Last week I explored the linguistic value of short moving images (aka gifs) to express an emotional frustration with words. This week brought another piece of explosive news, that doesn’t really change events or circumstances as they are in domestic US politics in any meaningful way but OMFG YGBFKM!!
Personally, I felt like screaming. So I tried to look for a screaming gif and was absolutely disappointed in what I found. The gifs themselves are fine, but none of them really nailed what I was feeling. Time to find some new words, new gifs. Enter lolsob.
The Germans have been noted for their ability to put complex ideas into one single, albeit breathlessly long, word. Mark Twain once called these compound nouns not words but “perspectives”. They are ad-hoc creations, which means you can’t just look them up in the dictionary. But we have the internet now, which is like a very large confusing dictionary with context you’ve never asked for and multiple contradictory interpretations.
German words we might find useful in today’s tumultuous news cycle might include Weltschmerz: a sense of world weariness and frustration at one’s inability to change things. Schaadenfreude: laughing at how much it must hurt Paul Ryan to have to defend every stupid thing that comes out of Trump’s mouth like its manna from God. Fremdschamen: the secondhand humiliation you feel when someone is apparently oblivious to the fact that they’re humiliating themselves. So Sean Spicer press briefings.
Ad hoc formations in common language are of course not unique to German. Language changes all the time, and we can always rely on it to change once new forms of communication enter society. So in that linguistic context, let’s analyze the value of “lolsob”.
Lolsob is (obviously) a compound of the acronym for “laugh out loud” and the word “sob”. It is a simultaneous impulse to both laugh and cry, a duality of conflicting emotions experienced at once. Where I would like to note it breaks with the lovely German tradition mentioned above is that it is a verb. You may even frequently see accompanied by a #, indicating a social connection, a desire to share it with others and evoke a sense of community around it.
Lolsob seems a bit more difficult for people to express in a single moving image. Encapsulating two contradictory behaviors is difficult, but I think I found it in one of our most wonderfully talented comedic faces.
Steve Martin. Is he amused or sad? The possibilities are multitude. I feel you, Steve.
This one is good too, expressing feigned disbelief. There’s gotta be a Yiddish word for this one. Hit me up with it in the comments.