For example, look at this statement I found on an internet conversation:

"Memes are the opener now I guess lmao but that seems pretty good to me."

where the statement makes perfect sense without the "lmao".

Now, I am not a linguist but I have seen such seemingly arbitrary uses of "lol" and "lmao" in the middle of sentences and it makes me curious does it serve a psychological or linguistic purpose and does it have a technical term associated to it?

(To me it sounds as if it has been used to introduce a tone of self-deprecation or uncertainty although the use of "I guess" does not seem to exactly replicate the expression.)

Also, before these terms came into common use were there any other words in the English language that served a similar purpose? Or is it something you find only in internet communications?


1 Answer 1


There's nothing syntactically unusual about such uses of these expressions, though how exactly they're deployed and understood is debatable: you may consider them either as orthographically abbreviated finite clauses (I'm laughing my ass off) or as abbreviations recategorized as words—specifically, as adverbs.

In either case they act syntactically as what CGEL calls 'supplements'—constituents which lie outside the clause and typically qualify either an internal constituent or the entire clause. lmao and lol usually qualify an entire clause, providing a personal comment on its substance. The same function is served by familiar phrases like in my opinion or unfortunately.

The lack of formal pointing makes your particular example ambiguous. It may be that lmao actually follows a deleted stop and introduces the second clause, like this:

Memes are the opener now, I guess. I'm laughing my ass off, but that seems pretty good to me.

Or it may be that as you say lmao actually lies in the middle of the utterance. In more formal registers you might expand it to a clause or replace it with a more conventional clause or adverbial (to my great amusement), and bracket it with dashes or parentheses, and it would look perfectly ordinary.

Memes are the opener now, I guess—it's totally ridiculous—but that seems pretty good to me.

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