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How ‘LOL’ Changed the Way We Talk

Aug 30, 2018 | 33 videos
Video by The Atlantic

“Today, communication is much more fluid, much more varied, much subtler—it's better,” says John McWhorter, professor of linguistics at Columbia University, author, and frequent contributor to The Atlantic, in a new video from the 2018 Aspen Ideas Festival. A big reason for this advancement in communication is, McWorther argues, the advent of texting—and even more specifically, the proliferation of the acronym “LOL.”


In the video, McWorther explains how LOL “ended up creeping in and replacing involuntary laughter,” and what meant for the new era of informal, nuanced communication. “It used to be that if you were going to write in any real way beyond the personal letter, there were all these rules you were afraid you were breaking—and you probably were,” he says. “It wasn't a comfortable form. You can write comfortably now.”

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Author: Kasia Cieplak-Mayr von Baldegg

About This Series

Big ideas from the Aspen Ideas Festival