Why Those Letters? IDK

Day to day, we throw out abbreviations: acronyms – the first letter combinations we read as words, like NASA, and initialisms – the letters we read out singly, like FYI or DIY. Then there is the ‘depends who’s talking’ category. How do you say ASAP? For some it’s sounding out each letter, for others it’s A SAP.

What are some common abbreviations whose fleshed out root words many of us would have trouble generating on cue?



ABBA – The Super Trouper Swedish singers kick us off. Their band moniker is built from their first names: Agnetha, Björn, Benny, and Anni-Frid.

AM – Ante Meridiem:  a Latin phrase meaning before midday or noon

E.G. – The Latin ‘Exempli Gratia’, translated into ‘for example’

GIF – Graphics Interchange Format

I.E. – The Latin ‘Id Est’, meaning ‘that is’

IKEA – Another Swedish name meld. The first two letters come from the founder’s name: Ingvar Kamprad. The ‘E’ refers to Elmtaryd, the farm where Ingvar spent his childhood. And the A? That’s for Agunnardy, the closest village.

JPEG – Joint Photographic Experts Group. This is the group of professionals that came together in the 1980s to build ‘the JPEG standard’ around compressing image files.

LASER – Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation

PM – Post Meridiem: a Latin phrase meaning after midday or noon

P.S. – Postscript: also Latin-based, meaning after that which has been written, such as a signed letter.

PPS – Post Postscript. After the Postcript

SWAT – Special Weapons and Tactics

URL – Uniform Resource Locator

ZIP Code – ZIP here stands for ‘Zone Improvement Plan’, a US concept introduced in the early 1960s to help improve the efficiency of the mail delivery process



And, of course, in the world of text acronyms, things get more fraught. This, particularly, for those of us who are not in our teens and do not want to unintentionally leave our co-texters ROFL.

Case24 used the Ahrefs analytics tool to suss out the most searched texting abbreviations. The assumption being that those not in the know are likely to turn to Google to figure out what exactly these letters mean…

Most Googled Text Abbreviations Globally. October 2021

i. SMH – Shaking my head
ii. LMAO – Laughing my ass off
iii. TBH – To be honest
iv. LOL – Laughing out loud
v. HMU – Hit me up
vi. FOMO – Fear of missing out
vii. NGL – Not gonna lie
viii. DM – Direct message
ix. AFK – Away from keyboard



Header Painting: Pietro Rotari. Young Woman Reading A Letter. Before 1762
Painting #2: Pietro Rotari. Young Girl Writing A Love Letter. ~1755



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Elizabeth Newton

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