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25 years of LOL – the good and bad bits


LOL is celebrating a big birthday this year

LOL is 25 years old. Since its first recorded use in May 1989, LOL has completely transformed how we live. We text it to each other. We write it on pictures of animals. We say it out loud if we want people to think that we’re creepy sociopaths.

A world without LOL is a world without laughter, or at least a world without people claiming to laugh when they’re really just sitting there silently typing things onto Facebook with a Jaffa Cake hanging out of their mouth. The proper way to commemorate an occasion as momentous as this is with a prestigious awards ceremony. Please don’t expect another one of these on the 25th anniversary of “nom”. That would be unconscionable.

Oldest contemporary LOL

This is generally recognised to have taken place on page 11 of an International FidoNet Association Newsletter dated 8 May 1989, sandwiched between a notice about new software releases – including “Realistic Cake Mixing Simulation” and “Fun Nuclear War Game” – and a brief article about UFOs. LOL, mentioned as a suggested acronym for “laughing out loud”, has arguably fared better than H, which was the article’s recommended shortening of “HUH???”. The piece ends with this unwitting warning from history: “I hope this makes for more colourful communicating. Just remember the quote … ‘Anything that can be said in a few words isn’t worth saying.'”

Most recent LOL

At the time of writing, the most recent use of the term LOL occurred on Twitter 16 seconds ago, when a user by the name of @ThembekaAndiswa expressed her amusement at a statistic claiming that half of all giraffes are bisexual.

Most commonly misused LOL

Cameron Cameron’s mistake will go down in LOL history. Photograph: Nick Ansell/AFP/Getty ImagesMany have made the mistake of thinking that LOL actually stands for “lots of love”. One of the most famous examples of this misunderstanding came to prominence three years ago, thanks to a screengrab of this text message sent by a mother to her son: “Your great aunt just passed away. LOL”. However, ever since Rebekah Brooks’ courtroom revelation about David Cameron concluding his texts with LOL – in the belief that he was wishing her lots of love – he will now forever be the gold standard of all LOL‑based cockups.

Most annoying LOL variation

This is a closely fought category. Since its inception, LOL has branched off into an array of ever more niche fronds, each as objectionable as the last. There’s LOOOOOOOL, which is meant to denote sustained laughter but actually means “laugh out out out out out out out loud”. This can also be written as LOLOLOLOL, which is clearly just “laugh out loud out loud out loud out loud”. Then there are ROFL (rolling on floor laughing) and LMAO (laughing my arse off), which are the regrettably needy try-hard cousins of LOL. However, by a nose, the award for most annoying LOL variation goes to the term LOLcano. If you ever see someone use the term LOLcano, even as a joke, you must cut them out of your life instantly. It simply isn’t worth the trouble of knowing them.

Cutest regional LOL variation

Many countries have their own variation of LOL. Amused online Koreans use “ㅋㅋㅋ”, a repetition of their alphabet’s “K” sound. Some French people use MDR, which stands for “mort de rire (died of laughter)”. But the most adorable of all comes from Thailand, which uses “555” as a local LOL-substitute. The Thai number five is pronounced “ha”. Ha ha ha. See?

Least funny official example of LOL usage

LOL has been in the Oxford Dictionaries since 2011. For any curious dictionary owners who want to know how to correctly deploy a LOL, it offers the following example: “I love how you said ‘coffee is not my cup of tea’. LOL!”. One: “coffee is not my cup of tea” is barely even worth a “ha”, let alone a full LOL. Two: you don’t put an exclamation mark after a LOL unless you want to sound like a lonely drifter desperate for friends at a party. Three: Anyone who has ever had this exchange is clearly in a toxic relationship and needs to get out as soon as they can.

Worst thing anyone can do with a LOL

LOL is meant to be written down. Under no circumstances is it ever supposed to be spoken aloud. Especially not as a response to hearing something funny. And particularly if you aren’t actually laughing out loud as you say it. This has always been the case. In 2010, a worried poster by the name of disorder2k8 revealed the following on a David Icke messageboard: “I often say “LOL” to myself if I find something amusing.” He went on to point out: “It’s a very bad habit but I think this is going to be the future,” before glumly reaching the obvious conclusion that “technology is frying my brain”. Let disorder2k8 be your guide. Don’t repeat his mistakes.

Best song with the word LOL in the title

Although it’s now an immovable piece of our culture, LOL hasn’t infiltrated the pop charts as well as it could. Therefore, the best song currently to be called LOL is by a band called Rockstah. It isn’t very good at all – it can best be described as vaguely miffed dubstep – but is saved by the fact that it’s in German, so its horrors are largely veiled to the British ear. And, as the next award proves, it could have been a lot worse.

Worst song with the word LOL in the title

In 2009, rapper Trey Songz released a song called LOL :-). It would have been bad enough for him to just call it LOL but, no, he had to add 🙂 to the end of it. 🙂 is barely even an emoticon. It looks like someone’s punched their keyboard out of frustration, possibly after reading Trey Songz’s discography. Apparently the title is pronounced “LOL Smiley Face”, but this is hard to verify because anyone who has ever said this out loud has been forced by society to become a shivering recluse in a cave somewhere.

Best film called LOL

In 2006, mumblecore auteur Joe Swanberg directed LOL, a low‑budget film about the impact of technology on social relations. It is notable for starring Greta Gerwig in her first ever role. Even if you haven’t seen it, it’s still the best film ever made called LOL because the only other English-language film to be called LOL is …

Worst film called LOL

Miley Cyrus plays, like, a teenager who breaks up with her boyfriend. But, like, her new boyfriend totally bangs her enemy in a toilet, and her mom’s Demi Moore and she wants to go to Paris but Demi Moore’s like “no way” and she’s all like “yuh-HUH” and then they cry and cuddle and time folds in on itself and you lose all sensation in your limbs and then it ends. In short: not LOL.

Biggest LOL star

If it wasn’t for LOL, we wouldn’t be blessed with LOLCats – the feline photographs that come accompanied by heavily accented and phonetically spelled captions. “Littl dus she no, iz jus pooped” reads one such caption on a picture of a woman holding a cat. Almost 12,000 people have seen this picture and then clicked the “like” button underneath it. We’re all doomed. All of us.

Most-watched YouTube LOL video

A video entitled “Lol wtf japanese butt gun??” is currently the most-viewed non-League of Legends LOL video on YouTube. Over 13 million people have watched it since it was uploaded in the summer of 2010. In the video, a Japanese schoolgirl pulls up her skirt, pushes an enormous machine gun barrel out of her backside and then fires it at an astonished-looking older man. The whole thing lasts for 11 seconds, after which viewers are somehow expected to just get on with their lives again.

Most confusing Yahoo Answer with LOL in the question

Yahoo Answers is potentially the maddest corner of the entire internet. It’s also where you can find some of the most avant garde uses of the term LOL ever written. The best is arguably this health question, asked by an anxious – if uncontrollably giggling – user six years ago. It reads: “Whats wronge with my mouth lol? every thing i eat tastes like bananas even things i drink to lol so i wanna know if u know why this is happening lol. Update: the alst time i ate a banana was like 2 months ago lol”. The answer to this query, at least according to one expert, is “babe because your mouth is smooth as a banana”. I don’t know what this means either.

Most excruciating use of LOL by anyone anywhere ever

For this most ferocious of anti-LOLs, we must return to David Cameron’s misunderstanding with Rebekah Brooks. Shortly after she revealed his error, Cameron mentioned the new French president in passing during PMQs. Immediately, Ed Miliband was at his throat: “I’m sure, Mr Speaker, that a text message and LOL will go down very well.” Cameron laughed, helpless against Miliband’s rapier wit. Miliband looked absurdly pleased with himself, even though he pronounced it “elle-oh-elle”. Meanwhile, Nick Clegg simply stared off into the middle distance with a haunted look upon his face. This was to be the last time he’d correctly gauge the mood of the nation. LOL!

PLUS! The top 10 lolz that made the internet what it is today …

Star Wars Boy

The first two things that anyone watched on the internet were the Pamela Anderson sex tape and this footage of a boy clumsily pretending that a broomstick was a lightsaber. Still funny.

All your base are belong to us

The European translation of a Japanese Megadrive game contained this phrase. Took on a life of its own because, on the internet, nothing’s funnier than foreign people using English badly.

Evolution of Dance

A man stands on a stage and performs every single dance he can think of. It is precisely as awful as you think it is.


Someone sends you a link. You click it. It’s a YouTube video of Rick Astley performing Never Gonna Give You Up. Stops being funny when your dad does it to you.

The Batman Slap

A comic book still of Batman slapping Robin, accompanied by a topical caption. Robin: “We wish you a merry Chri…” SLAP. Batman: “It’s November”. And so on.

I’m on a Boat

Andy Samberg’s parody band Lonely Island team up with R&B star T-Pain to sing about being on a boat.

Keyboard cat

Imagine You’ve Been Framed if all the videos ended with real injury and were immediately followed by footage of a cat in a shirt playing a piano with its paws. That’s Keyboard Cat.


Hitler’s last days, subtitled to reflect current events. There were Downfall parodies about iPads, Michael Jackson and, inevitably, about the glut of Downfall parodies flooding the internet.

Condescending Wonka

Willy Wonka rests his head on his hands and passive-aggressively tells you off. “Ohh, you’re in love?” he says. “Tell me more about being 12 years old”. Willy Wonka is a dick.


A photo of a shiba inu dog, accompanied by text like ‘wow’ and ‘so advertising’ and ‘such unsure’. See the above entry about bad Englishbeing funny on the internet.


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