We’ve all grown accustomed to the online jargon, shorthands and acronyms that have developed over decades of Internet use. Silly as they might be, most of us are guilty of truncating, abbreviating or misspelling words to save a few seconds here and there.
The jury is still out on whether the seconds have added up to much or not, but linguists have had a field day studying online lingual behaviors and their effects on offline writing and speech.
Nevertheless, it’s interesting to look at how pre-Internet acronyms and abbreviations like “LOL” have taken on new meanings (“laughing out loud”) with the introduction of widely popular Internet idioms.
Below, you’ll find a list of 13 Internet acronyms and slang terms with unexpected alternative meanings, ranging from downright unpredictable to hilariously ironic. Add your favorites in the comments below.
Before netizens had us “laughing out loud,” there were little old ladies participating in less bone-tickling happenings. LOL in the medical world identifies a patient as a Little Old Lady. Sometimes, in lieu of actual medical terminology, physicians use shorthands like LOLFDGB (Little Old Lady, Fall Down, Go Boom) and LOLINAD (Little Old Lady In No Apparent Distress) on patient records to describe the health statuses of hospitalized elderly females.
A study published by Peter E. Dans, MD, of Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine (JHMS) in 2002, looked at the use of and perceived usefulness of pejorative medical terms among JHMS graduating seniors. While the use of such terms are well documented, only 2 to 13 percent of surveyed medical classes considered usage of terms like LOLINAD and LOLFDGB to be helpful, whereas 30 to 50 percent of classes considered it harmful. Interestingly enough, such terms were used frequently for self-destructive or abusive patients.
BRB (Be Right Back) is one of the more polite online abbreviations; respectfully letting fellow chatters know that you’ll be taking a brief vacation from your keyboard.
Traditionally, however, BRB refers to a Big Red Button, an important, non-descript button associated with a power, reset, detonation, self-destruction, emergency shut-down, or ejection switch. The only real rule for the BRB is “do not press,” unless it’s an extremely dire situation, of course.
One of the most interesting uses occurred during the Cold War, when the BRB was used in fictional writing to describe a device that could launch doomsday, an all-out nuclear catastrophe.