For the March 2011 release of OED Online, we have selected for publication a number of noteworthy initialisms—abbreviations consisting of the initial letters of a name or expression. Some of these—such as OMG [OMG int. (and n.) and adj.]: ‘Oh my God’ (or sometimes ‘gosh’, ‘goodness’, etc.) and LOL [LOL int. and n./2]: ‘laughing out loud’—are strongly associated with the language of electronic communications (email, texting, social networks, blogs, and so on). They join other entries of this sort: IMHO (‘in my humble opinion’) [IMHO at I n./1], TMI (‘too much information’) [TMI at T n.], and BFF (‘best friends forever’) [BFF at B n.], among others.[ … ]
The new sense added to heart v. in this update may be the first English usage to develop via the medium of T-shirts and bumper-stickers. It originated as a humorous reference to logos featuring a picture of a heart as a symbol for the verb love, like that of the famous ‘I ♥ NY’ tourism campaign. Our earliest quote for this use, from 1984, uses the verb in ‘I heart my dog’s head’, a jokey play on bumper stickers featuring a heart and a picture of the face of a particular breed of dog (expressing a person’s enthusiasm for, say, shih-tzus) which itself became a popular bumper sticker. From these beginnings, heart v. has gone on to live an existence in more traditional genres of literature as a colloquial synonym for ‘to love’.
Whether you consider this a further debasement of the language or a much appreciated academic acceptance of changing conventions is a matter of personal choice, of course. In my heart of heart, I lean toward the first conclusion but then I keep reminding myself that I pledged long ago not to be one of those old men who bitched about the way it used to be and refuse to be irate or contrarian.
I will say that the Twitter-ization of communication does strike me as evidence of the increasing disintegration of levels of meaning, nuance and depth in human interaction and a condescension to a culture which prizes only the immediate and ignores, if not denies, history. The shining lights of the generation about to take over the world, for all their extraordinary accomplishments in many areas, appear to these tired old eyes to manifest brilliance without intellect.
And that is no LOL matter.