I was chatting away with colleagues at work on Skype for Business (what a rubbish name); obviously about important work-related topics. While I was having these essential work chats, I noticed that (with one exception when Skyping with my manager), there were a fair amount of LOLs appearing quite indiscriminately used and in places where there wasn’t necessarily a sense of amusement. But then again, they sort of looked right to be there – so I wondered what this three letter initialism was doing, which supposedly means laughing out loud (or less commonly ‘lots of love’).
Well, lucky for me, linguists have been on the case for quite some time now and apparently LOL is one of many ‘discourse markers’ for text-based communications. So what’s a discourse marker? We use discourse markers in speech all the time, for example, ‘you know’, ‘well’, ‘yeah’, ‘see‘ and these markers support and help to structure interaction while adding little specific meaning in themselves.
In the case of LOL, it’s more of an empathy marker; it acknowledges the interlocutor’s message and moods/emotions and helps avoid awkwardness. So, pick an existing chat on your mobile, try scrolling up and find where you’ve used LOLs and see if you agree.
Have a good Friday
(Further reading here)