Every once in a while, as I pass the enormous columns of Widener Library, I’m struck by the historical permanence of Harvard. Widener grants imposing physicality to the abstract idea that Harvard has been around for a long, long time.
Almost every Harvard student of the past decade has contributed to the collaborative literary masterpiece that is the Q-Guide comment section. At the end of the semester, some students use their new-found freetime to craft poetic odes to a great course or professor, while others assemble cutting polemics no less artful — all in wonderful anonymity. A few highlights:
"Lol" is a funny word — not laugh out loud funny, but ironic in how far it has come from its initial and semi-literal usage. It started out as a sincere reaction, transitioned to a sign of mild amusement, and now often has almost nothing to do with laughter. This is the “lol” we put at the end of a message that sounds too aggressive, too serious, too emo, too … anything. “Lol” as a de-intensifying particle.
English has many de-intensifiers — “a little,” “kind of,” “slightly” — but “lol” stands apart. Think about the difference between texting "I'm a little excited" vs "I'm excited lol." Standard qualifying words serve to specify. When we use “lol” or “lmao,” though, we're instead taking a step back and laughing at whatever we just expressed. “Lol” lets us maintain some ironic distance from our emotions.