Tag Archives: ROFL

It’s only words, and words are all I have

The human brain is a wonderful thing, but let’s face it, on occasions it chooses the path of least resistance. This is particularly true when it comes to language. I think the average human vocabulary consists of around 20,000 or so ‘word families’ (meaning that The Special One’s extensive and expertly-curated collection of F-bombs sadly only counts as one), but that doesn’t mean that we don’t just use the same old words over and over again.

I’m no less guilty of this than anyone, obviously. While I might use any number of words to describe the melancholic beauty and wonder of, say, Odilon Redon’s symbolist art, you can pretty much guarantee that I will instead resort to ‘brilliant’ or – if I’m feeling particularly retro – ‘fab’. And while studying the history of international politics and diplomacy at university has helped give me enough of an understanding of the situation in Gaza or Afghanistan to comment relatively sensibly, I still occasionally hear myself say something like ‘yeah, it’s pretty bad, isn’t it?’

Of course, I still lob random multi-syllable words into speech with the speed and regularity of the Rafael Nadal forehand. But whether it’s my move to America or an indictment of global society, I think there’s a definite dumbing down of language going on all around us. Syllables don’t fit into the text speak world, it seems. To be fair, nor do ‘words that make any sense’ when it comes to The Special One, given that she’s still a text novice. But beautiful words previously in relatively common parlance are sadly disappearing faster than Rod Blagojevich’s credibility. After all, why use ‘diaphanous’ when you can say ‘hazy’, ‘effervescent’ when you can use ‘fizzy’ or ‘flabbergasted’ when you can write ‘OMG!!!! LOL!!!! ROFLMAO!!!!!!’

To be fair, there are plenty of examples of people keeping the flame of great words alive. I almost fell off my chair yesterday when one of my Facebook friends used the word ‘portmanteau’ in a status update. But on the whole it seems that if things continue the way they’re going, 2015 will be the first point in our history that man used less words than the number of the year.

One thing you can guarantee in America at least is that one of the last words to be eradicated will be ‘retard’. Rarely have I heard a word so overused or so misplaced. From The Eldest berating The Youngest because of a silly word-slip, or a commuter castigating a fellow traveller because he happened to get in her way, ‘retard’ is used more commonly than ‘coffee’ in New York. Not as much as ‘asshole’, obviously. But way more than ‘please’.

The sooner President Obama outlaws the use of the word, the better. It’s not like he’s got anything else to do, is it?


I’m not sure if it’s really possible to be a fan of acronyms, but I’ve always had a bit of a weird fascination with abbreviations and shortenings. I had an odd moment of satisfaction when I discovered that the TVR sports car company reflected the name of its owner and founder, Trevor. Despite years of accidentally catching advertscommercials for Bank Holiday sales at MFI, I had no idea until a few weeks ago that the abbreviation stood for Mullard Furniture Industries. And I’d love to meet Mr Block and Mr Quayle, whose orange-tastic stores that sell power tools and fertiliser still bear the B&Q name. Personally, I’m still recovering from the fact that no American would considering using the acronym DIY. Although not spending interminable weekends doing DIY is a concept that I’m much more able to understand.

But when it comes to shortening sentences and phrases into handy-to-text abbreviations, I adopt more of a zero tolerance approach. I’m tough on ridiculous acronyms, tough on the causes of ridiculous acronyms. I appreciate that it’s an attitude that makes me come across like an octogenarian whose cardigans smell of cat pee and Benson & Hedges, but I’ve just got no time for turning everyday phrases or sentences into tiny collections of nonsensical letters.

Until today, I thought it was just British youngsters that engaged in Wanton Acts Of Illicit Shortening. After all, no teen text is complete without a ROFL or TTFN. I’d rather have knives plunged into my intestines than see ‘4eva’, while ‘2moz’ makes me break out in hives. Or break into hives, and sit there until the succession of ever-more-deathly bee stings slowly take away the pain.

But then in a serious business meeting today, I had to remain resolutely unmoved when a visitor used the phrase “I know, I know! TMI, TMI!” It’s bad enough that anybody might decide that it’s appropriate to tell a story that involves ‘too much information’ when in a business setting, but do you really have to speak like you’re a ten year old with language issues? Next I’ll have people be so impressed by my gags that they’ll be LMAO (unlikely I appreciate), or saying TTFN as we say goodbye in the foyer.

The United States has come late to the SMS party, so there’s still hope that it can turn back from adopting this text language before it’s too late. After all, nobody wants the American language even more FUBAR’ed than it already is.