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I was reading a blog and I'd read:

I am involved with way too many languages and I am a mess lmao. I guess I can speak English and Cantonese (?)

I know what lmao means, but what means in this case with mess lmao?

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    Please note, questions that can be answered using a dictionary or quick online search are considered off topic on ELL. A quick online search yields en.wiktionary.org/wiki/LMAO – Em. Aug 18 '16 at 7:56
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    I edited it, I think It's valid now. – Mattew Aug 18 '16 at 8:08
  • Can you provide a link to the blog post for reference? – laugh Aug 18 '16 at 15:55
  • My friend wrote it to me in private. It wasn't an article etc. – Mattew Aug 18 '16 at 15:58
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Although lmao is used as LMAO, which stands for laughing my ass off, it is often used as a general substitute for "ha ha ha". And, "ha ha ha" is not always a genuine, hearty laugh.

As for your example, it should probably be written or read with a comma:

I am involved with way too many languages and I am a mess, lmao.

In casual, informal speech, "I am a mess" often means "my life is a mess". Specifically, this means the speaker's life is in overall disarray, but it can also be an exaggeration. So, I took the sentence to mean

  1. I am involved in too many languages.
  2. My life is in overall disarray.

Reading it this way, the two ideas are disconnected. But it is not uncommon for people to speak this way. It still makes sense.

However, in order to make the ideas connect, we could try to fill in some missing details:

I am involved with way too many languages and I am a mess because of it, lmao.

In either case, I believe the statement is supposed to be a self-deprecating joke, and lmao is being used as a substitute for "ha ha ha", not LMAO.

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This means the person is laughing so hard because they consider themselves to be a "mess."

I can see where this might be tricky for a learner, because the word mess, as defined by a standard dictionary, relates to clutter and untidiness. If a person was a mess, you might imagine them with rumpled clothes and unkempt hair.

However, the word can also refer to a state of mind. In this context, I'd assume it means this person might have occasional trouble mixing up words from different languages, to the point where they find the jumble of mixed words going through their brain rather amusing.

  • I disagree with your first sentence. I don't think they are laughing so hard they are a mess. I think they are saying "I am a mess! LMAO"; this is the true intent. They are laughing about themselves being a mess. Perhaps you meant because instead of that. – UnhandledExcepSean Aug 18 '16 at 18:15
  • @Ghost - Your wording is indeed better than my original. Edited for clarity. – J.R. Aug 18 '16 at 18:48
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In the comments for your question, you say that you've looked up the meaning of lmao and don't understand how it fits into to that sentence.

It's simple: unlike many abbreviations (like btw or imho), lmao isn't supposed to stand for words that fit into the sentence literally. On the internet, abbreviations which stand for actions (like smh, which means ”shaking my head," or the classic lol, which of course means "laughing out loud") are used to quickly communicate the writer's emotional tone. In this way, they are far more like interjections than ordinary parts of speech.

So the writer of the blog post doesn't mean "laugh my ass off" to literally be part of the sentence. He's just showing that he has good humor about the fact that he's a mess. A comparable sentence might be written: I am a mess, ha ha ha.

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I think what some of the answers here are missing is that 'lol' (and to a lesser extent 'lmao') has undergone a very interesting shift in meaning over the last few years.

'lol' used to mean 'laugh out loud' and it's still used that way sometimes (like when you send someone a funny video and they reply 'lol') but it now has a second meaning as a discourse marker like 'well' or 'so'. So when someone writes "I am a mess lmao' they don't mean 'hahaha'. (To me, 'I am a mess hahaha' would have a very different meaning.)

This article has more information about the evolution of 'lol' and links to John McWhorter's excellent TED talk on the phenomenon.

tl;dr: in this context, 'lmao' is a discourse marker. It doesn't indicate laughter.

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