The internet is a fascinating place. It brings people from all walks of life together and gives them an opportunity to connect and interact with one another.
It fosters communities, giving everyone the chance to feel like they belong.
However, an interesting side effect of the rise of diverse communities is the morphing and amalgamation of language.
This means that each community starts developing its own mode of communication, and some communities might even forego the written word in favor of pictograms or other methods of relaying messages.
How else can you explain the sudden rise of memes and GIFs?
And, this ability of communities to create languages can be seen clearly on Twitch, the online gaming platform.
Twitch has given us numerous words, including “Poggers,” “Pepega,” and “LULW,” the last of which is today’s word.
So, what is the meaning of “LULW”?
Simply put, “LULW” is the Twitch version of “LOL.” It is a way of expressing laughter and comes in handy during humorous situations. It is worth noting that “LULW” is a variation of “LuL,” the original way of “LOL-ing” on Twitch.
Wait, hold on a second. What exactly is Twitch?
Without getting into detail, Twitch is an online platform where gamers can play their favorite games while streaming their experience online.
Accordingly, fans can watch these streams and interact with the gamers live.
Now, two important aspects of Twitch are the chat function and emotes.
The chat function
The chat function enables streamers to interact with their fans live, and it also allows the viewers to interact with one another.
And, since each gamer tends to garner their own fanbase, one that regularly conglomerates and interacts online, the gamer and their fans create a small community, a microcosm if you will, that develops its own habits, customs, and language.
Emotes are pictograms that can send across an idea or an emotion, and people use them in the chat.
You can think of emotes as the Twitch version of emojis, assuming that you took the idea of emojis and shot the whole thing full of steroids.
You see, while there might be around 2000 sanctioned emojis, there are more than 30000 emotes in use on Twitch.
The reason for this explosion is that almost anyone can create their own emote on Twitch.
An emote can either be a real-life photograph or be a drawing of something or someone.
“LULW” is an emote.
What is the origin of “LULW”?
Before talking about the origins of “LULW,” we need to start with the original emote, “LUL.” After all, “LULW” is just one of several other variations.
The origins of “LUL”
It all started back in 2013, which, as we near the end of 2020, seems like a lifetime ago. “LuL” was a picture of TotalBiscuit, whose real name is John Bain. In the photograph, TotalBiscuit is laughing.
For your information, TotalBiscuit is a well-known figure within the gaming community.
His fame today can be traced to his game reviews as well as his passions for the games of Starcraft and World of Warcraft.
In fact, TotalBiscuit has been involved with the gaming community for a long time.
He even started a podcast called “World of Warcraft Radio,” where he talked about one of his favorite games for two hours every episode.
Anyway, at an event called “Anaheim,” hosted by MLG, which stands for “Major League Gaming,” the famous photograph of TotalBiscuit laughing was taken by the event photographer, whose name was Jonathan Tayag.
Tayag also went by the name “itsjustatank.”
After the event, TotalBiscuit started using the photograph on his Twitch stream as a sub emote.
He named the sub-emote “CynicalLaugh.”
However, Tayag wasn’t happy with this.
He asserted that TotalBiscuit used the image without his permission, and he asked Twitch to take down the image. This was in July 2014.
In response, TotalBiscuit clarified that Tayag never made any attempt to reach out to him about the photograph before going to Twitch directly and that he would have been more than happy to pay for the rights of the picture.
On his part, Tayag said that his issue wasn’t that the photograph was being used as an emote.
Instead, his issue was that it was a sub-only emote, one that was hidden behind a paywall.
Tayag wanted the picture to be global and free.
On a side note, a sub-only emote is an emote that is only available to the subscribers of a particular Twitch streamer.
It becomes a sort of badge of that little community and a way for fans to identify with their favorite streamers.
Regardless, Tayag was successful in removing “CynicalLaugh” as a sub-emote. But, the story only gets more interesting from here.
You see, TotalBiscuit’s photograph was added to Better Twitch TV, which can be shortened as BTTV.
BTTV is a browser add-on that you can use to enhance your experience on Twitch. It gives you access to new emotes.
However, if someone tries to use an emote from BTTV, while another twitch user doesn’t have BTTV, this other user, the one without BTTV, won’t be able to see the emote.
Instead, all they will see is the command used to conjure the emote.
So, when TotalBiscuit’s photograph went on BTTV, what was the name of the command used to bring up that emote in the chat?
You guessed it. “LUL.”
Over and above, seeing as BTTV is an add-on that everyone has access to, the emote went global, just as Tayag had wanted.
Moreover, BTTV had the original photograph, the one TotalBiscuit and Tayag had had a kerfuffle over.
And, it was thanks to BTTV that both the image and its command, “LuL,” gained massive popularity in the Twitchverse.
This is all good and well, but why use the name “LUL”?
“LUL” was supposed to be an altered version of “LOL,” which stands for “Laughing Out Loud.”
Interestingly, some people on the internet claim that “LUL” actually stands for “Lame Uncomfortable Laugh,” but this interpretation seems a bit like a stretch.
Another possible theory out there is that if you say “LOL” as an entire word rather than spelling out each letter, the result sounds significantly like “LUL.”
Interestingly, the term “LULZ” along with the expression “For the LULZ” has been around for a while.
In fact, they have been associated with hacker groups, especially the hacking group Anonymous, and they meant to do something just to enjoy the ensuing laughter or just because you can. This goes back to 2007.
So, did “LUL” remain a BTTV emote forever?
In 2016, TotalBiscuit released a stylized, cartoonish version of the emote and named it “CynicalLUL.”
It was a drawing of him laughing, and it looked remarkably similar to the BTTV version.
Yet, because it was a tad different, it managed to dodge any legal issues with Tayag.
And, in 2017, Twitch turned this stylized version into a global emote, something that every Twitch user had access to.
However, there was still one more hurdle to cross. You see, the global Twitch emote, the stylized cartoonish one, clashed with the BTTV emote, the original one.
They both used the same command, “LUL.” As a result, the fans were pissed off. They preferred the original emote to the new one.
So, eventually, Twitch capitulated and made the original TotalBiscuit photograph into a global emote, one whose command was “LuL.”
So, what about LULW?
Well, “LuL” gained so much in popularity that it started generating different variants, including “GIGALUL,” “ZULUL,” “OMEGALUL,” and “LULW.”
“LULW” stands for “LUL Wide.” It is an emote that takes the original “LuL” photograph, zooms in a bit, and tilts it a bit. It was created sometime in 2016 by Twitch.tv viewer and FrankerFaceZ user lan678.
The emote was then included in the collection of emotes on FrankerFaceZ.
FrankerFaceZ is another browser add-on that is not too different from BTTV.
It improves a viewer’s experience on Twitch and gives them access to a much wider array of emotes than the gaming platform itself provides.
After it was created, it didn’t take long for “LULW” to gain massive popularity with Twitch users.
In fact, the website StreamElements claims that by the end of 2019, “LULW” occupied the number five spot on the 100 most used emotes list.
This should come as no surprise when you consider that more than 32,700 Twitch channels have enabled the emote.
In fact, “LULW” has become so popular that it has managed to make its way out of the streaming platform and into other social media websites.
Today, people on Twitter and Discord use the word “LULW” itself as a way of expressing laughter.
There is even a variation on “LULW” called “LOLW.” The variation is an amalgamation of the “LULW” image with the Face With Tears Of Joy emote.
This new variant made its way to FrankerFaceZ in the middle of 2019, and in 60 days, there were more than 400 streamers who had enabled it on their channels.
Hey fellow Linguaholics! It’s me, Marcel. I am the proud owner of linguaholic.com. Languages have always been my passion and I have studied Linguistics, Computational Linguistics and Sinology at the University of Zurich. It is my utmost pleasure to share with all of you guys what I know about languages and linguistics in general.