Sexting didn’t start with smartphones.
Abbreviating conversational phrases with acronyms isn’t unique to this decade or even this millennium. Friends and lovers exchanged hand-written letters with truncated sayings—both sweet and pornographic—as far back as Biblical times. Historian Simon Garfield chronicles this phenomenon in his book, To The Letter.
“We think abbreviating with acronyms is new with texts and email, but it’s been going on for two thousand years,” Garfield says. “Back when a Roman would write to his friend, he would begin a letter, ‘I hope you’re well, I’m fine.’ But they got bored with that, so they would shorten it to the Latin acronym ‘SVBEEQV,’ which stood for si vales bene est, ego quidem valeo: If you’re well, that’s good—all’s well with me.”
And while many early acronyms were used to save time, others were codes, meant to only be decipherable to the recipient. This was especially rampant in the run-up to and during World War II, when troops wanted to get a rise out of their sweethearts back home. They developed their own cryptic acronyms, many of which were sexually graphic, and scrawled them on the back of love letter envelopes.
“Soldiers were either too embarrassed to write the messages down in full or they thought the letters would get read and censored by their superiors,” Garfield says. Parents who discovered the meanings may not have been amused, but mail was seen as “essential to the maintenance of morale,” according to Garfield. Here are 11 of the most popular acronyms with soldiers in the 1930s. As a reminder, your grandfathers came up with these! (And some of them are definitely not appropriate for children.)
1. FRANCE: Friendship Remains And Never Can End
2. ITALY: I Trust And Love You
3. HOLLAND: Hope Our Love Lasts And Never Dies
4. SWALK: Sealed With A Loving Kiss
5. MALAYA: My Ardent Lips Await Your Arrival
6. EGYPT: Eager to Grab Your Pretty Tits
7. BURMA: Be Undressed/Upstairs Ready My Angel
8. NORWICH: (k)Nickers Off Ready When I Come Home
9. ENGLAND: Every Naked Girl Loves A Naked Dick
10. VENICE: Very Excited Now I Caress Everywhere
11. CHINA: Come Home I’m Naked Already