“♥” & OMG in OED? WTH?

Someone sent me an email the other day. Check this out, it said. Huffington Post. ROFL.

So I do that, as I hope you just did, and I’m like, WTH? Is this for real?

♥? Really? In the Oxford English Dictionary? But, I’m like, it’s not a word. How could it go in the dictionary when it’s not a word? ♥ is a symbol, sort of like those other symbols – the 26 of them – that go together in various combinations to make up real words. Which is what’s supposed to be in the OED.

Where in the OED, exactly, will it appear? Will it be before or after “heart,” which is how we say that word, or, well, actually, symbol? As in “I heart New York”, which apparently is the genesis of ♥. Or will it appear before or after “love,” which is actually what it means, or is meant to represent, or whatever. Or will it be in, like, a special new section of the OED reserved for symbols like ♥,♠,♦, and ♣?

“I ♥ my ♥”?

Can we look forward to expressions like “I ♣ seals,” and “Let’s call a ♠ a ♠,” and “You should see the ♦ he gave her”? A heart-health campaign with the slogan, “I ♥ my ♥”? Are these in the future of our language? Will they all end up in the OED?

Sacred Heart, as we used to say in Catholic grade school. SH, in Twitterspeak. I know – it’s about efficiency. I get it.

All this change is enough to make you dizzy, if you’re a greyhair.

SH. All this change is enough to make you dizzy, if you’re a greyhair. So hard to keep up. I go back so far – How far back do you go, Johnny? – that I can actually remember when “cat,” “chick,” “man,” and “cool” entered the pop culture lexicon; when The Dobie Gillis show was huge; when Bob Denver was popular for something other than Gilligan’s Island. You don’t even remember Gilligan’s Island? OMG. RUS? SH.


I have to admit, I do rather like OMG; use it all the time. And LOL can be useful too, although it drives me to distraction how people use it to represent anything from a Mona Lisa smile to ROFFL. LOL. Let’s recognize the limitations, FHS – TLAs are distinctly blunt linguistic instruments.

But more to the point – are they really words? I would argue they’re not. LOL. Being acronyms, they are not words unto themselves, but merely represent other words, from which they derive their meaning. Like, MOU, for example, has no meaning and is not a word – it’s an acronym for Memorandum of Understanding, which does have meaning … well, actually, according to the Minister of Fisheries … OK, bad example.

HOAS. I have to massage my temples – getting worked up. Gotta lower my ♥rate. BRB.


Actually, OK is an interesting case study. It’s in the dictionary, and it’s an acronym, but there’s a special reason for it to be in the dictionary. According to my Webster’s, OK is an acronym for the German* oll korrect. Now, you wouldn’t know that unless you spoke German*, so if you want to know what OK stands for, it’s the dictionary’s job to tell you that. There’s foreign language involvement.

Slang glossaries on the Internet

But if you think of OMG, RUS, IMO, and BRB as foreign language, all you have to do is ask your teenager, if you can get him or her to look up. If you can’t, there are websites with huge, very entertaining glossaries of acronyms and internet slang that you can use to find out what things like POS mean. Especially what POS means.

That website is fabulous, BTW. CIO. GA. I’ll wait. TYT.

Will people one day google “FML” to find out its etymology?

Another interesting thing OK demonstrates is how a word, expression, or acronym can keep its meaning long after the words it represents are forgotten. Everyone might have known very well that OK stood for oll korrect when it was first popularized, but a hundred years later, we’ve forgotten. But we still know what OK means.

With that in mind, I wonder if there will come a time when the derivations of OMG and all the others are lost; when their meaning has become their own? Just like OK? Will people one day google “FML” to find out its etymology, in the same way we now google “scuba” or “laser” or “OK”?

Will the F-bomb be legitimized?

If that’s the case, it’s likely to be the way the F-bomb will get legitimized. Although it’s way more common to hear that word in conversation these days, it’s still considered the ultimate bad word.

But I hear FML, ROFFL, WTF, IDGAF and others in use constantly, their “F” member enjoying the anonymity conferred by being part of an acronym. (Is that acronymity?) It’ll be interesting to see if and when the first F-containing acronym shows up in the OED. But that’s still far into the future, I suspect.

For now, it’s OMG, LOL, and ♥ that we have to get used to.

I can handle the first two.  But ♥?


* Reader David Jensen correctly pointed out that ‘oll korrect’ is not really German, but a faux-German or unidentified foreign language (UFL) made up to explain the existence of ‘OK’. This strikes me as not unlike the pre-teen telling his mother FML stands for … um … aah … ‘foreign-made language’. Thanks, David

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