*Side Eyes* What’s this Twitter Speak?

If you’re on twitter you have no doubt seen some pretty strange and colourful “language” being used by some tweeps. Staying on the cusp of what’s cool and what could land you in SMH territory can put strain on the brain, so I’ve tried to demystify and give some clarity on what each one of them means, starting with the aforementioned.

SMH – Shakes My Head

  • – Literally shaking of the head from side to side in disbelief or disagreement
  • – E.g. @KeenyKeenz – I’ve been in traffic on the M1 South for an hour only to realize there’s a roadblock on the highway. SMH

LOL – Laugh out Loud

  • – One literally laughs out loud (this hardly actually happens and you can no doubt guess that the user has hardly even smirked)
  • – Another newer iteration of the term being “Lolmentations” – commonly confused with the book of Lamentations from the Bible, which it has no reference to whatsoever.
  • – E.g.“ Just saw a NonhleThema trip and fall flat on her face… LOL!”

ROFL – Rolling On the Floor Laughing

  • – Something so funny you literally wrap your hands around your torso and roll around on the floor, legs pulled up as if in the fetal position, as you laugh…rolling. (You would probably have last seen this behaviour from children)
  • – Iterations of ROFL are LMAO (Laugh My Ass Off) and LMFAO (Laughing My F*cking Ass Off) – Both which are not literal laughing till the muscle and fat on the rear of the waist fall off.
  • – E.g. “Card at walmart said “do you know why old men wear their pants so high?” *opens the card* “You will soon” #ROFL”


  • – A laughing sound made with your tongue on the roof of your mouth blowing air through your mouth, a uniquely South African expression (think Muttley from Wacky Races)
  • – E.g. “RT @JB_XM_Swana: I feel so lost! Twitter on the web! Tltlt! So desperate of me! Sies!”

*dies* / *death*

  • – The expression generally implies that one finds something so funny / so amusing it kills you. A familiar expression is “I nearly died laughing”. Cutting out all the unecessaries on Twitter it is just used as per below
  • – E.g. “*dies* RT @LilTuck317: Damn yo breathe stink bro…my Baby’s breathe smells better than that and she drink similac all day!”


  • – A text iteration of an actual facial expression. One eye is opened larger than the other. One can imaging a raised eyebrow on one eye and the other eye slightly clinched in a look of skepticism or doubt. This can be performed with either the capital O or the zero “0”. Also understood as “whaaaaaat?!”
  • – E.g. “@pretti_poca My ex unfollowed me 0_o”


  • – A digital interpretation of ducking and or hiding. In this incarnation the user usually makes use of this term when he / she has said something that will elicit a negative response from the user he / she has directed it at. More commonly understood in real life when one throws an object (e.g snowball) at another person and then ducks so as not to be seen or hit
  • – E.g. “Blackberry is lame *ducks* RT @thatyoungblood if one more person tells me blackberry is lame I’m going to kill”

Kwa Kwa Kwa / Kwaaaaa

  • – Commonly confused with a mating call from a bird, but couldn’t be further from the truth. Kwaaa / Kwa kwa kwa is closely related to “LOL” and “ROFL” but more culturally relevant. Kwa Kwa Kwa or Kwaaaa has recently come under fire because it is not an accepted way for white race groups to express laughing. (where LOL / ROFL is more relevant for white minority groups )
  • – E.g. “Kwaaaaa RT @leratomolele: Hahahaha….RT @Sentletse: That awkward moment when Blackberry users want to download iOS 5.”

*side eyes*

  • – With eyes slightly shut one glances from one side to another. This can be commonly understood as a stare with some form of intent, sometimes negative or otherwise with a thought. E.g. giving the hot girl at gym side eyes as she walks past
  • – A recent “social media influencer” has given insight “While it denotes much the same thing as (-_-) the less subtle *side eye* is a direct interpretation of a judgmental stare.”
  • – E.g. “*side eye* RT @jtbeale: @KeenyKeenz so much of insight *pats on head* “


  • – A beautiful use of the keyboard if I may say so myself. The expression of eyes like slits and a flat mouth is one of pessimism, annoyance or dissatisfaction to a certain topic.
  • – E.g. “and the brakes are fixed on da truck…it only cost 300 -__- and dats wit a discount smh” / I just want my voice back -__- being sick stinks!”

*claps once*

  • – One of the newest in the Twitterverse is the action of actually clapping once. One can imagine laughing so hard you unknowingly clap once. This can commonly be assimilated to a “knee slapper”.
  • – RT @Theri_dahlin: Rotflmao! but Estie’s one of the funniest haters EVER! #comedineSA she hates EVERYTHING. Whooo shem *claps once*

*hands on head*

  • – Struggling to visualize? The kid from Home Alone used to do this all the time. An expression of complete and utter surprise to the point of near shock. Taking each hand and placing them on either side of ones head, with your mouth hanging open.
  • – Is often also represented by |0_0|
  • – E.g. “Yoh! *Hands on head* RT @SassyChick I’m done with seeing you @VeliM69, you cheated, you’re a scrub”


  • – Lowering ones face into ones hand, usually partially concealing part of the face.
  • – The gesture is a physical interpretation of the emotion of embarrassment, shame or woe on behalf of another party, or to ones self
  • – E.g. “@gniddo Waiting for a course to start that apparently doesnt exist… #facepalm”

I do hope this recent enlightenment on Twitter “speak” has widened your horizons (vocabulary) and will stand you in good stead when you next engage on Twitter.