Oxford English Dictionary adds LOL and OMG

omg-150x150.jpgSource: oed.com

Well, it had to happen sooner or later.

The Oxford English Dictionary has added the popular internet acronyms LOL (laughing out loud) and OMG (oh my God) to the latest edition of OED Online, the online form of the dictionary. They are not the only acronyms to make the cut:

They join other entries of this sort: IMHO (‘in my humble opinion’) [IMHO at I n./1], TMI (‘too much information’) [TMI at T n.], and BFF (‘best friends forever’) [BFF at B n.], among others.

Of course in such a context initialisms are quicker to type than the full forms, and (in the case of text messages, or Twitter, for example) they help to say more in media where there is a limit to a number of characters one may use in a single message. OMG and LOL are found outside of electronic contexts, however; in print, and even in spoken use (see, for example, the 2003 quotation for LOL int.), where there often seems to be a bit more than simple abbreviation going on. The intention is usually to signal an informal, gossipy mode of expression, and perhaps parody the level of unreflective enthusiasm or overstatement that can sometimes appear in online discourse, while at the same time marking oneself as an ‘insider’ au fait with the forms of expression associated with the latest technology.

Technically, in fact, LOL and OMG are not acronyms but initialisms. The difference is that initialisms are spelled out when spoken (ell-oh-ell and oh-em-gee), rather than pronounced as a word (e.g. RADAR).

English is a constantly evolving language, and with no official governing body any phrase that enters general usage can be added to the dictionary. As such, it cannot be argued that LOL and OMG have not become so popular in daily use, especially in email, instant messages and text messages that they deserve their place alongside “regular” English words.

How long, then, before we see less common initialisms and acronyms entering the dictionary? Terms such as FTFY (fixed that for you), YMMV (your mileage may vary) and AFAIK (as far as I know) are perhaps not as widely used as LOL or OMG, though if you spend enough time on socially-powered websites such as Reddit, you will certainly come across them on a daily basis.

So then, has the addition of LOL and OMG to an official dictionary opened the floodgates? Perhaps all these acronyms will soon need a dictionary of their own…