'LOL' turned 25 this month - but 'OMG' is almost three times older

'LOL' is now a common part of the vernacular.
'LOL' is now common enough to be found on coffee mugs. Credit: Reuters

Depending on who you believe, 'lol' - as an abbreviation signifying 'laughing out loud' - turned 25 years old this month.

According to some, the first known use of the term was in a 1989 online newsletter known as Fidonet - a copy of which can still be found online.In the circular, a number of new acronyms were suggested, including some - like ) - that will also be familiar with many today.

This, from a Fidonet newsletter, appears to be the first known usage of 'LOL'.
This, from a Fidonet newsletter, appears to be the first known usage of 'LOL'. Credit: FIDO

However, that account is challenged by a man named Wayne Pearson.

He claims to have written the first 'LOL' in the "early-to-mid-80s", after which point it took off.

LOL was first coined on a BBS [bulletin board system] called Viewline in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, in the early-to-mid-80s. A friend of mine who went by Sprout (and I believe he still does) had said something so funny in the teleconference room that I found myself truly laughing out loud, echoing off the walls of my kitchen. That's when "LOL" was first used.

– Wayne Pearson

Pearson says the term is often misused, but accepts "I guess this is the evolution of words and language".

Whoever is responsible for it, the abbreviation has now become part of the popular lexicon. It made the Oxford English Dictionary in 2011, when a rush of abbreviations were included.

Originally and chiefly in the language of electronic communications: ‘ha ha!’; used to draw attention to a joke or humorous statement, or to express amusement.

– 'LOL' - Oxford English Dictionary

Here are a few things you may not know about 'LOL':

1. It gets used about 80 million times a month on Twitter...

According to social media search engine Topsy, the abbreviation was used in around 18 million tweets in the last seven days.

2. ... which is a lot more than its rivals

A quick look at the number of tweets containing 'lol' compared to 'omg' (Oh My God) and 'lmao' (Rolling On Floor Laughing), with almost

'Lol' easily trumps 'omg' and 'rofl' when it comes to Twitter.
'Lol' easily trumps 'omg' and 'rofl' when it comes to Twitter. Credit: Topsy

3. It used to mean 'little old lady'...

'Lol' originally found its place in the Oxford English Dictionary in 1960, denoting a little old lady.

4. ... but is still nowhere near as old as 'omg'

The first recorded 'OMG' was actually included in a letter written to Winston Churchill by former British Navy head Lord Fisher in 1917.

According to this extract from Shaun Usher's collection of historical correspondence, Letters of Note:

An extract from the letter sent to Winston Churchill by Lord Fisher.
Image taken from Letters of Note by Shaun Usher, published by Unbound, 9781908717672, £25.00 Credit: Shaun Usher/Letters of Note/Unbound

5. The first recorded Twitter 'lol' was sent by Krissy Bush

It went out just over two weeks after the first ever tweet.

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did the church thing now doin the family thing happy easter heathens lol

6. David Cameron finds it confusing

During the Leveson Inquiry, it was revealed that David Cameron had signed off on text messages to friend and former News International boss Rebekah Brooks with 'LOL', mistakenly believing it meant 'lots of love'.

David Cameron's 'LOL' texts were a source of light relief during the Leveson inquiry.
David Cameron's 'LOL' texts were a source of light relief during the Leveson inquiry. Credit: Jeff Moore/Empics Entertainment