Trivia Teaser

Which type of headwear is traditionally worn by a Sikh?




By Miranda

And don't tell me you don't know what I'm asking... none of us needs to like the usage in order to understand it.

It is, however, such a universally recognisable bit of language that it's been included in the dictionary. O tempora, O mores! Which is rather the point. We don't speak Latin, we speak English. And we speak it today not in the terms of the last century, let alone the one before that.

Anyway, what is up is that the OED has released its latest list of words newly incorporated into the canon.

One which I welcome is the Australian contribution, a 'tragic', in the sense of a person, nerdish in character, with an unfortunate obsession, frequently for sport. And yes, former PM John Howard is the epitome of the term as far as cricket is concerned.

The OED has also included initialisms including LOL, OMG and FYI. The FYI was a bit surprising. I seem to remember it as (age alert!) a standard abbreviation in telegram and telex speak. What was a telex? Back in the olden days, when dinosaurs roamed the offices, a ticker-tape machine... oh, never mind. Telex was a form of communication in which the length of the message determined cost, thus encouraging the development of short-cuts such as ASAP and the FYI that's only just been promoted to first word status.

But it's the LOL that makes me wonder about the average age of the OED editors. As far as I've been able to check in the broad sample afforded by my colleagues and their kin, people over forty pronounce this L.O.L. in agreement with the OED's initialism status. Most of those under forty seem to use the expression as an acronym, spelled LOL but pronounced 'loll'. I certainly hear this (more often that I'd like to think could be justified) in conversations with my daughters.

There's much more, of course; you can read the OED updates here   - and let us know your feelings.



25 Responses to


April 05, 2011 at 8:51 PM

I have a question: In my youth, in fact in my maturity, even, LOL used to mean "lots of love" at the end of a letter. Since computers were made common, it appears to mean "laugh out loud" So what is the meaning in the dictionary you are talking about?

April 05, 2011 at 9:03 PM

I just read some of the OED updates, and they don't even mention the "lots of love" meaning. And I distinctly remember letters from as far back as late 1960's ending that way.

April 05, 2011 at 9:04 PM

In the 1970s I worked as a telegraphist with the New Zealand Post Office for seven years. I don't recall seeing FYI in any of the telegrams, or telexes, I typed. I do remember reading a proposal of marriage in a telegram going to Wellington though. Also in that era letters were often sealed with SWALK (sealed with a loving kiss).

daffydill said:
April 06, 2011 at 5:13 PM

Perhaps I am a dinosaur but I had no idea what OED stood for. I was always taught that you did not use an acronym unless you had previously used the full title. As for FYI, I worked in a government office from the mid 1950's and I had never seen or heard it used then.

mayabella said:
April 07, 2011 at 6:46 AM

LOL was little old lady ~

April 07, 2011 at 10:06 AM

Daffydill, of course you know what it stands for, and, as far as I am concerned, always has: Oxford English Dictionary.

greenpeas said:
April 07, 2011 at 6:00 PM

I didn't no wot OED was either but worked it out fm the context. u c, I've always called it the Oxford Dictionary...the English being assumed. BTW Am not surprised @ lol but y didn't they also include rofl (roll on floor laughing) which is used just as ofn & is about the same vintage. fyi can also b written as fui since it's now quite common 4 u 2 b used in place v you & ur in place v your or you're...& iffen u think this is hard 2 read, u wanna try reading this written in full internet shorthand...aaargh! A flat-white is not so new. I've been ordering them since the mid-60's. However, it's only in recent years that cafes & restaurants have been ruining them by adding the white froth on top. Previously a flat-white was a cup of coffee with opposed to cappachinos with lots of froth & not much coffee in the cup. I first came across FYI only about 10 years ago, but then, I didn't send (or receive) many telegrams in the old days.

PaddyH said:
April 08, 2011 at 2:50 PM

As a child (oh so long ago) I remember a column called Granny's in which there were frequent references to lol, which as Mayabella said meant little old lady.

spoggy said:
April 08, 2011 at 9:56 PM

when i first got my computer i had NO idea what FAQ meant ??? i thought it was something used in code by the THUNDER BIRD crew ???? as in " FAQ Virgil !! WILLCO """ heheheheheh

April 08, 2011 at 11:48 PM

yy u r, yy u b, i c u r yy for me! We used to write that in our friends' autograph books when I was a gel. LOL to me is either little old lady (also in our family we had DOLs and DOGs - meaning dear old....) or Lots of Love. I am constantly amazed how quickly people can text using this kind of shorthand, but it takes me LONGER to do it that way. Oh, to be a gel again.

April 09, 2011 at 9:29 AM

I have been racking my brain to remember that one francesrose! I never could remember the full thing but know my mum said it was common in their autograph books. Maybe that's why I write longhand and am slow on text speak.

PaddyH said:
April 09, 2011 at 11:13 PM

I wonder do text users ever say H.O.L.LA.N.D.?Are there people here who remember?

April 10, 2011 at 1:24 AM

Oh yes Paddy! That was even more exciting on the back of an envelope than SWALK!

gioconda said:
April 10, 2011 at 4:36 AM

swalk was used everytime i wrote a letter to my family, but now i use LUL, love you lots

LSBruce said:
April 10, 2011 at 10:14 AM

This year they've included lol, maybe next year they'll include rofl? My sister's kids use these expressions all the time in instant messaging but I suspect they're rarely laughing out loud and NEVER rolling on the floor laughing!

April 10, 2011 at 12:43 PM

Paddy H - What does HOLLAND stand for?

April 10, 2011 at 1:39 PM

I remember that one! Hope Our Love Lasts And Never Dies! HOLLAND!

allybally said:
April 10, 2011 at 5:46 PM

can anyone remember what NORWICH and ITALY stand for

April 10, 2011 at 7:49 PM

Yep - ITALY was I Treasure And Love You, but I've never seen NORWICH.

April 11, 2011 at 12:39 PM

I Googled NORWICH, but it's not suitable for explanation here. Google it yourself if you're curious, lol.

April 11, 2011 at 12:46 PM

I found two for NORWICH. The one you are referring to Beauregarde, and this one, probably not as well used: NORWICH Name One Reason Why I Came Here.

deemon said:
April 12, 2011 at 11:20 AM

I'm a bit of a shorthand pro myself, but I came across a couple that I hadn't seen before WAIFU and FML. WAIFU means Why am I friends with you and the F is FML is not really polite to say - but the gist was that the person was saying I hate my life. I think based on the new uses, this shorthand thing is making it easier for people to be nastier.

kragzy said:
April 12, 2011 at 12:09 PM

I remember writing IWLYTTDFOATCCSH on the back of love-letter envelopes when I was a teenager. It stood for "I will love you till the desert freezes over and the camels come skating home". Funny that it never caught on! Funny also that the girls to whom I sent this dribble have completing disappeared from my life. I think both they and I are pleased about that. :-)

April 12, 2011 at 3:00 PM

Cute, kragzy, lol.

mattjn said:
April 14, 2011 at 7:34 AM

"Wassup" hideous, makes me ball my fists and grind my teeth, some of my children now say, "Yo, wadup?"or "'sup?". Apparently "Wassup" is 'sooo, yesterday'. No matter how many times I correct them. . . . . but they know everything.