13 Internet Slang Terms That Make More Sense When Abbreviated Rather Than Typed Out

kirnazabete / Instagram.com
kirnazabete / Instagram.com

1. IRL

In Broad City, after Ilana and Abbi tore apart their Facebooks looking for eligible bachelors, Ilana stood up resignedly and said, “Fuck it. Let’s go find these guys IRL,” and marched out of the apartment. Leaving Abbi alone on the couch to lament, “Y’know you could just say ‘in real life,’ right? It has the same number of syllables.” And while Abbi does indeed raise a fine point, Ilana makes an even finer one. She dutifully chose to say “IRL” instead of “in real life” not so much because it’s more convenient to utter, but because it conveys a Millenial-esque, Facebook-stalking undertone that “in real life” does not. It sound better — it sounds YOUNGER — and it implies that you don’t take yourself too seriously.


As opposed to “I don’t give a fuck,” IDGAF is less aggressive, less accusatory, less “Black Skinhead.” It’s also easier to say; it’s so concise, in fact, that you could pack it all in to one adjective and describe someone who’s chill as emotionally-IDGAF.

3. lol/lulz

In my opinion (IMO), laughing at loud and “lol” are two very distinct entities, representing two very different things. “Lol” should never be a digital stand-in for the act of laughing out loud. That’s what the “ha’s” are for. You have your choice of “ha,” plus or minus however many more “ha’s,” to convey your level of amusement. “Lol,” on the other hand, is more of a mocking laugh; the type of funny that makes you laugh on the inside, but not on the outside. Once you understand “lol,” “lulz” is a piece of cake; simply put, it’s just an exaggeration of “lol” and can be used in sentences like “just got dumped lulz.” Presumably getting dumped didn’t actually make you keel over in fits of laughter, but it is kind of funny, you must admit that. Y’know, in that perverse, self-loathing, will-look-back-on-this-in-10-years-and-laugh kind-of-way. And if you think a giggle will evoke these same nuances, you’re only kidding yourself.

4. BFF

“Oh, her? Yeah she’s my BFF,” a sentence you could pretty much say to anyone and have it be received with a knowing nod. The term “BFF” is pervasive; at this point, everyone knows what it stands for. Which is partly why it’s so different from “best friend forever.” Now used probably more frequently than “best friend forever,” “BFF” has practically taken on its own individual identity, separate from its spelled-out counterpart. To call someone your “best friend forever” is not the same; it’s markedly creepier and honestly a little portentous.

5. IDK

Not knowing what to answer or how to respond to something leaves you with two options: “I don’t know,” or “idk.” Take either path and you’ll still be ignorant, but choose the “idk” path and you’re ultimately more charming. Uninformed, yes, but disarming too.

6. a/s/l?

There is nothing in full words and coherent sentences that could possibly match up to the blood-curdling, Chris Hansen-esque slang that is “a/s/l.” Rather than typing out “age/sex/location?” this semantic tripod cuts out the bullshit and dilly-dallying. It’s very aol.com, The Offspring, and dial-up. It’s a good way of asking to be butt-fingered without explicitly saying those words, and it can also be used as a funny conversation starter with friends.


Sometimes the reason an abbreviation works better to describe something than its spelled-out counterpart is because of its intrinsic subtlety. Where telling someone to simply “die in a fire” is straightforward and unimaginative, DIAF sounds more inventive and thus gives weight to the speaker’s words.

8. FML

When 18-to-28-year-olds used to find themselves in a bind — perhaps loaded with schoolwork, in trouble, or in danger — they took solace in pronouncing to no one in particular “fuck my life.” They dug through photos of puppies to find the saddest-looking one, stamped “fuck my life” in bold text onto it, and then posted it to their Facebook wall as a means of self-expression. Then “fuck my life” was suddenly stale and all of its enthusiasts turned to a new, more PG-rated phrase for relief: “FML”…and a star was born. Perhaps the way “FML” rolls right off the tongue helped to bolster its status, but whatever the reason, its perks can’t be ignored: it’s user-friendly; and can be easily ironed on to a shirt, meme-ified, or tagged onto public property.

9. WTF

“What the fuck” is an expression reserved for genuine concern or bewilderment. It could be used to strengthen an argument (What the fuck does it even mean to live in Alaska?) or as an expression of shock (What the fuck did I just read on Reddit?). And while “wtf” can certainly evoke similar sentiments, it carries certain powers that “what the fuck” doesn’t. “Wtf” is inherently quiche, Ja’mie in nature and bestows us all with the ability to digitally convey a Long Island inflection.

10. HBD

I don’t care what anyone says, “HBD” will never be a decent substitute for “happy birthday.” Frankly I find it offensive; if you’re making the effort to write “HBD” to someone, you may as well spell out “happy birthday.” “HBD” feels as disconnected as a Real Housewife giving an air kiss to her frenemy. It’s the Regina George of Happy Birthdays.

11. kkk

This isn’t “ok,” nor is it “kk”…it’s “kkk,” and it’s the kindest way to show affirmation over text. Why is this? I don’t know. But something about receiving an “ok” feels cold and ominous. And so people started using “kk,” to brighten things up a bit. Then something weird happened: “kk” started to look kind of stale too, eventually took the place of “ok,” and completely lost its spunk. And so here we are, appeasing others with the odd “kkk” despite its racist undertones.

12. TL;DR

Sure, there’s a full-word equivalent of this, but there may as well not be since no Websters-approved word could ever convey the message that “TL;DR” does. You tell me “too long; didn’t read” regarding something I wrote and I’ll be offended. But reply with “TL;DR” and I’m all “Oooooohhh, why didn’t you just say so?? You good!” There’s something of a mutual understanding in saying this. It suggests a kindred spirit; a Redditor; someone who didn’t read it because he didn’t want to, but because he’s lazy and has had a long day and can’t be bothered. And can you really argue with that?

13. YOLO

It must first be said that both “you only live once” and its acronym “YOLO” are repugnant and unforgivable affronts to the English language. However they still denote two very different things. Whereas “you only live once” feels like it belongs on a throw pillow or in Oprah’s journal, “YOLO” seems to belong on a banner in a frat house or tattooed onto Justin Bieber’s unprotected penis. “You only live once” implies inspiration and is usually followed by something positive, like “so give it your all! Yet “YOLO” hints at a crass and foolish act to come; it’s imbued with college, jungle juice, Acapulco, the Jersey Shore, and neon Greek letters. Thought Catalog Logo Mark

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