What's the word? April edition

What's the word? April edition

The origins of ‘LOL’, Apple TV makes Pachinko, and Lexicon Lane is every word nerd’s dream - check out these irresistibly interesting language and culture stories that popped up in recent world news!
April 14 2022

There’s absolutely no way of talking about the last month without mentioning the Oscars. Believe us, we’ve tried. So we’re just going to dive straight in. 

Just when we thought the glitziest award ceremony of the year was going to make headlines for all the right reasons, the whole night got flipped-turned upside down. One thing’s for sure, that ten-second interaction between Will Smith and Chris Rock will be dividing opinion for a loooong time. But, now everyone’s just about picked their jaws up off the floor, it’s clear that despite being crowned Best Actor, Will is going to have to work pretty hard to get back in Hollywood’s good books. All that being said, watching Colombian-based Encanto scoop Best Animated Feature and deaf family drama CODA take gold with Best Picture really hit the spot for us!

Elsewhere (because although it’s hard to believe, other stuff did actually happen), season 2 of everyone’s favourite regency romance dropped on Netflix - that’s right, Bridgerton is back! There’s famously less bodice ripping than season 1, but nevertheless, prep yourself for some serious eye contact. There simply aren’t enough fire emojis - again, we’ve tried.

And in particular, these language and culture-related stories caught our eye, too.

Anything for a laugh: the LOL origin story


It’s hard to remember a time before we had the crying with laughter emoji (officially known as ‘tears of joy’ 😂). Seriously, how on earth did our friends and family know just how hard we were giggling at their hilarious messages? Baffling. However (deep breaths, millennials and mums everywhere) it turns out Gen Z have deemed even that might have had its day 💀. 

But even with the rise and fall of emojis, the OG of laughing over text is stubbornly sticking around. Lol is a digital shorthand for ‘laughing out loud’ that’s been with us from the start - even before the internet itself - and has outlasted some of the most classic textspeak. Where gr8 and whatevs have come and gone, lol has definitely stood the test of time.

It was first used by Canadian Wayne Pearson in the 1980s during a work teleconference, and added to the Oxford English Dictionary in 1993. Four decades later, that little three-letter acronym has become a staple not only in our texting vernacular, but even in everyday speech. And, it’s morphed into meaning so much more than just ‘laugh out loud’. We use lol to quickly acknowledge something funny, break an awkward moment, and easy conversation endings. We’ve expanded it to lololol and looooool, and even made it into a verb: lolling

Lol has even gone globetrotting, and is a key part of most textspeak around the world, even in languages other than English. Although in Spain, texters also use jajaja, and in France it’s mdr, which stands for mort de rire and means dying of laughter. In Chinese, meanwhile, it’s the numeronym 233 - because that’s the shortcut for the laughing emoji on a popular online forum. 

BRB, off to start a petition to save our ‘tears of joy’.


Apple TV takes a punt on multilingual show Pachinko


Based on the bestselling novel by Min Jin Lee, this saga tells the story of a Korean woman named Sunja, and four generations of her family. Jumping across different countries and time periods, beginning with the Japanese occupation of Korea in the early 20th century, Pachinko raises topics of cultural identity through a stellar all-Asian cast.

But it doesn’t end there. The super interesting thing about Pachinko? It’s told in Korean, Japanese, and English, so the actors had to get the hang of speaking all three languages in very specific ways (meaning we can officially add them to our list of multilingual celebs!). Following in the footsteps of Squid Game, Lupin and Money Heist, which got mainstream viewers comfortable watching TV with subtitles or dubbing, Pachinko has gone one step further. And it’s going down a storm.

We’re loving all these moves towards streaming services picking up culturally diverse shows - roll on Squid Game season 2!


Word up! Lexicon Lane has landed and we can’t wait to visit


In 2020, an immersive language museum called Planet Word opened in Washington DC, dedicated to the importance of language and designed using interactive, voice-activated exhibits. Now, Planet Word has opened a brand new floor - and we think it sounds epic.

Named Lexicon Lane, this floor gives visitors the chance to solve a series of mysteries, riddles, and puzzles based on wordplay. It’s like an escape room crossed with a really great English lesson, and uses a mix of music, dance and space-themed games to get people really thinking about language. Gets us all tingly just thinking about it. 


Learning Spanish? Check out new streaming service ViX


Move over, Netflix, there’s a new niño on the block.

Last month, a Mexican media heavyweight merged with the biggest hispanic television service in the US to launch a brand new on-demand video service. ViX is especially for Spanish speakers, and the platform comes with a whopping 40,000 hours of video. It’s available for free on plenty of different devices, and you can catch original Spanish TV shows, movies and sports.


We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: immersion learning is one of the very best ways you can pick up a new language in double-quick time, and this new service could be an awesome way of doing just that. And if, while you’re watching, you need some help perfecting the pronunciation, just check out our blog.


Ready to dive into learning Spanish? We can help with that!


And that’s all for this edition of What’s the Word? Every month we round up some of the coolest things that are happening around the world and share them with you in the hope they’ll quench your language and general knowledge-seeking thirst just a little bit. Catch you next time!