16 Old-School Internet Acronyms: How Many Can You Recognize?

istock/ rebecca o'connell
istock/ rebecca o'connell

How is language evolving on the Internet? In this series on internet linguistics, Gretchen McCulloch breaks down the latest innovations in online communication.

I recently re-read Wired Style, the classic Web usage manual from the late '90s. At the time, it was cutting edge, but it now has a whole lot of words that we don't use anymore. Here are the top 15 of Wired Style's now-outdated acronyms from the early days of the 'Net—how many did you recognize?

1. CHA

No one said early "websters" were always polite. CHA stands for "click here a**hole." And in the '90s, that click might have been on a "hotlink" or "hotspot."

2. AND 3. IOW AND OTOH

"On the other hand," Netiquette was still a pressing issue. "In other words," some people were still remembering to offer their "gigathanks."

4. F2F

People still say IRL, another entry in Wired Style, but we've stopped talking about f2f for "face to face," let alone its synonym, "facemail."

5. LAT

We haven't stopped saying "lovely and talented," but somehow the acronym hasn't stuck around.

6. POTS

Wired Style does also contain an entry for the still-current "landline," but we no longer talk about POTS, short for "plain old telephone service."

7. QOS

If you don't have good "quality of service," you might run into trouble promising "I'll zap you the JPEGs but the message file will be 900K."

8. S!MT!!OE!!!

Complete with gradually escalating exclamation marks, this acronym stands for "Sets! My teeth!! On edge!!!"

9. SCSI

Pronounced "scuzzy," this acronym stands for small computer system interface—the type of port that we used before USB ports.

10. TEOTWAWKI

This ungainly acronym stands for "the end of the world as we know it." In another blast from the past, Wired Style notes that it's "the shorthand of Internet survivalists who believe Y2K spells doomsday."

11. TMOT

"Trust me on this," if you want to maintain your membership in the "digerati."  

12. TTYTT

It almost looks like a modern kaomoji, but this pleasingly symmetrical acronym actually stands for "to tell you the truth."

13. WADR

"With all due respect," no one talks about "meatspace" anymore either.

14. WTFIGO

Oddly, Wired Style contains an entry for "what the f*** is going on?" but no entry for plain WTF.

15. YA

No, it hasn't always stood for Young Adult literature. This acronym used to stand for "yet another": the helpful example sentence that Wired Style provides is "Microsoft released YA browser upgrade."

16. YOYOW

True, perhaps, "you own your own words" (or YOYW, "you own your words"), but thank goodness we're past the days of "cyber-" everything.

Finally, it's almost as interesting to see which now-common internet acronyms Wired Style doesn't include—LOL and ROTFL are present, neither WTF nor OMG get entries.

How Coronavirus and 31 Other Infectious Diseases and Viruses Got Their Names

Rotavirus—from the Latin rota, for "wheel"—is named for the wheel-like appearance of its particles.
Rotavirus—from the Latin rota, for "wheel"—is named for the wheel-like appearance of its particles.
Dr_Microbe/iStock via Getty Images

As you may already know, the corona in coronavirus has no relation to a certain refreshing beer often served with a slice of lime. Corōna means “crown” in Latin—and Spanish and Italian, too—and virologists chose it in 1968 to describe the group of viruses characterized by crown-like spikes that protrude from their surfaces.

So how do other viruses and diseases get their names? Based on the infographic below, created by Adam Aleksic for his website, The Etymology Nerd, there isn’t just one way. Some, like the coronavirus, are named for how they look under a microscope. The rota in rotavirus, for example, which means “wheel” in Latin, reflects the virus’s wheel-like appearance when viewed beneath an electron microscope.

Others are named after the locations where they were discovered or studied. In 1947, scientists named a newly identified mosquito-borne virus after Uganda’s Zika Forest. In 1977, Yale researchers investigating a string of pediatric arthritis cases in the town of Lyme, Connecticut, started referring to the illness as “Lyme arthritis.” Later, the name was modified to “Lyme disease” when scientists realized patients were exhibiting other symptoms, too.

Still others are characterized by the symptoms they cause. People with tetanus—from the Greek tetanos, for “tension”—usually experience muscle stiffness, and the skin of yellow fever sufferers often takes on a yellow tint due to jaundice.

Find out the origins of malaria, measles, and more below. And follow The Etymology Nerd on Instagram for more fascinating etymological explanations.

etymology nerd infectious disease names infographic
Unsurprisingly, there's a lot of Latin in this infographic.

What Makes a Hotel Breakfast 'Continental'?

Hotels often offer a complimentary pastry and fruit breakfast.
Hotels often offer a complimentary pastry and fruit breakfast.
tashka2000/iStock via Getty Images

The continental breakfast, which is typically made up of pastries, fruit, and coffee, is often advertised by hotels as a free perk for guests. But why is it called continental, and why don’t patrons get some eggs and bacon along with it?

The term dates back to 19th century Britain, where residents referred to mainland Europe as “the continent.” Breakfast in this region was usually something light, whereas an English or American breakfast incorporated meat, beans, and other “heavy” menu options.

American hotels that wanted to appeal to European travelers began advertising “continental breakfasts” as a kind of flashing neon sign to indicate guests wouldn’t be limited to American breakfast fare that they found unappealing. The strategy was ideal for hotels, which saved money by offering some muffins, fruit, and coffee and calling it a day.

That affordability as well as convenience—pastries and fruit are shelf-stable, requiring no heat or refrigeration to maintain food safety—is a big reason continental breakfasts have endured. It’s also a carryover from the hybrid model of hotel pricing, where American hotels typically folded the cost of meals into one bill and European hotels billed for food separately. By offering a continental breakfast, guests got the best of both worlds. And while Americans were initially aghast at the lack of sausages and pancakes on offer, they’ve since come around to the appeal of a muffin and some orange juice to get their travel day started.

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