OMG! Textspeak term is nearly a century old

“Internet” abbreviations such as LOL have made it into the Oxford English Dictionary — but it turns out some of them aren’t quite as modern as might be believed.

The new update also features the first ever symbol to be listed as a word, ?  (as in I ? Huckabees.) The symbol is listed specifically to represent the use of “heart” as a verb — a use that enters the dictionary for the first time, although dictionary editors say that it dates back at least to bumper stickers displayed in 1984.

The changes come in a quarterly update which is part of the OED’s modern schedule: as well as working through alphabetically to revise existing listings over many years (the current update revised “roto” through to “Ryvita”,) editors add a batch of words that have become widely used enough to justify an entry.

The complete list of additions and revisions includes LOL for Laugh out Loud (meaning my mother is now officially wrong in using it to mean Lots of Love), FYI (For Your Information) and OMG (Oh My God). While the terms have become popular through text messaging and online chat, they are by no means new: OMG was first recorded in a personal letter from 1917, while FYI dates back at least to memos of the 1940s. But while there’s evidence of LOL in use in 1960, in that time it referred neither to laughter or love, but rather a “little old lady.”

Other tech-related terms include a dot-bomb (referring to a spectacular failure of an Internet company), rotoscoping, and ego-surfing (searching online for mentions of yourself). Meanwhile the world of “culture” brings car crash (in a figurative rather than literal sense), the muffin top (midsection flesh that spills over a waistband), WAG (a wife or girlfriend of a sporting star) and the tinfoil hat (of a conspiracy theorist.)

(Editorial note: this may be hard to believe after our Chrome/Firefox coincidence earlier this week, but the presence of this story alongside this GaS headline is completely unintentional!)


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