The French language is under constant assault thanks to the Internet, movies, television, smartphones and all assortment of pop culture delirium. It is the job of the Académie française, which publishes the country’s official dictionary, to man the barricades, and to protect French from the linguistic barbarisms of the modern age.
In keeping with that mission, the institution has recently identified and issued a warning about a new threat:
“This acronym for (I am) laughing out loud, ‘I laugh out loud, I burst out laughing,’ is strongly prevalent in recent years,” the Académie wrote in a bulletin this month. (In French: “Cet acronyme pour (I am) laughing out loud, « je ris à haute voix, j’éclate de rire », s’est fortement répandu ces dernières années.”)
As it turns out, the people in charge of the Académie, known humbly as “Les immortels” (The Immortals) are not exactly fond either of the French version of LOL: “MDR,” or “mort de rire” (dying of laughter).
At issue, according to the Académie’s Laure Depretto, is that the Académie prefers that people not to use abbreviations when then there is a phrase that can be written out and that is more descriptive.
“The Académie française recommends indeed the use of developed expressions instead of initials end abbreviations when equivalents exist,” Depretto said in an email.
Putting aside that these alternatives wouldn’t be Twitter or texting friendly (140 characters, people!), what do they recommend instead?
Here are a few phrases the Académie says allow one to capture the spirit of hyperbole expressed in LOL:
1. mourir (to die…of laughter)
2. s’étouffer (smother…)
3. s’étrangler (choke…)
4. hurler de rire (roar with laughter)
5. crouler (collapse…)
6. crever et être plié (die and be folded over with…)
6. se tordre de rire (shake with laughter)
7. se pâmer de rire (to swoon with laughter). Though Depretto says that translation isn’t quite precise, she does note that the Académie says this particular French phrase is “old fashioned.”