By now, we are all familiar with the ubiquitous acronym, "LOL". In case you have been living on the planet Zoltar for the last several decades, LOL is the internet acronym for "laughing out loud". There is also its saucier variation, "LMAO" ("laughing my ass off"), and the ever-popular "LMFAO" ("laughing my fucking ass off"). "ROTFL" -- "rolling on the floor laughing"-- seems to have fallen out of favor.
Given how frequently these acronyms show up in emails, texts, and even conversations, it would seem that just about everyone is laughing their asses off, that hilarity ensues every time someone hits "Send", and a typical day on the job is just one non-stop laugh riot.
Now, I like to laugh as much as the next person -- maybe even more than the next person. But usually, when I see "LOL" in an email, my immediate reaction is mild confusion, as in, "Really?? You're laughing at THAT?? It's not that funny."
Sorry, but you have to earn my "LOL".
Fortunately, I have come up with a solution for all this faux hilarity.
I propose we add another acronym to the lexicon: "NTF", or "not that funny".
"Not that funny" is an appropriate, honest response to the majority of not-that-funny things people say in emails and texts.
Of course, if that is too bland a response for you, feel free to go with "NLMAO" ("not laughing my ass off"), or -- if you have the energy to type an extra character -- may I suggest "NFWTIF" ("no fucking way this is funny").
In his book "The Language of ICT" (yet another acronym meaning "Information and Communications Technology"), linguistics expert, Tim Shortis, analyzes the deeper meaning of LOL. He writes, "I may not actually laugh out loud, but may use the locution, 'LOL' to communicate my appreciation of your attempt at humor'".
The operative word here is "attempt". However, just because someone makes an attempt at humor does not mean that person should be rewarded with an "LOL", "LMFAO", or any other acronym signaling approval. This merely emboldens the not-that-funny person and encourages him or her to make even more feeble attempts at humor. It's a self-perpetuating cycle. It needs to stop.
I think that the overuse of "LOL" actually speaks to a larger, societal problem; namely, the bar for what passes for funny these days is so pathetically low, just about any comment is worthy of an "LOL". "NTF" is frankly the only suitable response to so much in our popular culture -- movies, tv shows, certain comics -- that aim to be funny, but just aren't that funny.
Some of this can be chalked up to changing styles of humor. And yes, it's a generational thing. I'll be the first to admit that as a bitter, older person, I simply don't GET a lot of the "kids'" humor. I scratch my head, watching commercials that I know were clearly intended to be funny, and think, "I guess some young agency Creative team must have thought this was really funny...they probably laughed their asses over this...but it just isn't funny". (Since I am the ultimate arbiter of what is and isn't funny, I am quite confident when I deem something not that funny).
It's time to call bullshit on not funny.
That is the beauty of "NTF"; it raises the bar for funny. Because it doesn't reward not funny. A simple, well-placed "NTF" instantly tells someone, "Because I'm your friend, I'm not going to pretend that your email has me rolling around on the floor in stitches...when in fact, it barely even warrants a smiley face emoticon." (It may also be time to wean ourselves from our lazy, over-reliance on the Smiley Face, and simply type out, "I haven't got a fucking clue what you're trying to say..but whatever!").
Sure, your brutal honesty may lose you some friends. But what you gain in feeling morally superior is well worth it (and just imagine the fun you can have responding to group emails at work).
Once you get over your initial hesitation, I predict that typing "NTF" will become as automatic as "LOL".
So, repeat after me: "NTF!!!!"
Now, doesn't that feel good?