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You Say LOLL, I say LOHL; Either Way, Emo Kids Won't Be Laughing Out Loud

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AA: I'm Avi Arditti and this week on WORDMASTER: we're back with linguistics professor Pamela Munro, editor of the latest edition of a dictionary of slang used at the University of California, Los Angeles. Some of the terms may be exclusive to the campus, but others are used more widely, including an expression used between women.

Pam Munro
Pam Munro

PAM MUNRO: "Sisters before misters is something you say to your girlfriend if she tells you that she feels like breaking your movie date to go out on a date with a guy. You tell her 'Sisters before misters, female solidarity, you can't stand up your girlfriends for a guy.'"

AA: "And if that guy who the date is being broken with is an emo kid, he might get very sad. Why don't you tell us what an emo kid is."

PAM MUNRO: "I believe that most of the people that told me about emo kids and emo learned these terms in high school. There's a style of music called emo that doesn't really seem to have too much specific that I can tell you so that people will be able to recognize it. But somebody who is an emo kid is usually male -- there can be female ones, but usually they're male.

"They have very long hair and particularly very long bangs, which they let them go over their eyes. But then they'll flip their head -- that's called an emo flip -- to get their bangs out of their eyes. And they're typically very depressed and they sit around feeling sorry for themselves, maybe blogging about it or listening to emo music.

"Emo by itself -- and clearly this word comes from emotional -- emo is a term that you can use as an adjective to mean very emotional or depressed or looking like an emo kid."

AA: "Flipping through the pages here, I came across one which I've heard is oh snap."

PAM MUNRO: "It means 'oh wow.' So it's a generally positive exclamation. And you can also give someone snaps. This is a quite a bit more modern term than give someone props, which you've probably heard."

AA: "Oh yeah."

PAM MUNRO: "That one's been around for quite some time but it still is in our dictionary. But giving somebody snaps is just about the same thing. If you say 'Let's give him snaps for whatever he did' or 'Snaps for Avi' or something, that means like 'Hurray for Avi,' and I would say that if you did something really good or said something really good maybe."

AA: So now we turn to a couple of terms that have transferred from the written language to the spoken language of slang.

PAM MUNRO: "There's LOL that means laughing out loud. And people have been using this in sort of writing on the computer for a long time. But people now will actually say LOL primarily as a comment on something that's not really all that funny."

AA: "Using it ironically."

PAM MUNRO: "Exactly. It's sort of passed beyond when people used to say that it was really funny. But they can also pronounce that as a word. Some people pronounce it LOHL, some people pronounce it LOLL.

"And then there's another one, ROFL, which comes from rolling on the floor laughing -- and there are various other longer forms of that -- and I don't think anybody says ROFL the initials. But people say ROFL. Or that can be expanded, so you can say ROFL waffle about something that is really so funny that it would make you lie on the floor and roll on the floor laughing."

AA: "And, well, there's one here that struck me at first when I saw this as maybe it came from instant messaging or abbreviations, but have FOMO. Where'd that come from?"

PAM MUNRO: "FOMO stands for fear of missing out, and I'm sure that it would actually be something that you might -- you know, like somebody says 'Don't you have a test, why are you going to this party?' And you say 'I have FOMO.' So you're afraid that you might miss meeting the guy of your dreams or the girl of your dreams or whatever."

AA: Pam Munro is editor of a U.C.L.A. Slang 6, a dictionary she puts out every four years at the University of California, Los Angeles. One new entry that got a lot of media attention was obama -- lowercase O -- defined as "really good: cool, rad." Well, after all that attention, no one who knows the nature of slang should be surprised to learn that hardly anyone is using that word on campus anymore.

And that's WORDMASTER for this week. Part one of our interview is at www.unsv.com/voanews/wordmaster. I'm Avi Arditti.

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