There have been more new words invented in the last decade than ever (Disclaimer: I made that up, but stand by it on the basis of the “it’s probably true principle”) – all thanks to this new fangled “internet” thing. It’s easy to see how us old folks, and by old I mean anyone over the age of 25 – might get easily lost.
Whether it’s on your child’s chat messages or some inexplicably popular item on Reddit, this new language increasingly pervades the meat space of real life. Let me put you a little at ease ease though, as I explain some key terms.
A term coined by Professor Richard Dawkins in the 70s to describe the way culture spreads, now used in common parlance to describe viral videos and pictures that go on to generate thousands of variants.
A classic example is keyboard cat – a cute YouTube video of Carlie Schmidt’s cat playing an electronic keyboard – which later came to be added on the end of bad videos as a way of saving them: play him off keyboard cat!
LOL, Lulz, and Lolz
All variants of the original acronym for Laughing Out Loud, an abbreviated way of exclaiming ones amusement. A more extreme form is ROFL; or rolling on the floor, laughing; and LMAO, laughing my ass off. Lulz, as a plural of LOL, is often used as a reason for doing something – “doing it for the lulz” – and inspired the name of Lulzsec hacking group, responsible for exposing some incredibly lax security protocols in use by major governments and corporations around the globe.
Lolled, lolling and lollage are all grammatically correct forms of usage. lolwut is a type of bemused lolling, for example:
Dave: Yesterday I forgot to wear my pants.
Of course, nothing on the Internet is immune to the influence of our feline mistresses (see the cute cat theory of digital activism); and so it came to pass that some bright spark combined the concept of “lol” with “cat”, to create the lolcat – amusing images of cats, captioned with often grammatically incorrect short sayings. Though by no means the original lolcat, perhaps the most iconic is icanhazcheezburger
… which went on to spawn a network of LOL sites.
Some say the humble lolcat has dumbed down an entire generation so much that it only communicates in captioned photos. I blame Twitter.
As the Greater Internet F******* Theory states (aka online disinhibition), any normal person when provided both an audience and the anonymity of an internet forum, may undergo a negative personality change – they may turn into a troll. A troll takes many forms, but most commonly posts a deliberate inflammatory comment in order to elicit a response (baiting).
Trollface has become a meme of its own, originating in a webcomic found on Deviant Art. It represents the expression made while trolling.
One particular tactic trolls have successfully employed in the past is to pose the question:
48÷2(9+3) = ?
which results in either 2 or 288, depending on the order of operations you apply (FYI, the answer is 288, stupid). Even calculators will give differing results, but that’s not the point: the argument will almost always divulge into personal insults, and thus the trolling objective is complete. By playing the game, you have already lost.
Flaming is closely related to the concept of trolling, but now refers to more personal attacks; one can troll quite effectively without resorting to flaming.
Rick Astley, an 80’s legend that gave us Never Gonna Give Up, recieved Internet notoriety when the music video for the aforementioned masterpiece became a class Bait and Switch bit of trolling. It goes like this: a nefarious prankster posts an obfuscated URL, which when clicked takes the hapless victim to the Never Gonna Give You Up music video on YouTube. The user is said to have been rickrolled.
Fun fact: during the 2008 Macy’s Day Parade, Rick Astley live-rickrolled onlookers in a surprise appearance.
Even Obama got in on the act..
A hashtag is a keyword denoted by the hash # symbol, used on the Twitter social network to group posts about a single topic. Media events will often establish their own #hashtag, in hopes of trending globally. Trending hashtags are shown on the main Twitter site to all users, and show which are currently the most popular things being talked about, so they’re a highly coveted accolade. According to dailydot, the 10 most popular hashtags from August 2011-2012 were:
- #moscow, following the questionable election results.
- #arsenal, because apparently people care more about football than freedom.
- #takemeout, an ITV dating gameshow.
- #freedom, a concept difficult to define – but 140 characters is enough for some.
- #nadarkhani, a pastor sentenced to death in Iran for denouncing Islam.
- #whatimissmost, a conversation starter for reminiscing about the past.
- #arabidol, an attempt to duplicate the success of UKs Pop Idol singing contest.
- #waystogetoffthephone, in which 677000 people suggested tips on how to end an awkward phone conversation.
- #tweetforyoucef, an example of what happens when more than one hashtag is used for a single topic (in this case, pastor Youcef Nadarkhani).
- #twalculate, a silly app for calculating various stats about your Tweeting habits.
Some people also use hashtags in Facebook updates, which is pointless, because it doesn’t actually do anything and just makes you look silly. Don’t make the same mistake.
While we’re on the topic of Twitter, retweet deserves a mention too; referring to the act of copying someone else’s amazing Twitter messages, and republishing them to your own followers. Credit is given, and RT is added to let readers know they’re not your own words.
LiveStream and LiveBlog
A live video broadcast of an event or gaming session. Yes, watching someone play video games is a legitimate past time now, and you can have a go at livestreaming or watching too. A LiveBlog is predominantly text-based live broadcast using a blog page that automatically refreshes to show the latest additions – used at events where filming would be difficult, though photos are also posted to the stream.
I can’t possibly cover all the new words of the web – I have my own cat pictures that need captioning with mildly amusing phrases – but if you’d like to read more, check out these great resources:
- Internet Slang
- Urban Dictionary, an NSFW resource for all new words and phrases, not just internet related
- Netymology: From Apps to Zombies: A Linguistic Celebration of the Digital World – an actual book, whatever they are.
I hope you’ve at least enjoyed if not learned something from this, otherwise you’ve probably just wasted 5 minutes of your life. #fail.
Know an essential term you think everyone should know? Add it in the comments!
Image Credit: “The Internet”, CollegeHumor