Has The Web Diluted Language? OMG, LOL, BFF Now In Dictionary

Okay, I understand slang terms becoming so popularly used that they enter our mainstream vocabulary. so the adding of muffin top to the Oxford dictionary makes some sense. But now text terms OMG, LOL, FYI and BFF have been added, along with the texting symbol for love <3.

"For the March 2011 release of OED Online, we have selected for publication a number of noteworthy initialisms--abbreviations consisting of the initial letters of a name or expression. Some of these--such as OMG [OMG int. (and n.) and adj.]: 'Oh my God' (or sometimes 'gosh', 'goodness', etc.) and LOL [LOL int. and n./2]: 'laughing out loud'--are strongly associated with the language of electronic communications (email, texting, social networks, blogs, and so on). They join other entries of this sort: IMHO ('in my humble opinion') [IMHO at I n./1], TMI ('too much information') [TMI at T n.], and BFF ('best friends forever') [BFF at B n.], among others," the Oxford English Dictionary stated.

Interestingly, the abbreviation LOL has been in the Oxford dictionary but as a reference to Little Old Lady. The OED explains these "context initialisms are quicker to type than the full forms, and (in the case of text messages, or Twitter, for example) they help to say more in media where there is a limit to a number of characters one may use in a single message. OMG and LOL are found outside of electronic contexts, however; in print, and even in spoken use (see, for example, the 2003 quotation for LOL int.), where there often seems to be a bit more than simple abbreviation going on. The intention is usually to signal an informal, gossipy mode of expression, and perhaps parody the level of unreflective enthusiasm or overstatement that can sometimes appear in online discourse, while at the same time marking oneself as an 'insider' au fait with the forms of expression associated with the latest technology."

Reactions to the addition have been mixed. Purists see this as further dilution of the English language given the OED is the word source of record.

"The reasons the OED's decision is ghastly are numerous. First, not one of the three newly admitted "words" are, in fact, words, according to the OED's own definition of a word as a " speech, utterance [or] verbal expression."

While "OMG" may be making its way into the audible vernacular, when was the last time you heard someone say "LOL"?

... The OED is meant to be the premier example of what the best of the English language is. It was founded in 1857, which in Internet years means it's been around FOREVER. It is a dinosaur. And while dinosaurs are certainly good for some things, like eating other dinosaurs and making sure you use words that actually exist, they certainly are not good at being cool--the OED has a type of comma named after it, for heaven's sake.

The OED including these three Internet-born quasi-words is like The New York Times using emoticons in its headlines. It is like bouncers at bars letting in everyone without checking their ID. It is like Harvard admitting preschoolers," the Brandeis Hoot stated.

About the author

Frank Watson has been involved with the Web since it started. For the past five years, he headed SEM for FXCM -- at one time one of the top 25 spenders with AdWords. He has worked with most of the major analytics companies and pioneered the ability to tie online marketing with offline conversion.

He has now started his own marketing agency, Kangamurra Media. This new venture will keep him busy when he is not editing the Search Engine Watch forums, blogging at a number of authoritative sites, and developing some interesting online community sites.

He was one of the first 100 AdWords Professionals, a Yahoo and Overture Ambassador, and a member or mod of many of the industry forums. He is also on the Click Quality Council and has worked hard to diminish click fraud.