I am an American of Swedish (and German, and a heck of a lot of other things) extraction . . . but my maternal Grandmother is Swedish and makes sure everybody knows it, so that’s kind of the alternate-nationality (alternationality?) with which I identify. Well, that, and English, since I lived over there for so long.
The first year I lived in London, I went to visit some friends in Sweden over Christmas and discovered that they had at least as many traditions associated with the holiday as I had had growing up, but that not many of them bore a very striking resemblance to the traditions as we observed them in our family, which had always been presented to us as “Swedish.” It didn’t matter much. I had a great time that Christmas in Sweden, but I also have an entire lifetime of happy Christmas memories which, apart from the birth of Jesus, largely pivot around traditions which I guess are more Swedish-immigrant traditions than anything else. (That’s kind of cool, too, if you think about it.)
One of these traditions is a Christmas Eve meal which is comprised of deliciously comforting peasant fare presented so elegantly you feel like you’re eating the rarest delicacies. There are also multiple courses. The first course is usually my favourite, I think, and it involves various cheeses and knäckebröd (Swedish hard tack) and limpa (Swedish rye bread) and sil (Swedish pickled herring) and lingonberries.
By now, everyone’s been to Ikea and tried lingonberries (and horse meatballs?), but when I was a kid not too many, if any, of my friends had heard of this fruit and I myself didn’t like it very much. Lingonberries come in a jar in a condition similar to un-gelled, chunky, cranberry sauce. The reason I didn’t like lingonberries as a kid was because they look a whole lot like cranberries (which I loved), and they taste almost like cranberries, but . . . then they don’t. Intellectually I knew not to expect them to taste like cranberries, but somehow I could never get my tastebuds on board with this realisation, and the weird, almost . . . I dunno . . . fleshy aftertaste just did me in every time.
I bring this up to illustrate (very very tenuously) my approach to the acronym lol. I know, this acronym hit the interwebs practically before there were even phones to text on, so it’s not like it’s a new thing or anything (although occasionally you still stumble across a story where someone discovered via awkward social snafus that it doesn’t stand for lots of love). My first experience with lol was via some letters by a young Hungarian woman I had known in Nannyville before I moved to London, and she peppered her missives with it. I didn’t like it because it seemed like a verbal tick, was used apparently arbitrarily, and it also looks like the word loll, which (unlike cranberries) has kind of stupefying and negative connotations.
Also, I didn’t know what it meant. So I asked her. Finding out did not help my impression any. Lol? Seriously? Are you telling me to laugh out loud? Because that seems rather presumptuous. Are you laughing out loud? Because your jokes aren’t really that funny. Was laugh out loud some kind of expression young people in the United States had started saying to each other, which I was missing because I had moved to London (thank goodness), before it was turned into an acronym? Because let’s face it, folks. It’s a clunky expression. But spontaneously generating an acronym like that without a preceding expression? Was just kind of hard for me to fathom. Still is, actually. I guess I still associate it with loll. I picture some person struck dumb with amazement at a cleverer person’s joke, tongue hanging out of their mouth, eyes glazed over, but still laughing a little bit maybe.
I don’t think my impression of lol is ever going to change. It’s pretty deeply rooted, and the actual word that I associate it with has no positive connotations for me, unlike cranberries have and which may or may not be why I now like lingonberries.
I’m not going to lie, though. I just saw the first entry to my BizarroWord contest, and I totally lol-ed. Multiple times, even. I admit it.
See if you can make me lol again. The rules are right here, under this badge (LOL).