01 May 2016

Mayday, Mayday

by Leigh Lundin

TeleType telex TTY
TeleType – early texting
It’s May Day, which got me thinking about mayday and codes. How did ‘mayday’ come to be a distress signal? It’s a mispronunciation of the French m’aider, from venez m’aider, “Come to my aid,” or “Come help me.”

So, parents and writers, it’s been a long time since we posted SMS codes and acronyms in use by kids, counter-culture, and people in technology. Some mnemonics have faded into obscurity like ROFL (rolling on floor laughing) and others have been truncated like WTF.

But OMG, a number remain with us (LOL). Some not only predate texting, but at least two, BRB and GA, date back to the days of that early messaging system, the telex. I wouldn't be surprised if Samuel Morse used such abbreviations.

I confess to liking ILYSM and 'bae' (short for bae-bae). Yet, as kids search for ever-more-circumspect communication, codes change rapidly.

You may see ‘Kik’ floating around. It’s not an acronym but a messaging phone app, popular with the young and bad guys because its messages evaporate after reading.
code meaning…
AF As ƒ, in context with other words, e.g, “That’s cool as ƒ.”
AFAIK As far as I know.
bae Babe, baby.
BMS Broke my scale, i.e, high marks for looks or deeds.
BRB Be right back.
cook Gang-up, dump on someone.
DOC Drug of choice.
FML ƒ my life, chagrin.
GA Go ahead.
HMU Hit me up, request for phone or message contact.
IDK I don't know.
ILYSM I love you so much.
KOTD Kicks of the day, sneakers.
LMAO Laughing my ass off.
LOL Laughing out loud. (still in use)
OMG Oh my God. (still in use)
OOTD Outfit of the day.
RN Right now.
smash Sexy, want sex.
SO Shout out, give recognition.
TBH To be honest.
TBR To be rude.
TF WTF? (What) the ƒ?
6 Sex, often used in combination with other codes, e.g, IW26U.
9, CD9 Parent in the room, or PIR. Formerly, POS meant parent over shoulder.

What codes are your kids sending?


  1. Last year some reporter found through the FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) a thick FBI manual of abbreviations used on the Internet. This inspired my friend Nat Budin to write the song ZOMG. https://natbudin.bandcamp.com/releases Oh, the other song on that site is about living in my city for a year. Also recommended.

  2. A good heads up. I had to stop using FML ( the initials of our local library, Fletcher Memorial Library) because of an unfortunate internet abbreviation!

  3. Some years back we got a new car that has the ability to "speak" text messages sent to your phone. The thing wouldn't connect to my then-new Android but would connect to my wife's ancient flip phone. We texted this fact to my son who replied "ROFL."

    And when that text came in the car, in a very genteel voice, said "rolling on floor laughing."

    Hmm, I thought. I immediately called my son and asked him to text "WTF" to his mother's phone.

    When the message was received the car, in that same genteel voice, said "W T F."

  4. Rob, your friend Nat is quite a lyricist. Both are very clever. Now I have to traverse ZOMG with the Urban Dictionary.

    (BTW, next week’s article touches on music between the great wars.)

    Janice, that could be dangerous. I imagine the teenies were giving themselves giggling fits!

  5. Dale, I'm impressed. Good decision by your wife's phone!

  6. And congratulations to SleuthSayers Art Taylor and Barb Goffman, both big winners of Agatha Awards at Malice Domestic last night!

  7. OMG, LOL. & SO to Art Taylor and Barb Goffman. WTG!

  8. D'accord, I agree! Congratulations to Barb and Art!

  9. A Broad Abroad01 May, 2016 17:50

    thk U 4 d brief RtikL on txt spk - gr8 :).

    c http://transl8it.com/ 4 a transl8n.

    Some old acronyms have been hijacked - LOL used to mean Lots of Love.

  10. (grin) Thank you for the wordplay and observation, ABA. I didn't know about LOL, but I remember SWAK, which I'm told originated during the wars.

    Of course back then XXX meant something entirely different!

  11. Thanks for the SO. I think I said OMG a dozen times as I stood at the podium Saturday night, trying to grasp what had just happened. (And ROFL is still in high use, at least among people I know.)

  12. Leigh, I was informed a few months back that I needed to change the last name of one of my characters in a story. Her name: "Mrs. Foad."

    Seams FOAD means "F- Off and Die!"

    I had no idea. LOL


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