"With the certitude of a true believer, Vellya Paapen had assured the twins that there was no such thing in the world as a black cat. He said that there were only black, cat-shaped holes in the universe."
-- Arundhati Roy, The God of Small Things

Friday, August 17, 2012

Mildly Amusing, a.k.a. The Funniest Thing You Have Ever Read

Back before LOL and texting were a thing, my crazy cousin Kelley and I came up with our own abbreviated lingo.  We used to chat on AOL Instant Messenger because it was cheaper than talking on the phone long-distance (whoa, I’m starting to sound like one of those AT&T U-Verse commercials) and when it got late and we got tired, we had some pretty silly conversations.  Fortunately, I had the foresight to copy and save a few before they were lost in cyberspace.  Unfortunately, I can’t find where I saved them right now.

Our version of LOL was ICU, which meant “I’m cracking up” but was also funny because it looked like “I see you”.  We used it a lot during those insane late-night chats. My dad also (strangely enough) uses his own made-up acronyms in emails and texts, his favorite being RME, which means “Rolling my eyes”.  I’ve always thought that one should catch on.  

When my dad types RME into an email, I know without a doubt that there is some legitimate eye-rolling going on at his end, and every time I typed ICU into that little AIM box back in 1999, I truly was shaking with laughter in my apartment, scaring the cats and generally looking like a nutcase to anyone who happened to be peering in the window.  (Ooo!  Just creeped myself out.)

These days, though, I’ll type LOL into my email or phone while really I am sitting straight-faced and still, drinking coffee or wondering what I’m going to eat for lunch.  I am not truly L-ingOL.  (And wipe that fake shocked look off your face because you do it too.)

Crazy Cousin Kelley and I "LOL" 4 times in this 1 screen shot.
(However Kelley's attempts to type "Gink" into her iPhone WERE very funny.)

I share this with you because I am admitting to being partially guilty of what I am complaining about.

People today speak only in extremes.  Everything they share is either the ‘funniest’, ‘saddest’, or ‘weirdest’ thing they’ve ever seen, heard, or experienced.  No one shares anything mediocre anymore, or if they do, they hide its mediocrity behind glowing adjectives and intensity.  “You HAVE to watch this AMAZING video!  It is the CRAZIEST thing I’ve ever seen!”

And then we respond to it in the same over-the-top way, just shorter.  “OMG!  LOL!  LMAO!”

We are not having real conversations here, people.

Think about it.  REALLY think about it.  What is the funniest thing you have ever seen in your life?  Whatever it was, I’m betting it was not something you saw on You Tube in the past 24 hours. There’s no way I could come up with just one moment, but the images that come to mind immediately are:  The time my cat got run over by a mouse, the time crazy cousin Kelley was having a panic attack because she thought she lost us AGAIN at the Reading Music Festival but really we were right behind her, and the times (multiple) that my brother had to let our dog lick peanut butter off his face because he lost a dare.  Now THOSE were some hilarious moments.

Last year in my classroom, I did a lesson with my students called “Word Scaling”.  I gave them lists of words that all had similar meanings and then, in groups, they had to arrange the words in order from most positive to most negative or from least intense to most intense.  For instance, the synonyms for ‘thin’ might be organized this way:  fit, slim, thin, skinny, stick-like, emaciated.  And the synonyms for ‘funny’ might be organized like this:  humorous, amusing, entertaining, funny, hilarious, gut-busting.  The purpose was to teach the students to “weigh their words” and choose the right adjective for the right situation. 


Really, though, I think this is a good lesson for everyone.

I guess the reason why this is such a problem for me is that I’m too gullible.  When I see a friend (a good friend, a friend I admire and respect) post on Facebook, “This is the funniest thing I have ever seen in my life!” I believe them.  And I click on it.  And I prepare myself to LOL.  But time and time again I am disappointed.

So here are some suggestions:

#1—Check your ratio.

At a recent happy hour, over beer and cheese fries, one friend accused another of being 70/30 on her ability to tell a straight story, suggesting that 30% of what she said was overblown and exaggerated.  After much debate and some “testing” of recent stories she has told, it was decided that the initial appraisal was unfair and we got the ratio back to 90/10.  Everybody was happy with 90/10.  It seemed reasonable to us all that 10% of the time we might get a little over-excited and exaggerate or blow something out of proportion, but the rest of the time we need to speak the truth, in all its mediocrity.

So let’s apply that 90/10 theory to our internet lingo.

90% of the time, we should all be weighing our words carefully, choosing fitting adjectives, and “telling it like it is”.  That doesn’t mean we can’t share that video of the latest satire of this week’s most popular song.  It just means we have to caption it appropriately, like “This might make you laugh” rather than “I am literally rolling on the floor laughing right now!”  Because let’s face it—we aren’t.  Then 10% of the time, we are allowed to be silly and exaggerate and use those extreme adjectives we love so much, because sometimes yes, it’s fun to blow things out of proportion and get a little excited over something ridiculous.

Check your ratio.  Are you under 10%?

#2—Consider some new acronyms. 

Let’s be honest, most of us simply respond to texts with LOL because we are lazy and it’s easier than typing out, “Yeah, that’s kinda funny.”  So, staying true to our lazy natures and need for shortcuts, let’s just start using some acronyms that are more sincere.

Here’s a list to get you started:
SA = Somewhat Amused
CTM = Chuckling to Myself
PTLTMYH = Pretending to Laugh to Make You Happy
NFAA = Not Funny at All
And of course my dad’s favorite… RME = Rolling My Eyes

#3—Start now!

There’s no time like the present to turn over a new leaf.  So when you share this blog post with everyone you know, go ahead and describe it aptly.  Say, “Hey, you should read this blog post because it was mildly amusing and somewhat informative.”  Then just sit back and get ready for the OMGs to start pouring in.


  1. Uh oh. I recognize one of those posts. =o' I prefer to use emoticons. So many different expressions. =oD

    P.S. None of those posts were mine. NLOL.

    1. The posts shown above were from people who are NOT the biggest culprits. But I knew these folks could take a small jab.

  2. I agree with your assessment. We over exaggerate our reactions online quite a bit. I've been trying to be more accurate when I post things to show my actual response. For instance, I laughed until I cried when I was reading the comics on theoatmeal.com. I also hyperventilated, haha. <- I also say "haha" more than lol now. Nate and I made up some acronyms for laughing one night on chat but the only one I can remember right now is LIMH = laughing in my head.

  3. First of all I will say that I am guilty but a footnote; I truely was lol over that gunk (autocorrect again) text message. I think I had to put a pillow over my face to keep from waking lyla. Second - I love that I am always referred to as crazy cousin. I am no longer very crazy mostly boring actually. So I like the title bc it makes me feel like I still have a bit of cool in me
    Lastly- i never knew what RME ment. Stop RME at me. I didn't Thanks!