Don’t look now, but I think my old English grammar teacher is doing somersaults in her grave: No less an authority than the Oxford English Dictionary has declared “OMG” a word, along with two other popular 3-letter abbreviations, “LOL” and “FYI.”
Language purists may scoff at the new additions or even consider them a sure sign of the decline of Western civilization. However, in it’s latest update, the OED notes that both OMG and LOL have jumped out of the confines of electronic screens and are now:
“found outside of electronic contexts, however; in print, and even in spoken use…The intention is usually to signal an informal, gossipy mode of expression, and perhaps parody the level of unreflective enthusiasm or overstatement that can sometimes appear in online discourse, while at the same time marking oneself as an ‘insider’ au fait with the forms of expression associated with the latest technology.”
The scholars at the OED also managed to dig up the first recorded use of OMG, and surprisingly, the phrase dates back to 1917, about 65 years before the invention of the Internet. In a personal letter (aka “snail mail”), a J. A. Fisher wrote, “I hear that a new order of Knighthood is on the tapis—O.M.G. (Oh! My God!)—Shower it on the Admiralty!”
Another fun fact: before it was reincarnated as an abbreviation for “laughing out loud,” LOL had a previous life as an abbreviation for “little old lady” in the 60’s.
OMG and LOL were not the only abbreviations added to the OED in the last update. WAGs, an acronym for “wives and girlfriends,” also received its own entry in the dictionary. The OED notes that the acronym was first used in 2002 and has since become unremarkable, saying:
“It is quite uncommon for new words to reach such a level of ubiquity in such a short time after their first appearance, and that the word Wag has done so perhaps demonstrates not so much its own inherent usefulness or catchiness as the influence that the print media…can still have on the ways in which language is used, even in the age of social networking.”