Although most internet slang has remained the same since the 90’s and early 00’s, more and more of these confusing sayings have emerged within the last few years or so, making it hard for some people to decipher acronyms like BTW or NSFW.
Internet slang used by teenagers and 20-somethings recently came into the public eye after CNN released its ’28 acronyms every parent should know’ article. While the article is a little sensational, warning parents against common acronyms used for sexting – most of them are pretty ridiculous and not actually being used often – we thought we’d take a look at some of the funnier acronyms and slang words being used today.
CNN’s list seems a little absurd, but it’s true that there is a whole dictionary of slang behind internet walls that are harder to understand and might need some decoding. These terms are thought to be so far out of the older generation’s league that even the FBI keeps an 83-page glossary of these acronyms and “text speak”.
This one’s for all the noobs (or newbies) out there – here are some common ones you might like to learn. This internet talk can usually be found on internet forums and across social media platforms like Twitter, where there is a text length limit. Let’s check them out:
Bae is one of the most popular internet slang words today. It is used as a term of endearment for someone’s boyfriend, girlfriend or close friend. Later on, bae also became a word synonymous with cool or good. For example, “this salad bae”. Its origin is said to be from the dropping the letter b from the word “babe”, just as with crazy becoming “cray”.
TBH, it took me some time before I figured this one out. TBH stands for “to be honest”. At least this one is encouraging people to be honest…
NSFW means “not safe for work”. It tags content that is too violent or sexually explicit to be viewed on your office desktop. NSFW also may signal to teens that particular content isn’t worth playing or viewing in front of your parents.
YOLO isn’t just internet slang; it has now become a way of life or a mantra among the younger generation. YOLO or “you only live once” can be misinterpreted by many in the physical world as an excuse to do outrageous things like taking selfies at the top of a high building without a harness *facepalm*. YOLO has also become the subject of many merchandise schemes like caps and shirts.
ROFL is used to express laughter. Think of it as a level up from LOL. “Rolling on the floor laughing” is an older internet acronym, having been around since the early 00’s. Both ROFL and LOL aren’t so popular anymore, as these emotions are being replaced by emoji.
I was a noob once (and always will be), so when I found TBT on my timeline I had no idea what it meant. For two consecutive weeks I still couldn’t figure out what this (insert a NSFW word here) acronym meant! Until I finally found it it meant “throwback Thursday”. Throwback Thursday is when people dig up their past cringe-inducing photos and share them to the world every Thursday. Many use this acronym to tell the world that they were young, skinny or happy once and hashtag it #TBT.
This one is one remnant of old IRC’s. BRB or “be right back” is still used casually today. Use it to tell somebody you have to leave for a few seconds, or minutes, or days but you will be back.
IDK stands for “I don’t know”. In context internet people may use it like this, “TBH, IDK why it is NSFW. I’m ROFL now. Don’t they know how to YOLO?” Okay, I might have overdone it there, but you get the point.
BFF or “best friends forever” is a slang term used to describe best friends and state that there’s nothing that can stop their friendship.
BTW means “by the way”. So when you see this in your internet conversation, it means you’ll be hearing something different or out of your current topic. It’s used in texting as well but I don’t recommend using it in your daily conversations since saying B-T-W is more of a mouthful than saying “by the way”.
FML is NSFW. It is often said after something bad or embarrassing has happen. It is used to express this feeling in a non-serious way on the internet. You can find FML on 9gag, reddit, Facebook and just about anywhere else. FML stands for “F*ck my life”.
To use it, one might say “I just dropped my ice cream cone, I didn’t even get the change to taste it. FML!”
SO isn’t the word “so”, rather, it stands for “significant other”. Internet people use it to refer to their boyfriends and girlfriends. This shortened version of those words makes it easy to type and makes it shorter for use in memes. And TBH, I’d prefer that people use SO than bae.
Most websites on the web will have an FAQ section. Wait; don’t read it as it looks! FAQ stands for “frequently asked questions”. This page on a website will include all frequently asked questions as well as answers so customers can go there and get the information they need quickly, without having to contact the website.
For example, you don’t need to email Apple customer service asking how to turn on your phone, they have an FAQ section where you can follow detailed instructions.
I used to think FTW was just the reverse of the famous WTF. I was guilty of judging people on my timeline for cussing about very little things. A friend of mine posted “Let’s support Taylor Swift, FTW!” and I read, “Let’s support Taylor Swift, f*ck the what!”
FTW is harmless and actually means “for the win”.
Ship in the internet world doesn’t mean an ocean vessel. In the world of internet slang, it is used by fandoms to express their approval or loyalty to certain celebrity couples or fictional character couples.
For example, “I ship Harry Styles and Niall Horan. Narry FTW!” Not that I actually ship that…
IMO and IMHO are in the same league as TBH. IMO stands for “in my opinion” and IMHO stands for “in my humble opinion”. Another derivative, IMNSHO stands for “in my not so humble opinion”. You’ll stir up trouble if you use the latter.
OP stands for “original poster”. It is usually present on sites or forums where content is posted anonymously and users also appear as anonymous. OPs can be hard to find, especially for first-time site visitors who will get quickly get lost in the sea of anons.
When you’re given this treatment, leave the conversation or be prepared to give your IMNSHO. STFU stands for “shut the f*uck up”.
WTH stands for “what the hell”, another NSFW. It is used by netizens to express an intense feeling of disbelief. You get the point.
Swag is used even in daily conversations among teens now. It is a style of clothing or presence. Swag was once a normal English word but has become a teen word after being used in popular hip hop songs.
Still don’t understand swag?
Here’s an example:
“Justin Bieber has swag. Joseph Gordon-Levitt has class.”
SMH is of course Sydney Morning Herald’s proud acronym, but the internet is now using it a little differently. It means “shaking my head” for use in contexts where a user wants to show disapproval or disbelief. Here’s the best example:
“Many prefer Bieber’s swag to Gordon-Levitt’s class or Tom Hiddleston’s eloquence… SMH.”
Noob means newbies. A noob is you, me and everybody who isn’t as adept in internet slang as they would like to be.
Learned a lot? These slangs are conisdered common and normal by jargon-adept netizens. We’ll update you when more inevitable slang terms come across out monitors. See you in our next vocabulary class!