FFS! WTF has happened to acronyms?

Acronyms are extremely useful things aren’t they?

I mean if I had to actually say Planning, Preparation and Assessment time instead of PPA every time I said it, well then I’d probably spend most of my 10% PPA time saying Planning, Preparation and Assessment time rather than doing it.

In British education, in fact in any profession, acronyms are used a lot: SEN, P.E, R.E, D.T  ICT, LEA, OfStEd, (the ‘of’ part pronounced ‘off’ oddly enough)  APP, SATs, GCSE, CPD and don’t even get me started on what the education department call themselves anymore because they’ve gone from the DfEE (Department for Education and Employment) to DfES (Department for Education and Skills) to DCSF (Department for Children, Schools and Families) to DfE (Department for Education) and there have been many more off shoots of governmental departments dealing in education. This all in the space of about 13 years – so secure successive administrations have been in their focus and vision.

However I digress. There’s nothing worse than a professional person dropping acronyms all over the place in conversation wouldn’t you agree? There’s been many a time when my mum has sat talking in NHS acronyms (NHS being the National Health Service for my readers abroad) and I’ve had to sit and ask her to clarify what the heck she’s going on about.

Another example of the ambiguity of acronyms being a mild irritation came about when I was at university around 20 years ago. Now we all know S.W.A.K on the back of an envelope means Sealed With A Kiss, but what does S.A.G on the back of one mean? Well when I was at university this is exactly what my best friend (BF) use to write on the back when she would write letters to me. (Calling all you kids out there: writing letters is this thing us old thirty something pluses used to do before mobile phones and Facebook were invented. We actually sat down with a pen and paper and wrote conversations down. Then we would post them and sometimes have to wait a week, or even two, before we “spoke” to our best friend again. Can you imagine?! Of course you can’t. Anymore than I can imagine having to dial a switchboard operator before being put through to the person I wish to speak to. And yes – of course there were phones, but do you know how much it cost to call then on a university publicly used land-line or how quickly your phone card would run out of credit?) 

So we wrote letters and she wrote SAG on the back of mine. And of course I had to ask what it meant. (No, I didn’t ask her WTF? That’s just rude.) Apparently, it stands for Saint Anthony’s Guide. This originating off the back of the story about a miracle letter being received by a Spanish wife from her merchant sailor husband. It is believed St Anthony will guide your letters safely to their destination. So I learnt something new. Useless but new.

However, once more I digress. As I say acronyms are helpful and useful and save a lot of time both in speaking and writing provided you know what they stand for of course. So I have no gripe with them… generally.

But in recent years the acronym to me seems to have evolved. No longer to be used as a handy initialisation of a company or job title but instead to break down the need to say actual words or convey emotion.

It started I guess with personal lonely hearts advertisements. You know the ones where people describe themselves as having a GSOH (good sense of humour) who WLTM (would like to meet)  a solvent (??)  NS (Non-smoker). A need to be concise, whilst at the same time conveying a great deal of information, made the use of acronyms a necessity.

The explosion of texting and social media, in particular Twitter, it seems has a lot to answer for on this issue too. 140 characters necessitates brevity but this is not true on other social media platforms yet where the use of modern acronyms seems rife. I understand the need to say RT instead of re-tweet on Twitter or even to use BTW (by the way) or IMO (in my opinion). I understand the use of an emoticon to show how you’re feeling. What I don’t understand is some of the lingo which has evolved which, in my opinion, is just not accurate or necessary.

Acrimonious Acronyms

Allow me to explain my acrimonious relationship with some modern acronyms, and what are, in effect, my pet hates (in no special order).

1) WTF? (And FFS): When did we start actually saying What the Fuck and For Fuck’s sake anyway? Does using an acronym make it more acceptable to swear? I don’t know (I mean IDK). Perhaps it does. This is not by any means my biggest acronym peeve though. But I hope you can appreciate  that me writing the actual words seems vulgar. The acronym on the other hand makes my swearing more acceptable. Or does it? We’ve (and by this I mean the royal we) have started speaking in these acronyms too. You hear people actually say FFS or WTF rather than the words. It’s weird.

2) LOL: Now, years ago LOL stood for Lots of Love. But it seems to have evolved to mean Laugh(ing) Out Loud. Fine. Not a problem. Good written indication you find something someone said funny. If you like that sort of thing. However, and this is my bug bear. People writing it ALL. THE. TIME. Even when they are not actually laughing out loud, FFS! I mean, be honest: How often as an adult does actual ‘LOLing’ happen? If you are not ‘LOLing’ don’t write it as though you are. And then there are those people who write it at the end of a status update thus:  “Went to the shops; tripped up over my own feet. LOL!” Erm.. you really were not laughing out loud were you? Then, even worse than that is nowadays people have taken to actually saying LOL instead of actually laughing. Erm…what happened to the human ability to participate in the physical act of laughing out loud? Or why is there now a need to attach the phrase LOL on the end of a real laugh as though the listener could not understand that which you have just done? Was the raucous sound of a great big belly laugh, the throwing back of your head, the creasing of your crows feet around your eyes and the opening of your mouth not clue enough? (Perhaps I do have an order of vitriol after all.)

3) OMG: Oh OMG I forgot the exclamation mark! OMG! It so happens I was bought up to not say Oh My God as it was/is considered blasphemous. Now a non- believer, saying it would be even more strange because I don’t have a god. So to exclaim something to my God would be most queer. Oddly enough, the large majority of people who use this acronym don’t believe in God either. So I wish everyone would stop saying it and writing it. Also I can only ever hear a bubblegum teen American accent when anyone says or writes it which is just irritating to my brain. I admit I  often say Oh my goodness, or oh goodness or even oh my. However, I try my utmost not to say Oh my God, though it does slip in but saying  OMG as in saying the acronym? To my mind it’s just horrible. Please people stop it.

4) LMAO(Laughing my ass off): Now, you’re not are you? Be honest. Your ass is not falling off when you laugh. This is all I have to say on this one. LMFAO is even worse because a fat ass would be much harder to laugh off, both metaphorically and physically I’d imagine.

5) ROTFL. No again, you are not rolling on the floor laughing. You are typing. You are not rolling around on the floor like a puppy dog (just an image I get when I see this one) Get up and go back to just using LOL. At least it’s more believable you could be doing that rather than pretending to be an extra in an Andrex loo roll advert.

6) ROTFLMFAO:  FFS! You just combined the two and made the acronym longer than the words themselves or indeed the amount of time it would take you to complete the action of rolling on the floor laughing your fat ass off. If your ass is so fat I guess you’re going to be down there a long time. Certainly you’re not going to get to your device to type it.

7) And finally, my all time most hated modern acronym. PMSL. ‘Pissing’ is such a horrible word. It conjures up images of incontinent geriatrics who have really poor inadequate day care nurses who aren’t looking after them properly. In all fairness it is indeed possible to wet yourself when laughing, especially if you do suffer from incontinence, unlike laughing your ass off, which is not possible. However again when you are typing it, you’re not actually doing it are you? If you are, then I recommend getting off that computer pronto and changing your underwear, instead of continuing to engage in the oh so hilarious conversation you are evidently having.

Please do not misunderstand me. I am not at all against acronyms. In fact I do like most and see a need for them, even some of the new ones. They fascinate me in many ways. The trouble is it all seems to have just gone a bit too far and there are just some I cannot stand. (See above if you’ve skipped past the rant.) We have even reached a point where some now have multiple meanings. How long before we are all talking gobbledygook in a series of letters we just don’t understand?

Ah well: welcome to the English language people.

Thank you for reading my opinionated rant. Feel free to add yours to the comments box below. 🙂

A quick quiz 

How many of these popular acronyms do you know? (answers on an old fashioned postcard to a non-existent address) I knew very few of them until about 6 months ago!










IDST (This a trick one because what it used to be is seemingly no more what it is.)


Filed under First post, Writing

9 responses to “FFS! WTF has happened to acronyms?

  1. In all honesty, I did lol once or twice when reading this 🙂 An excellent and very, very funny post. As for the quiz … It perhaps speaks many unflattering volumes that I knew the fuller versions of each acronym presented (though in my defence I’ve only ever used two or three of them, either for unavoidable brevity or in a context of CLEARLY post-modern irony – while wearing my “Irony Man” pjs, of course 😉 ) IDST, though? You mention it has more than one definition, and the only one I’m aware of contains the words “demand” and “tonight” but you can’t mean that surely? OMG!

    Strangely, while I’m given to avoiding acronyms where possible, I have noticed expanded versions of certain acronyms (that is to say, said in full) creeping into my actual speech, such as “WT ACTUAL F?” and in moments of stress or frustration “FML!” (again, the unabridged version).

    Once again, a brilliant and amusing piece, JB (oooh, an acronym!) – I really enjoyed this. Thanks for posting, but try not to get too stressed about the acronyms taking over the world – after all, YOLO! 😉

    • Thanks RJ!
      Haha! Your acronym suggestion for IDST was hilarious. I mean if we are on the same page. 😀
      In my world it means “if destroyed still true” I now can’t remember what the new version is!
      Glad you had a laugh and hope your ass didn’t fall off in the process. I couldn’t cope with the responsibility.)

    • Oh and Yolo! !! I seriously have been wondering for months what that means and haven’t bothered to look it up. Having now done so I’m rather disappointed.

  2. This is brilliant, IMNSIO (in my not-so immodest opinion). I remain FWT (filled with trepidation) at the ongoing COBIA (creep of banal Internet acronyms) into business correspondence, students’ homework and the like. Oh well, IGTTWTWIS (I guess that’s the way the wind is shifting.)

    • TYVM! 🙂 Like I say acronyms have their place but when we start to shorten absolutely everything into an acronym then well, it’s all a bit ridiculous.
      Thanks for stopping by with your comment. Always appreciated. 🙂

  3. I love the title of this post! And I always thought LMFAO was Laughing My F-ing Ass Off. I have to admit, I’m guilty of using several of these, particularly those with an F. I like that I can get away with using one of my favorite words without getting called out for vulgarity.

    • Haha. Perhaps it does stand for the f word in the USA. I’d never thought. I should say I am by no means whiter than white when it comes to using curse words! I have to be good in my job! But yes the acronym use does seem to make it less vulgar and more acceptable! Thanks for reading and commenting. 🙂

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