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Teenspeak translated

Baffled by pesky text abbreviations? Read our handy guide PDQ*


Not a week goes by without a survey revealing that nobody knows what text abbreviations actually mean. Consequently, a significant language barrier persists between Boomer and Gen X parents and their Gen Z children.

Is ‘Mhhm’ an agreeable mumble or an expression of huffiness? Why so many variations on ‘OK’? Is the difference between Gen Z’s ‘LMK’ (let me know) and the Millennial ‘Lemme know’ tonal or generational? Should parents set a good example with punctuation or let go of full stops? Should a Whatsapp ever be more than a sentence anyway?

It goes both ways. Gen Z must accept that their parents’ full stops do not express rage. And Millennials ought to humour Boomers when they insert a daring thx, or even luv, at the end of a grammatically perfect paragraph.

Here are some commonly confused acronyms.

ICYMI (in case you missed it)

Usually prefaces a link to something you were very happy to miss, eg a long read about gut health. Rank-pulling at its finest.

ONG (on god)

Not a misspelling of OMG, this means ‘I swear’. Used for emphasis where none is needed, eg ‘Oreos are the best biscuits ONG’.

NGL (not gonna lie)

Another pointless way to add emphasis when nobody would lie anyway, eg ‘NGL I love Christmas.’ See also TBH (to be honest).

FWIW (for what it’s worth)

The message here is ‘I want the last word’. Someone needs to coin LIG (let it go) in response.

ISTG (I swear to god)

Expresses final-straw exasperation, not devotion to a higher power.

OMW (on my way!)

Handy when you’re late: sounds positive and saves time writing a long lie about transport.

SO (significant other)

Terrible shorthand, terrible phrase.

BAE (before anyone else)

As SO, above. Not advisable unless you are Beyoncé.

LOL (laugh out loud)

The classic Boomer error is to assume it means ‘lots of love’. Not necessarily an issue, unless added to a message of condolence.

IJBOL (I just burst out laughing)

For when LOL isn’t enough. An update on noughties fave ROFL (rolling on floor laughing).

LMAO (laughing my ass off)

As IJBOL, before. The crying laughing emoji, in acronym form.

HBU (how about you?)

Yes, technically it should be HAY, but do we need another text greeting? We’re already torn between ‘Hey!’, ‘Hey’, ‘Hiya’, ‘Hiiiiii’, ‘Hello!’, ‘Hello’ and the Scandiesque ‘Heya’. Confusingly, HBU sounds like a streaming service.

AFK (away from keyboard)

Used when someone briefly stops taking part in a discussion in a chatroom. Excessive use may suggest narcissistic tendencies. See also setting an out of office for a morning.

GOAT (greatest of all time)

Self-explanatory. Call someone the GOAT and it’s a compliment.

OG (original gangster)

Meaning truly authentic or exceptional. Try not to imagine anyone over 30 using this phrase – it will make you feel sad inside.

IYKYK (if you know you know)

Sounds like an expression of disgust. Actually denotes an inside joke or reference.

DM (direct message)

To Boomers, DMS are Dr Martens boots – as worn by their children in the 90s and their grandkids now. To Gen Z they are personal messages on social media.

TLDR (too long, didn’t read)

Crushing way to express contempt. Inexcusably rude, however outraged you are by the thing you claim not to have read.

DNF (did not finish)

A variation on TLDR. Used with abandon by reviewers on Goodreads – a place nobody knows about except literary trolls and masochistic novelists.

AFAIK (as far as I know)

Either bet-hedging, or a preface to salacious gossip.

IIRC (if I recall correctly)

More bet-hedging. Do not trust anyone who uses this.

JSYK ( just so you know)

Old-fashioned passive aggression and/or stirring.

AIBU (am I being unreasonable?)

Still found on Mumsnet, where it began, usually in reference to a CF (cheeky f***er) who wronged the OP (original poster).

YANBU (you are not being unreasonable)

See AIBU, above.

IMHO (in my humble opinion)

Are online opinions ever humble?

When are you coming home? Hello?? WTF??

Mum! Do you know what that means? LMAO

Yeah – are you coming home Wednesday, Thursday or Friday?





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