I made a quick reply to a troll, on ICHC, which seems to have met with approval. I thought I’d expand on it a bit with my own perspective.
People drop by periodically and ask us why we’re using lolspeak, which they see as odd, stupid, maybe a sign of illiteracy.
The simplest answer, of course, is that it’s fun. It lets people talk about their cats in a playful kind of tone no matter what the cat in question has done. It keeps the mood light and a bit silly. It mimics the way many of us speak to our cats, as if they were small children or babies. Is this all childish? Maybe. But many of the “higher order” animal species display play behaviour even as adults, especially in artificially restricted environments. If you think ours isn’t, then tell me: when did you last try to escape a leopard, or have to hunt your next meal yourself or go hungry? (My apologies to that minority who can answer this question in the affirmative.)
Play, or doing something purely for the enjoyment of it, has a long list of benefits. It’s a stress reliever, reducing tension and lowering blood pressure, and therefore has a positive impact on physical health. It reduces anxiety and promotes enjoyment of life and creativity, and therefore has a positive impact on mental and emotional health. It improves energy and keeps the mind active, and therefore has a positive impact on one’s activities. Plus, it can build social bonds, helping to create a sense of community, and I’m not going to go into how many people in modern society feel isolated and alone, that’s another subject altogether.
Lolspeak is, I think, a more creative means of play than people who haven’t taken a close look at it really comprehend. In order to write in lolspeak and make oneself understood, and in order to read what others are writing, one needs a good grasp of English to begin with. Since much of lolspeak is phonetic, having posters from all over the world only complicates this. One also needs mental flexibility. We’re all conditioned to certain word patterns and spellings, and going counter to that actually takes some real effort of concentration. It forces one to actually think about the word, how it sounds, what one is trying to convey.
I write. I know from writing, and reading, that cliches are, for the most part, lazy and ineffective. Why? Because they’re so routine that no one bothers to call up the image that’s specified. Or worse, because the reader has little or no idea what the actual meaning or source of it is (crocodile tears, swan song, to be led by the nose). If you see “at a snail’s pace,” or “strong as an ox,” or “put the cart before the horse,” to use a string of animal cliches, I would say that most people will not actually visualize a snail creeping along, the physical power of an ox, or the absurd image of a cart being in front of the horse. They’ll simply accept it as meaning “slow,” “very strong,” and “backwards,” and leave it at that. The imagery is so overused that there’s no need to think about it, and humans being the lazy creatures we are, if we don’t have to, we won’t.
I brought up cliches because individual words can have the same thing happen. I’m going to use one of my favourite lolspeak expressions as an example. Cats have claws. Yes, of course they do, unless they’ve been declawed, and let’s not go there currently. Does this create any particular mental image, or does it just register as a simple fact? Now, in lolspeak: Kittehs having teh pointy endz. Claws. Pointy endz. Which one gives you a more vivid image? Pointy endz will eventually become cliche itself, but by then, lolspeak will have continued to change, I suspect, and a new term will have evolved.
Personally, I find it neat how one can use a word to imply another. Mai kittehs freaten me wif teh pointy ends if ai iz late wif teh gushifud. ‘Freaten’ is ‘threaten’, but also implies ‘frighten’, and although I share a very loving and trusting relationship with my cats, I do have a healthy respect for their natural weaponry. ‘Pointy ends’ is a more evocative term for said weaponry. ‘Gushifud’ creates a much clearer impression of wet canned cat food, without needing to go at length into texture and odour. In comparison, My cats will threaten me with their claws if I’m late with their wet food sounds forced, and the more likely, My cats will be mad if I’m late with their supper is positively bland and actually conveys less info.
I’m not an expert on lolspeak. This is just my perspective, my observations, and I’m more than happy to hear those of others. To me, however, it’s the very opposite of “talking like a moron”. It actually requires more concentration and mental elasticity both to do.
Ultimately, though, I’m guessing the main reason why any of us do it is because it’s so much fun!