Grammar

20 Years Later, These Annoying Internet Abbreviations Still Are

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The first grammar post I wrote on this blog focused on annoying internet abbreviations. Even after 20 years, these still seem ridiculous.

I realize what makes annoying internet abbreviations so aggravating can be very subjective. One reason certain abbreviations bug me is when they’re too convoluted to figure out. A second reason is when the abbreviation is longer or takes more effort to type than what you’re abbreviating.

Sometimes, you have to listen to your common sense filter! All of us, I think, have one, whether we choose to use it or not.

Back in March of 2004, just the second month of this blog’s existence, I looked at a few of them. Of the six that I mentioned, I’ve only seen two of them continue in widespread use. That’s still two more than were necessary.

Here are the four that (I think) fell out of favor somewhere along the past two decades:

1. WAEF

The first time I remember seeing this one, I was trying to figure out what TV station the writer was talking about. I’ve found conflicting stories about an FM radio station with the calls WAEF.

But this abbreviation didn’t refer to either TV or radio. It referred to the expression, “When all else fails.” I must have seen it used — or listed somewhere — back in 2004. But I never saw anyone use it in conversation. Thank goodness.

2. POTS

This one expressed anger, although it seemed unnecessary. POTS stood for “pounding on the table.” As I suggested 20 years ago, why rely on this when you could use a different four-letter word? It would accomplish the same thing without making someone have to decipher.

3. PJTER

I didn’t understand this one in 2004 and I don’t understand it in 2024. It was supposed to stand for “computer.” If you’re going to shorten the word, why not just make it “puter”? I have no idea where the J entered the picture.

4. GMTA

This one is a phrase we use from time to time. We usually toss this one out when we find we’re saying or doing the same thing someone else is at the same moment: “Great minds think alike.”

But you’d have to use a phrase like this fairly often for it to be instantly recognizable in internet slang. I think that was the issue with most of these: Who used them enough to make them that clear?

5. ROTFLMAO

When LOL’s “laughing out loud” somehow didn’t seem sufficient, we had this. Unfortunately, we still seem to have this one. I’m sure you know by now that it stands for “rolling on the floor laughing my ass off.”

But consider this: LOL takes up just three characters. A laughing emoji takes just three or four keystrokes to produce in a text.

This monstrosity takes eight characters. Did you get that? It takes double the number of keystrokes to accomplish the same thing. And let’s face it: How many of us who claim to be “ROTF” are actually ever rolling on some dirty floor?

Have you ever rolled around on the floor laughing at a goofy dad joke? Not me.

6. Prolly

This one, unlike the others, isn’t an initialism. This one is a shortening and “wrongening” of a perfectly good word: Probably. In the South, which manages quite well to mangle the English language, we often drop a syllable and turn it into “probbly.” That, to me, would make more sense than dropping a fairly dominant B sound and adding an L.

Who came up with that? Was that really the best they could do?

This one, like its ROTFLMAO counterpart, still comes up. But if you use that one, I judge you.

Sorry, not sorry…as the kids say.


    I won’t suggest that my 20-year-old complaint on those annoying internet abbreviations actually dropped two-thirds of them out of common use. (At least, I assume the first four aren’t commonly used anymore…if they ever were.)

    But even if they did, two of the most annoying on the list, unfortunately, mustered just enough staying power. Twenty years later, yes, they’re still just as annoying.

    Maybe by 2044, I can report that they, too, have died a cruel death. But in honesty, I shudder to think what might replace them on the annoying scale over the next two decades!

    the authorPatrick
    Patrick is a Christian with more than 30 years experience in professional writing, producing and marketing. His professional background also includes social media, reporting for broadcast television and the web, directing, videography and photography. He enjoys getting to know people over coffee and spending time with his dog.

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