Huffpost Comedy
The Blog

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors

Zachary Stockill Headshot

Nothing to ROFL About: On the Poverty of Our Electronic Vocabulary

Posted: Updated:
Print Article

What was particularly provocative in comedian Louis CK's recent special Hilarious was his take on the incredible amount of exaggeration that pervades our everyday speech. Things are no longer "amusing" or "kind of funny;" everything becomes "hilarious." Events, situations, and people are no longer "good" or "fun;" everything becomes "awesome." And -- my personal favorite -- "epic." The party last night was "epic." The meal we just enjoyed was "epic." "I took an epic shit this morning," a colleague greeted me one jolly morning last week. However much your bowel movement may have "extended beyond the usual or ordinary especially in size or scope," attributing a word generally associated with ancient Greek literature to your excrement seems to trivialize the Odyssey slightly, does it not?

This phenomenon of describing every occasion as a momentous one speaks to a greater poverty of vocabulary that has occurred as a result of our tech-obsessed modern culture; much of which is premised on brevity of expression. As someone who appreciates good humor, I have come to despise -- and fear -- the acronym "LOL" (short for "laughing out loud") above all others. Humor is the basis for so many of our interactions as social beings, and I believe a deafening chorus of cheap "LOL's" is polluting humor as a shared social aspiration.

I have never txtd, IM'ed, or FB'ed an erroneous "LOL" -- I can count on two hands the number of electronic interactions with friends that have actually provoked an outburst, and I can assure you that each one was well-earned. Though you might find me obtuse, I have never -- not once -- "rolled on the floor with laughter," or "ROFL" as a result of an electronic interaction. I usually opt for a "heheh," which, let's be honest, often describes the reality of the situation with the greatest amount of accuracy. The following is an account of an actual textual encounter with a friend from last Sunday morning:

Adam: Man i was soooo drunk last nite lol
Zachary: How did you get home btw?
Adam: not sure tryin to figure it out lol
Zachary: Heheh, nice.

Nothing is left to Adam's imagination regarding my reaction, nor am I patronizing him with a cheap "LOL". Like so many before him, my friend's intoxicated state the previous evening rendered him unable to recall his transport home. I found this to be undoubtedly worthy of a chuckle -- nothing more. It did not provoke me to "laugh out loud," and had it caused me to "roll on the floor with laughter" I would think that an intervention by men in white coats would not be far behind.

George Orwell wrote in 1946 that "any struggle against the abuse of language is a sentimental archaism, like preferring candles to electric light..." The problem with this statement is that Orwell pre-supposes progression rather than regression. Had old George lived to see the pith that passes for electronic correspondence in the 21st century, I cannot help but think that he would have shared in my grief.

In short, dear reader, might I humbly suggest: be conservative with your electronic feedback regarding humorous situations and/or statements. You've undoubtedly doled out a number of dishonest "LOL"s that, I believe, are cheapening and diluting humor as a societal aspiration. Wait until friends and situations are worthy of your praise; be discerning with your "LOL"s! If everything's funny, nothing's funny, and that is certainly nothing to ROFL about.