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FYI and LOL in OED? OMG!

This month the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) added FYI, LOL, and OMG to their online edition. Previously (before now), OED had added IMHO, TMI, BFF, and others to the online dictionary.

These expressions are examples of initialisms, abbreviations that are made up of the first letters of a name or expression. For those of you who may not be familiar with them, here’s how the OED defines them:

  • OMG – “Oh my God” (or sometimes “gosh,” “goodness,” etc.)
  • LOL – “Laughing out loud”
  • FYI – “For your information”
  • IMHO – “In my humble opinion,” sometimes only IMO – “In my opinion”
  • TMI – “Too much information”
  • BFF – “Best friends forever”

When we pronounce (say) initialisms, we say the letters: for example, O-M-G or C-E-O (Chief Executive Officer, the top manager of a large company) or F-B-I (Federal Bureau of Investigation).

When we pronounce an initialism as a word, we call it an acronym. AIDS (acquired immune deficiency syndrome), NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization), and laser (light amplification by stimulated emission of radiation) are familiar acronyms.

In making the announcement, the OED noted (mentioned something interesting or important) that the intention (goal or purpose) of an initialism is usually to signal (show or express) a very casual (informal) mood or feeling. They have become popular because they are short and easy to type in an e-mail, tweet, or text message. The OED says that these initialisms are used sometimes to parody the way people act and write online. Parody means to copy (repeat) someone or something in a way that makes people laugh. A good example of parody on television is Saturday Night Live, where the actors parody politicians and popular entertainers to make the audience laugh. Sometimes we call this “making fun of” someone or something.

During the process of approving these initialisms, the OED discovered (found) that all three of them have been used for many years, long before the beginning of the Internet. OMG was first used in 1917, during World War I, in a personal letter. FYI originated (began) in 1941, during World War II. And LOL started in 1960, but then it stood for (meant) “little old lady,” an elderly (older) woman!

This brings up an interesting point, one that may surprise you. The editors (people who decide what goes into a book) of a dictionary don’t determine (decide) the meanings of words. Rather, they report (describe) how the speakers and writers of a language use words. The editors’ job is, first, to collect examples of different word uses or meanings and, then, to decide whether or not a word meaning is used often enough to be included in the dictionary. So we could say that a dictionary is a collection of descriptions of how the words of a language are used.

If you are a more advanced reader, you might enjoy the story of how the OED started. It’s in a book with the curious (strange or unusual) title The Professor and the Madman: A Tale of Murder, Insanity, and the Making of the Oxford English Dictionary.

~ Warren Ediger – English tutor and coach and creator of Successful English, where English learners find clear explanations and practical suggestions for better English.

Photo by emdot used under Creative Commons license.

16 Responses to “FYI and LOL in OED? OMG!”

  1. Daniel Says:

    Hello,

    Thanks Mr. Ediger, That’s interesting.

    As an Acronym I remember OIL WAY wich is used to remember the words used in the past: on in last when ago and yesterday
    As Initialism I like the sound of WTF and BTW

  2. Jehovanna M. Arcia Torres Says:

    Hello Doctor Warren Ediger:
    Looking at the way, the English language has evolved to become a word order language, makes me understand this trend of evolution in which the English language has also become a very succinct language. This succinctness in the English language is one of the characteristics I find so compelling, considering that my mother tongue, Spanish, is a very wordy language. For me the learning of new terminology is always a fantastic experience, not only for the learning of the meaning of the new word found, but also for the possibility of the word’s construction one specific word brings, as well as the word usage. This is a fantastic way of improving the knowledge of English and the history of the language and the people who use this language. The problem, as a second learner of the English language I find, is that the learning of acronyms may be challenged for those like me who have managed to learn the English language overseas; one has to remember the spelling of words, meanings and acronyms.
    I consider the introduction of acronyms in the English Oxford Dictionary is a reminder of the real nature of the English language and its conciseness.

  3. Rezaul Karim Says:

    Thanks to the authority of Oxford English Dictionary for adding some new initialisms to their online edition. These are really helpful when we think to send short messages(SMS) to our friends and family members through our cell phones.

  4. Tania Says:

    Hi! Thank you for thr beautiful photos: nature knocks off Rothke, stripes of the Pacific Coast, statice on the cliffs, fog coming in. fog going out, the myth of egrets, and all from “Blooming in March”.
    I’ve never seen a mustard field in bloom.

    We use the same word for “egret” – egreta. We can admire the egrets in our delta of the Danube River.

    Best wishes,

    Tania

  5. Tania Says:

    It has been raining all week long and… many, many troubles. So… blooming in March was a gift for my soul.

  6. Peter Says:

    Don’t LET THE END BEGINS
    Hi eslpod,
    What is new with the world of words and expressions.
    I have been out of touch with Eslpod so long that I don’t feel like that I m a part of the family any more.
    It is sad ,
    But every time I intended to catch up sth got in the way.
    I haven’t touch the materials since God knows when.
    I am way behind guys,
    I m about 200 episodes behind. Do u think I can update myself. Or,I m a lost cause.
    The matter of the fact is ,I haven’t been in touch with myself either
    Busy as hell
    Life is taking a lot out of me
    Well,No pain no gain
    To upgrade myself any further I must return to Lucy’s canon.
    I have a daunting thought that loosing touch with Eslpod means loosing touch with the flow of English.
    What if Jeff close the window to us.
    What if his breeze of knowledge takes another course
    If it is the case ,You think how long we will able to keep our English skills running and current with no Eslpod around to grease the Linguistic cogs of our brains.
    Guys,
    Contribute to the Eslpod current before it takes an opposite direction.
    Step up!
    There is an end to every beginning. Don’t let that end begins. Push it back further down to the point that there is no ending.
    Guys,
    Contribute finantially,
    Don’t let the end begins.

  7. Tania Says:

    Hi! I have tried to read “The Professor and the Madman” but it was impossible on the net. Just a summary.
    William C. Minor diagnosed as schizophrenic, after three years in an asylum, offered his services with 10,000 definitions for the OED.
    And the journalist Winchester tells us this true story.
    I’d like to read this fascinating story.

  8. sara Says:

    Dear Warren Ediger
    Thanks so much for it.I have heard that the book is amazing ,I try to find an extra time (which is too hard for me to find!)to read it.at least I always put a time to read this great blog website.

  9. Tania Says:

    Hi! We have a “joke”: I am in an asylum(mental hospital) as I am a madman but not a fool one.

  10. Betty Says:

    Hi Warren, thank you so much for this very relevant topic.

    I feel very worried that I have not been writing English for such a long time my English will degenerate very quickly. I admire some of our friends here who have been writing since the very beginning of this blog and still writing hardly missed any topic. It is even more amazing that our English teachers here continue to teach or show us something new every week.

    There are always good reasons for us to take a break from writing: it is getting hot, reunion with friends from abroad, computer breaks down, no mobile internet, etc etc.

    Our teachers here never have excuse to take a break, THANK YOU VERY MUCH INDEED, ALL ESLPOD.COM TEACHERS.

    ***************************************************************

    Yes, I am so please to learn from this article about the new entries in the OED.

    I had read some articles in some other blogs based in England, and I could not understand what all those LOL, FYI, BTW, IMHO, DYOR (DO YOUR OWN RESEARCH) meant, until I did some search in the internet and also asked my daughters for the meanings.

    English is a living language, and, just as Jehovanna M. Arcia Torres Says above, we are overseeing a trend of evolution in English language.

    In fact, I find it much easier to understand the initialisms in English than Chinese.

    Well, since Chinese use characters instead of letters, it is not exactly ‘initialisms’, but recently I find that when people talk (media people like radio, TV etc) they don’t spell out the whole name of, say, some organizations. They picked some of the main words in the whole name to make up a new name for the organization. It can be very confusing for people like me who lost touch with Chinese for some years and then find myself in the maze of a ‘new’ language.

    I guess this new trend of evolution in English and Chinese must be happening in almost all living languages because the whole world is moving in a much faster speed, we need to say a lot more things in a much shorter time, and initialism and acronym serve this need.

  11. Betty Says:

    Hi Tania, FYI I like your joke, OMG, LOL. BFF
    *************************************
    This is interesting, I was practicing using initialisms above, I felt a lot more relaxed than if I had to write out everything in full.

    BTW, I think everyone knows what is DIY (Do it yourself); imagine this: having to do all the hard labouring painting and decorating is very painful, but if you tell yourself that you have to do some DIY, it is an enjoyable job and not so painful any more.

    One initialism sounds like swearing to me, the expression ‘BOGOF’ (Buy one get one free) was so odd when I first came across it in the supermarket. This is certainly one of the most welcome initialism for all bargain hunters.

    *************************************
    IMHO we can use all these Initialisms from now on, LOL

  12. emiliano Says:

    Thank you Warren, I would like to have the list of the acronyms in front of my face all day as every moment I feel that I can´t
    understand anything of the new way of speaking.
    Even saying the acronym, as I do frequently, I don´t know what words I am talking about….
    MP3, MPG, MKV, IVA, IRPF, JPG, AVI…..dozens…????

    It´s possible that in future every body could use such a common language of acronyms that may be understand everywhere
    and English be off as the one useful language of the entire world.
    I hope not to be here at that moment…I like English so much.
    ——-

    You are Very, Very Welcome Betty, I was just a little worried and missed you just a lot.

    emiliano

  13. Betty Says:

    Hi Emiliano, thank you so much for your concern. You know, I was thinking of the same everyday because I thought you might think of the worst for me when I was not writing English here, but just too polite to ask ‘where is Betty’. I am very sorry to have caused concern though.

    I kept thinking of writing something, in fact I started writing something for the last two topics, but I just fell asleep after just one sentence. It was the same for many days until yesterday.

    My next door neighbours went to Australia for a reunion and they stopped over in Hong Kong on their return trip back to England. I and my family tried to make their stay in Hong Kong as enjoyable as possible by taking them to see Hong Kong and have a few meals in different kinds of restaurants. They were here for two days one night but it was very meaningful for me. I did not have any time and energy to write English but I spoke a lot of English with them, it did make me very happy.

    There are a lot of other family commitments: helping my father and my own immediate family. Sometimes it is not easy for us to concentrate on improving our English, but I must not forget to improve my English because it is something very important, for my own future as well.

    When I learned that you would like to have a list of acronyms in front of you, I remembered seeing something like ‘acronyms list’ in the past, so I did a search on the internet again.

    I find that if we search the ‘google.co.uk’ with ‘acronyms’, we will get ‘acronyms list’, ‘acronyms dictionary’ etc.

    From the acronymslist.com website, you will find that there are many different types of acronyms for different professions. There are so many acronyms that we will soon stop bothering to want to know all of them.

    I remember reading stories about ‘secret codes’ used by spies during war times. Just like some military weapons/technologies eventually became available to ordinary households, some of the secret codes used by spies in the past might have become our ‘initialisms’ today, do you think so?

    Best Regards to you and Cuca, Betty

  14. Tania Says:

    Hi! Dear Betty, thank you for your BFF. I hope to be so.

    Best wishes,

    Tania

  15. Betty Says:

    Hi! Dear Tania, you are really nice.

    Yes, we shall be BFF, there is no doubt about it!

    Best Wishes

    Betty

  16. Mitsuo Says:

    It´s a trend in the global comunication.

    The twitter is an example.

    Everyday we receive a lot of information, while the time is short to assimilate that.

    Congratulations, your website is very useful!