In response to my posting of an LJ icon made from a classical painting of the crucifixion, wherein someone had put speech bubbles, my father asked me to explain the joke. So I shall try.
Okay, that's Jesus and Mary, right? At the crucifixion. And Jesus says, "brb," which is Internet argot for "(I will) Be Right Back." And Mary says "lol," which means "(I am) Laughing Out Loud." It would be funnier if he were taken down from the cross and about to ascend to heaven, but there's some artistic license being taken because it's hard to communicate much at 100x100px.
But like all slang, these acronyms/words are more than their roots. Typing 'lol' is subtly different from typing 'hahahahaha.' It would be hard to explain why. Part of it is that those who are deeply involved in online pursuits (like myself) are keenly aware of the ridiculous nature of nearly everything that goes on online. In particular, the abbreviated and stupid slang that AOL-using teenage girls (and hordes of online-gaming teen boys) propogate, like using 'u' instead of 'you' and yes, saying 'lol' instead of whatever other expression of amusement. 'a/s/l' (short for Age/Sex/Location; used as a generic greeting in lower-quality chatrooms) is another example of a keystone term that recalls a multitude of sins. The internet intelligentsia has spent so long hating and avoiding these terms and the people who take them seriously that it's become ironically acceptable to use them again. Sometimes lol is just lol, but sometimes it's sardonic, facetious, mean-spirited or silly. It's a meta-reference to online culture.
"As we continued on, the temperature started dropping fast. It seemed to stabilize at -40 F, but as we soon learned, when our thermometer hits -40 F it really means somewhere between -40 F and -55 F. Approaching Dempster's Corner outside of Dawson City, the temperature fell to Error Degrees. This is what we call OMGWTFBBQ!!!1111!!one!!eleven!1 cold."
Other terms used in this manner (* indicates a new addition):
- teh instead of 'the'
- omg instead of Oh My God
- wtf to mean What The Fuck, but also where the fuck, who the fuck, when the fuck. Sometimes spelled out for extra effect "Double-you tee eff."
- 'internets' instead of 'internet' (this became popular immediately after the presidential debate where Bush said 'internets.')
- lolz, lulz, lollerskates, lollerpalooza, lollerpopz, etc instead of LOL (Laughing Out Loud). Also used as a verb, 'to lol', 'is loling' (pronounced "loll").
- * lmaonade instead of LMAO (Laughing My Ass Off)
- * roffle, roflcopter instead of ROFL (Roll On Floor Laughing). Also used as a verb, 'to rofl', 'is rofling' (pronounced "RAW-full").
- * IAWTC to mean I Agree With This Comment. Most often used on message boards and LiveJournal. Can be skewed: iawta, "I agree with this asshole." Etc.
- webbernet, intarweb instead of Internet
- !!11!1 instead of !, to indicate unreasonable or sarcastic exuberance. This has been taken even further, with people actually writing out '!!11!oneone' or even '!!11!!!1elevenhundredandeleven,' etc.
- kthx, kthxbye, kthxbi, etc. Short for "Okay, thanks, goodbye." Often implies "I am done with this" or "so mote it be."
- bai instead of bye. Generally an affectation of otaku (manga/anime fans)
- kawaii instead of cute or adorable. Ditto on the otaku.
- ^_^ instead of :). Started with otaku and spread. Other iterations: o.O, -.-, o.^, and endless variations thereof. Sideways emoticons are outmoded, mostly.
- omgwtfbbq to indicate extreme displeasure/shock. 'bbq' is just thrown in as an extra, funny acronym to underscore the stupidity.
- TWAJS, meaning That Was a Joke, Son; "please settle down and stop taking this so seriously;" "you are too stupid to understand that joke or reference."
- newb, noob, n00b, nub meaning "newbie," or an amateur or greenhorn. "Your skills are lacking;" "you just did or said something stupid."
There are hundreds more, of course.
Now we use what we've learned in a sentence:
- "watching teh prez debate... wtf did dubya just say?!1/one1 he totally said 'internets' lulz omg omg such a n00b. moving to canadia now kthx O.o"
- "I am watching the presidential debates on TV right now. What the fuck did Bush just say?! He just said 'internets!' What a maroon! That does it, I'm moving to Canada."
See Encyclopedia Dramatica for more detailed information on this phenomenon.
nasreddin says re February 19, 2005: Don't forget "lollocaust"!