Kate Hart spells ’em out, from LMAO to SWHW$#%&@.

LOL. It’s handy shorthand for laughter, or the harbinger of an intellectual apocalypse, depending on who you ask. Its part of speech is also debated: spelled out, it’s an initialism, but if you pronounce it as a word, it’s an acronym.

“But I don’t use it at all!” you might say. “I am too smart to use an asinine word like LOL!” Maybe you are, but you might be surprised by how many acronyms and intialisms you do use on a daily basis—and by their origins.

Some are fairly straightforward. For example:

BRB: Be right back
FWIW: For what it’s worth
HTH: Hope that helps
IDK/IDEK: I don’t know/I don’t even know
IIRC: If I recall correctly
IMO/IMHO/JMHO: In my opinion/In my humble opinion/Just my humble opinion
KWYM/KWIM: Know what you mean/know what I mean
OTOH: On the other hand
TMI: Too much information
TIA: Thanks in advance
TTYL: Talk to you later
WTG: Way to go

But there are other terms that make no sense, even once you correlate letters to words. Here’s some help:

Photo credit

GPOY: Gratuitous picture of yourself – “I’m posting a picture of myself and feigning modesty,” or, “This image hilariously represents my current state of being.”
TL;DR: Too long; didn’t read – “I have a short attention span,” or, “You are long-winded.” (see also: STFU.)
A/S/L: Age/sex/location – “This is AOL circa 1995, right?”
IRL: in real life – That pesky time one has to spend away from the computer.
PM: Private message – Many forums and social networks have an email-type function that lets you exchange personal information, or talk trash about other members behind their backs.
QFT: Quoted for truth – “What you said is important and I don’t want it to get lost in the ensuing conversation.”


NSFW: Not safe for work – probably porn. Be careful what you click.
FIFY: Fixed it for you – “Here, I changed your words into something sarcastic.”
IANAL: I am not a lawyer – “And I didn’t read this acronym out loud before using it.”

Beyond LOL, “Ha ha” seems an obvious choice, but your giggles run the risk of Nelson Muntz-style interpretation. That’s why you might also see:

LMAO: Laughing my ass off
ROFL: Rolling on the floor laughing
ROFLMAO: Rolling on the floor laughing my ass off

Unfortunately, laughter on the internet is often at someone else’s expense. Save some face by knowing the following profanity in advance:

Photo by Hey Rocker

BAMF: Badass mother fucker
FML: Fuck my life
GTFO: Get the fuck out
OMG/OMFG: Oh my (fucking) god
PITA: Pain in the ass
STFU: Shut the fuck up
WTF: What the fuck

Some of the best profanity originally came from the military.

PDQ: Pretty damn quick
FUBAR: Fucked/fouled up beyond all recognition/any repair/all reason
SNAFU: Situation normal, all fucked/fouled up

But the military gave us some less colorful terms that migrated both into general use and to the internet.

AWOL: Away without leave
HUMMER/HUMVEE: Highly mobile multipurpose wheeled vehicle
KISS: Keep it simple, stupid
MIA: Missing in action
LASER: Light amplification by simulated emission of radiation
RADAR: Radio detection and ranging
SCUBA: Self-contained underwater breathing apparatus

The medical profession also coined quite a few migratory terms, thanks to their need for speed in note taking.

BRAT diet: Cure for upset stomach – bananas, rice, applesauce, and toast 


DNR: Do not resuscitate 


RICE: Cure for a sprained ankle – rest, ice, compression, and elevation


SBI: Something bad inside


Of course, the stress of being a doctor can make one cynical, which leads to gems like:

Photo by Trochim

AHF: Acute hissy fit


ATFO: Asked to fuck off


CBT: Chronic biscuit toxicity – the patient is greatly overweight
CTD: Circling the drain – death is imminent

CYA: Cover your ass – an unnecessary procedure/prescription done to avoid lawsuits


DPS: Dumb parent syndrome

Terms also move in reverse, from the internet to IRL. Gamers are responsible for a lot of them.

DPS: Damage per second
OOP: Out of power
RPG: Role playing game
RTFM: Read the fucking manual
WPA: Well played all

Other specialized terms have remained safely in the tubes. Parenting communities have a ton:

AF: Aunt Flo, aka menstruation, aka the second dumbest abbreviation on the internet ever
BCP: Birth control pills
BD: Baby dancing, aka sex, aka the first dumbest abbreviation on the internet ever
BFP/BFN: Big fat positive/negative (on a HPT)


DTD: Do the deed 


EDD: Estimated due date (of a pregnancy)


HPT: Home pregnancy test
NAK: Nursing at keyboard


OTL: Open to life, aka not TTC, aka the third stupidest acronym on the internet
SAHM/SAHD: Stay at home mom/dad
TTC: Trying to conceive


Crafters have some of the best terms ever.

Photo by quinn.anya

DIY: Do it yourself
FART: Fabric acquisition road trip
KIP: Knitting in public
SNB: Stitch ‘n’ bitch
OOAK: One of a kind
SWHW$#%&@: Something went horribly wrong
WOMBAT: Waste of money, brains, and time

Even writers, the people most likely to rail against the besmirching of the English language, have developed their own system.

ARC: Advanced reader copy
BIC: Butt in chair — a writing method in which one keeps one’s butt in one’s chair, rather than wandering off to do other things, as writers are prone to… wait, there’s something shiny over there…
HEA: Happily ever after
NaNoWriMo: National Novel Writing Month
R&R: Revise and resubmit – agents and editors will ask to see a new draft after suggested revisions.
SASE: Self-addressed stamped envelope
SNI: Shiny new idea
WIP: Work in progress

A few writing terms came out of fanfiction communities.

AU: Alternate universe
BNF: Big name fan
OOC: Out of character
PWP: Pornography without plot, or “plot? What plot?”

Surfers, bikers, climbers, and other outdoorsy-types are known for their slang, much of which has made its way online.

BFR: Big fucking rock
CBS: Cold butt syndrome
GORP: Good old raisins and peanuts or granola, oats, raisins, and peanuts
MUDS: Mindless ups and downs, as in a hiking trail
MYOG: Make your own gear

And mainstream sports have contributed more than just their organizational initialisms.

DNF: Did not finish
DQ: Disqualified
FTW: For the win

Photo by Zawezome

Even the church-going types get in on the fun.

KJV: King James Version
LDS: Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints
MK: Missionary Kid
NASB: New American Standard Bible
NIV: New International Version
VBS: Vacation Bible School
WWJD: What Would Jesus Do?

What would Jesus do indeed? Well, if he got confused, he would remember that CONTEXT IS KEY. For example, depending on the site, MS can be multiple sclerosis, manuscript, or morning sickness. If you’re on Facebook, BF could be best friend or boyfriend, but if you’re on a parenting board, it might mean breastfeeding. STD is usually sexually transmitted disease, but on a wedding planning forum, it’s “save the date card.” At least we hope it is.

Run across a term you don’t know? A simple Google search can help; Urban Dictionary can also be, um, enlightening. Most forums offer a “dictionary” of lingo that will include slang and inside jokes that have developed on their site. When in doubt, check out one of the resources listed below, but keep in mind: YMMV (your mileage may vary).

R&R (References and Resources)

Not Another Nerd: Acronyms You Encounter More or Less Everyday
More Intelligent Life: OMG, ETC
Married to the Army: Army Acronyms and Abbreviations
Ainself: The Language of Fandom
Cracked: 8 Medical Terms Your Doctor Uses to Insult You
Messy Beast: Medical Acronyms
Absolute Write: The Absolute Write Dictionary
Squidoo: Glossary of Online Gaming Acronyms, Abbreviations and Slang
Slackpacker: The Slackpacker’s Lexicon

Internet Slang Dictionary and Translator
Netlingo: The List of Chat Acronyms & Text Message Shorthand
Acronym Finder
theDOMINICshow: Acronyms [VID]
Internet Slang
I’ll Find My Way: 25 Acronyms You Never Stopped to Figure Out
1260 Hours: Holy Acronyms!
Acronym Guide
The Travel Industry Dictionary