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 Here are the top 15 of Wired Style's now-outdated acronyms from the early days of the 'Net—how many did you recognize?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.

Can You Pick the Body Parts Described by the Adjectives?

The History Behind 7 New York City Street Names

deberarr/istock via getty images
deberarr/istock via getty images

Modern life means constantly rushing to get places, especially in New York. Whether it’s the daily grind to get to work or the rush to hit happy hour, residents are probably concentrating more on getting somewhere than carefully considering the details of their surroundings.

But next time you're in New York—or if you're a resident already—try looking up from your phone to take a peek at the street names above you. Along with your more common numbered designations and things like "Park Avenue," you’ll notice the city has some pretty strange denominations. Here are seven of the more eye-catching, and the brief history behind their names.

1. Asser Levy Place

Tucked between the generically named 23rd and 25th streets, Asser Levy Place stands out like a sore thumb. Located not far from Stuyvesant Town, this unassuming street bears the name for a pretty prominent historical figure.

Said to have been born in what is now Poland and Lithuania, Asser Levy was one of the first Jewish settlers to land in the predominantly Dutch New Amsterdam. The governor at the time, Peter Stuyvesant, was “violently opposed” to the freshly emigrated Jewish community, unhappy at the fact that they were now allowed to trade and reside within the area [PDF]. Levy was not only the first kosher butcher in the land but also the first Jew to gain rights of citizenship in the country. Additionally, Levy donated funds to help New York fight the British Crown, and eventually took up arms against the British himself.

2. Maiden Lane

The history behind Maiden Lane’s designation is just as picturesque as it sounds. Known to Dutch settlers as Maagde Paatje (or “maiden path”), this portion of land once ran alongside a brook where women and girls would wash clothing. There are darker associations with the area too, though: Maiden Lane also saw a brutal slave revolt in 1712.

Today the street is one of many centers of commerce for the city, although the concrete still holds remnants of the city’s more ornate past. Passersby can take a look at the Barthman Clock, a 19th-century timepiece embedded into the intersection of Maiden Lane and Broadway.

3. Mott Street

Located primarily in the heart of Chinatown, Mott Street’s modern associations aren’t the most flattering. Once the site of multiple crime scenes and illegal activities, the street has garnered a somewhat seedy reputation over time.

But before it became affiliated with the seedy underbelly, Mott Street had patriotic associations. Joseph Mott, the street’s namesake, owned a tavern used as headquarters for General George Washington in 1775. His descendants proved dedicated to equally worthy causes, with Dr. Valentine Mott rising to prominence as one of America’s most influential surgeons.

4. Pearl Street

Before the concrete jungle fully took over, the streets of New York were dominated by oysters. Due to their bountiful number, the shells of shucked clams would pile up into what archaeologists call middens—large piles of domestic waste that have survived the centuries. One particularly large heap was located on the modern-day Pearl Street, giving rise to the mollusk-related moniker. Oddly, however, these oysters were not the pearl-producing kind—although they dominated a good portion of the New York market for quite some time.

5. Minetta Lane

Speaking of water-related items, did you know a once-babbling creek was paved over by one of the city’s more famous streets? That’s right: Known to the Dutch as Mintje Kill or “small stream,” Minetta Brook was “[a] brisk little brook full of trout,” according to one 19th century source, that was covered by the city’s expansion around the 1820s. It was also where a community of “half free” African Americans resided in the 17th century—former enslaved people that were allowed to live on the land by paying annual fees.

6. MacDougal Street

MacDougal Street is known for its vibrant nightlife and for hosting the early days of Bob Dylan’s career. But it also holds claim to a not-so-well-known spelling error.

The street was named for one Alexander Mcdougall, a Scotsman who emigrated to what would become the United States as a child in 1740 and settled in New York. Mcdougall made a name for himself in the mercantile trade and shipping business and was an early defender of American independence. He openly voiced his opinions against British rule, and was even imprisoned for passing out revolutionary pamphlets. His colorful life saw him commissioned as a colonel in the First New York Infantry during the Revolutionary War, become a member of the Continental Congress, and rise as the first president of the Bank of New York. However, how or why the second L in his name was dropped in the naming of the street remains a mystery.

7. Margaret Corbin Drive

Located at the city’s far northern tip, Margaret Corbin Drive is named for a young Pennsylvanian woman whose tough life molded her into a tougher lady. Her childhood saw the death of her father by Native Americans and her mother’s capture soon after; years later, the British killed her husband during the Battle of Fort Washington. Margaret, who was standing by his side at the time, quickly took his place in the conflict by handling his cannon—receiving several bullets as a result.

The U.S. government recognized her bravery by providing her disability compensation (as well as rum and whiskey rations) for many years. Although sometimes remembered as a “haughty and disagreeable eccentric,” the affectionately called “Captain Molly” is forever memorialized by the street running along the site where her brave acts took place.

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER