Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Initial impressions

The following initialisms/acronyms should be familiar to most. I don't need to spell out the meaning of these. You astute readers know them all.


The list can be divided in two. The first three which are pure initialisms in which each letter is pronounced, [ejkejej, ɛffwajaj, ɛsowɛl] and the last two which are acronymic and pronounced as traditionally spelled words, [ejwɔl, ejsæp]. I know I've 4 of these in writing. I don't know that I've encountered SOL in print. I've only encountered it in spoken language. I'm not sure how to categorize DIY. I've only seen it in writing and usually as a book title or a section of a bookstore. And of course there's the channel...

The list is growing. The following list was gathered from a quick run through some recent email messages posted onto the ADS listserve.


Probably the most common of these is FWIW. I have never heard any of these pronounced. They are probably pure abbrevatory spellings that would always be read as the intended phrase. Some of them are pretty clear.

Which ones do you already know?

How many can you figure out?

Have you run across any others?

In the comments section Jaŋari mentions another class of initialisms that everyone has seen: that of abbreviated information without a typical conversational role. The most well known examples are lol rofl roflmmfao. These don't usually fit into the syntax of the speech surrounding them. They're little snippets of information that no one would ever say out loud -- they were created specifically for a medium of distanced communication. I think of them in some ways as cousins to the orthographic sound representations so common in cartoons that I mentioned here. While the onomatopoetic spellings are now divorced from the originally intended sound these initialisms are divorcing from their originally intended phrase or strict semantic content and may be closer to a representation of simple laughter like Haha. Is roflmmfao HAHAHAHAHA?

Update 2:
For those curious few who are still wondering about a couple of them:
SOL = Shit Outta Luck
IOW = In Other Words
WRT = With Regard/Respect To (I recently saw IRT)
IIRC = If I Recall Correctly
IMHO = In My Humble Opinion (Sometimes just IMO)
FWIW = For What It's Worth
OTOH = On The Other Hand



  1. I've never heard/seen SOL or IIRC and can't seem to figure them out. IOW FWIW and OTOH haven't come across me before, but they're easy enough, and the rest, well, every time I see them I cringe a little, because I find novel acronyms a bit bogus. When I see 'LOL' I can't help but think stop lolling [lóliŋ].

  2. IOW - in other words
    IMHO - in my humble opinion
    OTOH - on the other hand

    I've never heard/seen SOL before though, what does that one stand for?

    Are you going to post what the rest mean in a couple of days???

    I watched 24...it was good, but I'm still missing previous seasons becuase they were so much better!

  3. My favorite one is IIWKYABS, or "If I were king, you'd all be shot."

    I just wish it wasn't completely made up...

  4. I like George Carlin's response to TGIF - Thank God it's Friday. He proposed HSIOW - Holy Shit, it's only Wednseday!

  5. I have a conservative Christian coworker (Pathfinder Leader) who occasionally says SOL. I don't know if he knows what it stands for though. NSFW is another that is seen and not heard.

  6. Daniel: I know some very conservative people who will refer to remote areas as BFE.

    Jaŋari: I have certainly had occasion to say the HSIOW more often than TGIF.

    Denise: The answers are posted in an update at the end of the post.

    emmeksarcay: Do you know that YMMFSBC? (You Make Me Feel Stable By Comparison)


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