LOL? Don't you mean LMAO? Maybe you want to go all the way up to ROTFL, if the situation warrants it. As early as 2012, app developers began releasing software to help befuddled parents keep up with the evolving shorthand that their children were using to speak in encrypted code. That's because concerned parents who were diligent—or perhaps overbearing—tried to monitor their children's texting and online messaging habits only to discover that they had no idea what their kids were saying.
The first text message was sent in 1992 when a man named Neil Papworth sent the words "Merry Christmas" from his PC to the mobile phone of a colleague named Richard Jarvis. Today, 560 billion SMS messages are sent every month, or nearly 19 billion a day—and that's not including the countless apps and social platforms that enable direct P2P messaging. Many of the words and phrases in those texts are written in abbreviated shorthand, and linguists and educators have long debated whether the proliferation of texting acronyms is an evolution of language or a corruption of it. Are modern texters just lazy, or are they a new kind of bilingual, where they can seamlessly dip into and out of formal English whenever compelled by convenience or situational necessity? Either way, necessity certainly had something to do with the rise of texting shorthand.
In the pre-smartphone era, texting was carried out within the confines of the standard alphanumeric telephone keypad. The number “2,” for example, represents the letters A, B, and C. To type just the letter C, the sender had to press the 2 key three times. It was called multi-tap or T9 texting, and it was frustrating, laborious, and time-consuming. The fewer characters you had to type, the better. Early shorthand evolved to satisfy the need for brevity, but soon, texting abbreviations became an integral part of online culture that gave young people a way to communicate in secret right under the noses of inquisitive parents and teachers. Even if a message were intercepted, it would likely not be understood.
Today, there are literally thousands of widely used text abbreviations that people of all ages use all the time, whether necessity demands it or not. Find out how well you know the most common texting acronyms with this quiz.
Pronounced the same as the familiar "ASAP," ALAP is appropriate for anyone looking to extend the duration of an event. A friend might use it when asked what time they wanted to be picked up from a party she's enjoying.
Use this acronym before you offer someone a casual warning about a potential pitfall. For example: "I just got here. AWTTW, you can't get in if you're wearing a hat."
BRB is most commonly used to inform someone not to expect an immediate response, e.g.: "BRB, I'm making a salad." According to Urban Dictionary, however, some people incorrectly use the acronym to leave a conversation.
Someone might use BTD clandestinely to register a lack of enthusiasm about an event to someone who is also suffering through it via text. In other cases, they might use it to inform someone who is lucky enough to be elsewhere just how uneventful the situation is.
BTDT is a self-aggrandizing way to let someone know the thing they're experiencing for the first time is old hat. Example: "Just rode the new coaster at Six Flags!"
Just as with face-to-face speak, the acronym CUL ends a conversation with an understanding that it will continue when both parties meet in the near future. Be aware of context, though. CUL is often used as a synonym for sex, according to Urban Dictionary.
Looking to show a lack of interest in pending news in the most apathetic way possible? DKDC will get you there. Example:
"Did you hear who Sherry is dating?"
This acronym is most effective when used in conjunction with a photo or video. Someone could text a friend "DYJHIW" immediately followed by a picture of coffee spilled all over pancakes.
Use F2T to update a text buddy about a change in availability status. You might have told someone earlier in the day that it wasn't a good time because you were feeding a Dungeness crab to your pet octopus, but now you're F2T.
GMAB lets someone express exasperation and disbelief with just four characters. Example: "Sorry, but I have to bail on you tonight."
"I have to catch up on my knitting."
GTK could be literal or sarcastic depending on the usefulness of the information the acronym conveys. For example, someone could respond with "GTK" if a friend texts the gate code to his apartment building just before they arrive.
KIT could be a request to be kept apprised of a fluid situation. For example, a parent responds with "KIT" when her teenage son says he's not sure if he and his friends are going to the pool hall or the bowling alley. It could also be a request to continue a relationship over the long term, e.g.: "So nice meeting you this semester, good luck at your transfer school—KIT!"
Just as with the first incarnation of KIT, KMP is a request for updates on an evolving situation. For example: "Still not sure if there's a spot open in the fantasy league. Talking to the commissioner today."
Probably the most famous abbreviation in all of text speak, LOL was commonly used to shorten "lots of love" or "lots of luck" in letter writing before the digital age. The first documented online use of LOL as an expression of vocal laughter can be traced to the FidoNews newsletter in 1989. In 2011, the abbreviation was admitted into the Oxford English Dictionary.
Few abbreviations are more reassuring to someone who might have just revealed a bit too much information about a sensitive subject. Example:
"You CAN'T say anything about what I told you about Brenda."
Urban Dictionary reminds texters that "nagi" in lowercase letters can refer to someone who is exceptionally creative. In all caps, however, it serves as a warning from the sender for the recipient to avoid certain actions. NAGI could also be used to inform the recipient about the sender's own regrettable action. For example, "I just filled my car with diesel because that's all they had—NAGI!"
When an emphatic no simply isn't enough, OMDB adds an extra flare of drama in expressing opposition to an idea. As an added bonus, the sender of OMDB warns the recipient that he or she will go to extraordinary lengths to prevent the undesired action from happening.
According to Urban Dictionary, OTOH is among the least common of the major texting acronyms. Use it to introduce a point that contrasts against one just stated, such as "I can't go out, I have my kid tonight. OTOH, my sister said she could babysit."
RBAY could be used to return either a compliment or a cutting remark. Either way, it's used as a counterpunch to the sender's original statement.
SFTW is fairly self-explanatory. Someone could use it to apologize for a delayed response to an unanswered text, or to explain a failure to be punctual in real life.
Use SWDYT to follow up on a previous inquiry into a person's opinion on something that concerns both parties. If, for example, two people have decided to go to the movies at 7 p.m. when three different movies are playing, SWDYT could request clarification as to which movie the pair has decided to see.
A closing salutation that implies the promise of continued future discourse, TTYL is one of the most common abbreviations in all of text-speak. Despite its literal meaning, people can use TTYL as a synonym for goodbye even if they don't plan on talking to the recipient again any time soon.
WDYM is a request for supplementary information. Example:
"Don't forget your clocks."
"It's daylight saving time; turn your clocks back."
Just as the full statement does in real life, texters use WITW to express a heightened degree of surprise, shock, regret or confusion, e.g.: "WITW was I thinking when I put on this outfit?" Computer analysts sometimes use it to abbreviate "worms in the wild" as a description of computer viruses, according to Urban Dictionary.
These five letters allow you to express utter and total disbelief. It could be for something unbelievably good. Example:
"They just added Bruno Mars to the lineup!"
It could also convey disbelief at how badly things turned out, e.g.:
"They just added Bruno Mars to the lineup!"