How many times have you read the “lol” in text messages and internet forums? For some people, those three little letters are torture to read – and for others, it’s a universal symbol of jovial conversation. But does it translate, and how do other languages manage the task of writing laughter?
Hahaha, Jajaja or Xaxaxa?
Human laughter is languageless and universal – and while we all have our own distinctive sound, we all share pretty much the same involuntary set of noises and motions. Belly laughs, wheezing laughs that leave you breathless and teary eyed – down to little stuttered giggles that you fight to hold back.
In English, when laughter is written phonetically, “hahaha” or “heehee” are the most commonly written variants. It’s instantly recognisable and onomatopoeic – it even makes you simulate the act in pronouncing it!
Because of the universal traits that we all share, all languages have a tendency to write it in the same phonetic way. In Castilian Spanish, the letter j is pronounced similarly to h in English – so “jajaja” is a homologue of “hahaha”. It’s the same with “xaxaxa” in Greek and Russian.
Interestingly, the character 5 is pronounced “ha” in Thai – so informally, laughter is expressed as “55555” – the quickest route to expressing a laugh in text.
During the rise of English txtspk, even “hahaha” became too much to write – and the “lol” we know and love (or hate) was born. But the short form of laugh out loud doesn’t cross languages.
So how would you lol in other parts of the world?
MDR – Mort de Rire
It means “dying of laughter” – and while it may have more in common with LMAO or ROFL, it’s the most quintessentially French equivalent of typing lol. Maybe it’s a touch dramatic, but we’ve all been worried at some point by the amount of laughs we’re producing.
RS – Risos
Risos, or “laughs”, is truncated to two letters in Portugal and South American countries where Portuguese is spoken. Sure, it’s not quite as emphatic as the French or English expressions, but that’s just how things go – and if it’s funny, you’ll be sharing the RS anyway.
ASG – Asgarv
Nordic languages, like Japanese, seem to have a word for everything. Asgarv means “to laugh intensely” and in Sweden, getting ASG in response to your joke is the highest praise.
Farsi and Dari
MKM – Man Khandeh Mikonam
In Iran and Afghanistan, Farsi (or the mutually intelligible Dari Farsi in Afghanistan) is the primary language. Man Khandeh Mikonam translates to “I am laughing” – about as direct a version of lol as can be imagined. It’s common for western technology, including its keyboards, to make it over to non-English speaking areas, and this little quirk of Latin characters is just one that can still be found in this part of the world.
233 – Laugh Emoji Reference Number
In an odd break from the norm, Chinese internet slang has adopted numbers instead of letters. 233 is the reference number of the laughing emoji on the Mop forum – China’s largest online forum – and was spread far and wide to denote lol across all text-based platforms.
Share the Laughs!
Now you know how to lol all around the world – so next time you’re chatting with your international friends online, give them a little surprise and share your newfound lols!
Avoid Laughable Translations – Contact Kwintessential
Great translation is no laughing matter. At Kwintessential, we provide professional, reliable translation services that won’t make your readers laugh out loud (except if we’re translating comedy). Our qualified and experienced translators are ready to help – get in touch today.
Call (UK +44) 01460 279900 or send a message to [email protected].