Abbreviations? ELI5 (Explain Like I’m 5)

I am indebted to my blogging friend Darla for reminding me of how tortuous some modern abbreviations are. (Read her blog HERE.)

A while ago I wrote a column about this for Devon Life and I'm sharing it below:


Sorry, am I confusing you? That stands for Hello Devon Life Readers. I could have written it out in full in the first place but it seems mandatory these days to pepper all articles, social media posts and correspondence with abbreviations.

I made that one up but there are thousands of internet abbreviations that all young people appear to have learned without even trying. If only subjects like French, algebra and English grammar could be assimilated so easily.

This need to reduce everything to its smallest possible form first came to my attention when one of my Twitter follower's profiles included a plea to potential followers, NRWNJ. I had to look it up and found out it meant No Right Wing Nut Jobs. How effective that plea has been I’m not sure. Are right wing nut jobs any more familiar with abbreviations than left wing nut jobs? Probably not.

Then I had a message which included IYKWIM (If You Know What I Mean), which is ironic as I had to look it up.

I logged on to a local sales page on Facebook and the very first post included the letters sfs. I didn’t have a clue what this meant - Sausages For Sunday? Sales Frustration Syndrome? - so I had to look it up. Apparently it means "still for sale", which makes sense. The next post included sstc which I worked out for myself as "sold subject to contract". I'm presuming that was correct but as I didn't want a beige Dralon sofa I didn't bother to check if I were right.

I can understand why there are a lot of abbreviations on Twitter as you are limited to 140 characters, although there is a trial on at the moment and some users are allowed 280. In my opinion 140 characters is 140 too many for some people, but that's another story.  But I don't see the point in confusing someone (i.e. me) with impenetrable abbreviations when the character count is unlimited.

So it was that one commenter on a website story I read gave some frankly ludicrous medical advice to a poor man suffering from frequent headaches.  At least the commenter had the grace to add IANAD on the bottom. IANAD? That stands for I Am Not A Doctor. This, apparently, is quite a common rider on the internet but if you don't know what it means and can't be bothered to look it up, you could end up following some very strange medical procedures. If you have advised someone that the topical application of boiled cow dung, raisins and cottonwool will cure a particularly nasty boil, you should maybe add IANAD and pray to God the sufferer knows what it means.

After coming across these abbreviations I thought I'd better drag myself into 2018 and see what other tortuous short forms Devon's young whippersnappers were using to communicate.

While perusing the millions of internet articles that read as if they have been written by a semi-literate child, I'm going to start asking WDYMBT (What Do You Mean By That?).

Another one that might be quite handy for all you Percy Pedantics is FTFY (Fixed That For You). This is routinely used in internet comments to correct the grammar of the writer. Umph, not sure about that one. Seems a sure-fire way to lose friends, if you ask me.

Miss Knowall here could write AMA - Ask Me Anything. I'm fairly easy-going so when I have imparted my words of wisdom I can respond HTH (Happy To Help).

If I agree with an article and want to give the writer a little bit of positive reinforcement I can tell them MTFBWY (May The Force Be With You). Then there’s TL;DR (Too Long;Didn’t Read). This is written if a person doesn't want to read an entire article but has something to say anyway.

I certainly will not be using DFTBA, even to my family and closest friends. I'm sure all of them would think my body had been taken over by aliens if I ever told them Don't Forget To Be Awesome. And it could be dangerous to add CCW (Comments and Criticism Welcome) to any of my online witterings.

But when it comes to complicated articles, here’s one I really need: ELI5 (Explain Like I’m 5).

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  1. I love this post! I wish I had written, but I sure have lived it. I hate abbreviations with a passion. I can never figure them out without googling them which, of course, wastes my time while saving the person who used the abbreviations a nanosecond or two. Abbreviations make me feel old and obsolete.

    1. Thank you, Jean. I always think that if you have to Google the abbreviation, then they're a waste of time!

  2. Fun and educational. I don't tweet so most of these are as clear as Latin to me. I do like the ELI5 for that is how I feel some of the time. Years ago, when my sister started usin abbreviations,I original thought LOL meant lots of love. Clueless.

    1. That LOL one caught a lot of people out in the early days - me included!

  3. Yeah, I don't use any of those. I did know TL;DR as I see that a lot. But the others... I do like FWIW, YMMV, and TTFN ("for what it's worth", "your mileage may vary", and "ta-ta for now").

  4. I thought LOL was Lots of Luck for years...started a few fights it did.

  5. Explain like I'm 5? I know many five year olds who can work out all of those things already, so if I can't understand something I tell people to "explain it like I'm four and can't read yet. Of course a lot of four year olds CAN read so I'm not much better off. I do remember years ago when WYSIWYG was making the rounds. (What You See Is What You Get)

    1. I'm going to start using ELI4, 5 obviously being too old! I remember WYSIWYG from the days when I was learning to use a computer.

  6. I'm delighted to have inspired you. ~grin~ Gr8 post. Heh... I like how you used i.e. Do you think any whippersnappers would understand us using Latin? In fact, I had to look up the full words ("id est" meaning "that is") just now.

    And just so you know, you have the best edited page I think I've ever seen. True story. A minute ago I had to fix "tables" on my post from yesterday which was supposed to be "tablets"! ~sigh~ Happy Blogging!

    1. Thank you, Darla. I can't help editing thoroughly after years and years working as a sub-editor on newspapers - it's in the blood!