Many of us have been in a decade-long, love-hate relationship with lol. At the height of the AIM era, we threw it around at everything. Funny? lol. Stupid? lol. Heartbreaking? lol. Then different camps popped up either in feverish support or staunch opposition of lol. Haha jumped into the field as a worthy competitor and the naysayers stuck with it because, well, it was a hell of a lot better than hehe and shit like hoho was out of the question. Not too recently, however, lol edged its way back into the fold under the guise of ironic use. Then of course, as they all do, the three-letter bastard found a way to become relevant again.
So, lol is back. You know what that means? Postmodern English (not to be confused with Postmodernism) is on the rise.
First there was Old English (shout out Beowulf), Middle English, and most recently, Modern English. If you’ve ever forgotten to study for a midterm in 16th century English Lit in college (don’t blame you), it’s likely you never picked up on the fact that Modern English started around 500 years ago. More importantly, it’s (allegedly) the same English we speak today. But, If we’re starting to add “f-bomb” and “sexting” to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, I think it’s fair to say this thing we’re supposed to call Modern English no longer holds. We’re finally undergoing a transition.
With smartphones, faster internet, and shorter attention spans, there’s never been a stronger push to get the point across faster. So it’s no surprise we’ve started to abbreviate everything that doesn’t seem necessary–sentences, words, even vowels. For example, my friend’s Instagram handle is his name: alxkrsnff, most people understand exactly what POTUS stands for, and if we’re not careful, MSTRKRFT, STRFKR, and SBTRKT are soon going to collaborate on a MSTRFKRTRKT album, with a single feat. TNGHT. lol.
If this is the way we’re starting to communicate, who’s to say consonants won’t soon be gone too? Okay, yes, it’s doubtful our world is on a track to butcher the meaning out of all words, raise idiots who don’t understand anything, and end up with Luke Wilson as our president (actually somewhat down for this). But think 50, 100 years down the line–how fast will our lives move then, compared to now? Won’t we deem it unreasonable to have to read full sentences like this one; sentences with semi-colons, commas — even long hyphens?
Ideally, “high” literary art forms like respectable newspapers, magazines, and screenwriting will preserve the strength of words in their natural form, but it’s hard to say what natural is at this point anymore. Modern English speakers today can’t read or understand a word of Old English, and I’m probably not alone in wanting to punch anyone who speaks in the up-and-down melody of Middle English. One day (not too far away, if we’re thinking relatively), Modern English will seem similarly foreign and frustrating to bored college kids trying to get an English degree they won’t be able to use. That may be disconcerting, and feel like something we should fight, but it’s really not up to us. Technology evolves, fast gets slow, and even words have to change to keep up with the people who use them.
So as we take note of this rising transition into unknown territory, let’s just hope that whatever becomes of the Post-Modern English era, those who live in it manage to keep writing content that matters. Such as brilliantly creepy monologues for the future Christopher Walkens of the world: