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On Facebook, you see 笑 getting used a decent amount to mean "lol". To my American eyes, using something that literally means "smile" - and even looks semi-subconsciously kind of like an advanced emoticon of somebody winking their eye - comes across as being more feminine than the clearly gender-neutral "lol". But that may not be the common consensus, and it is apparently the only real equivalent to "lol" in Japanese.

Are guys generally supposed to use this? Are there any restrictions like that on this character?

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    I am not too comfortable with the common (mis)belief that (笑) = lol because we had long been using (笑) in the printed media before English-speakers started using "lol" on the internet. – l'électeur Sep 20 '14 at 12:10
  • 'something that literally means "smile"' I'd say that the more common/default meaning of 笑う is laugh. – dainichi Sep 20 '14 at 12:25
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I think there are a few things in the same ballpark as 笑 worth discussing:

  • (笑), which strikes me more as "Heh." than "lol";
  • , which feels like "haha" or "lol";
  • , which IMO doesn't really have a parallel in written English, but is the equivalent of smiling or slightly giggling while you say the sentence outloud; and
  • ww[…], which feels like "hahaha[…]".

They all feel quite gender-neutral to me. Of course you don't seem as serious if you're laughing (with (笑) seeming the most serious of them all to me), but I don't really think that makes any of them feminine.

(This is honestly just my own impression of them, which could be wrong.)

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