protests that ‘rofl’ is not an English word.

This was sunrising to me.  I had never thought about it before but I found myself disagreeing with this mother (I know it’s supposed to be a joke to sell phones, but you know philosophers!). Apparently I had been implicitly assuming that they were English words. I mean, aren’t acronyms words? ‘FBI’ is a word in English, right? I think so, though I guess we could debate this. But ‘laser’ is an English word and it is an acronym so there is nothing fundamentally at odds with ‘lol’ being a word.

So does anyone have any reason for thinking that ‘lol’ isn’t an English word? 

5 thoughts on “Word Up

  1. So professor I was also pondering something similar about 3 days ago, at least I thinK it is. I was thinking about one of my favorite Seinfeld episodes, the one where George gets conjugal visits with his girlfriend. Anyway, the warden asks about plans that she may have if paroled, says George”plans,schemes”. Which brings me to my meager point how do words that mean the same thing get turned into negatives and somehow sometimes opposites of what they are being used to describe. In JAMAICA or in Europe the word scheme is synonymous with a well meaning plan, but George meant it in a criminal plan. See what I mean? Also if I say that was a fantastic crime most people would think that I wa
    s making a good time out of said crime,robbery etc..

  2. lol is an English word. It shouldn’t be included in the everyday vernacular, but I think it’s a word. I mean, people are always protesting the word “ain’t”, but it’s in the dictionary.

    Perhaps an argument against the word lol being an English word is that, acronyms like FBI, CIA, etc. are made of proper nouns. Federal Bureau of Investigation or Central Intelligence Agency.. Although, I don’t think I can say the same for laser.. Unless “light amplification by stimulated emission of radiation” is in fact a proper noun.

    What makes a word a word anyway?

  3. WAZZZZZZZZZUUUUPPPPPPPPP EJ Lee? I think maybe the collective allows for what becomes a word. I don’t know if anyone would agree with me but there are so many acronyms that may not make sense to me but become relavant to others and their particular using certain vernacular, or maybe just the agreement to include a word in a dictionary that makes it legitimate.

  4. LOL what’s up CHRISSYNOW? I was taught that a word is a legitimate word if the word [and definition] is in the dictionary. Though, the acronym becoming a word because of its relevance to others and their particular vernacular makes sense to me. You know? It’s like, you live your life, have your own world and your own crazy ideas, why not have your own words and meanings?

    For instance, ASAP means: as soon as possible. But for me, ASAP has come to mean: Accelerated Studies in Associates Program because that’s a program I’m in and I live it everyday. Is ASAP ever used as Accelerated Studies.. by anyone whose not in this program? Probably not. Is it an English word? I think so. Right?

  5. Hi ChrissySnow,

    Good question. There are a lot of different ideas about how words get their meanings. The one that I like is that people generally intend to mean X when they use the expression ‘X’ (This is due to the philosopher Paul Grice).

    Hi EJ,

    yeah the dictionary test is a good one, but consider ‘bling-bling’ wasn’t that a word before it got into the dictionary? The proper noun thing doesn’t seem right to me either…consider ‘townhouse’ or ‘houseboat’ or many others…

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