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Origins of Popular Internet Slang

Did you know that the term “Instagram” first appeared in 1810 as a means to explain the sudden appearance of a metric unit of weight? Of course you didn’t, because it’s a lie. And that would be insane. But many of the terms we think were created online and in social media were around long before anyone could “unfriend” a family member on Facebook. Here are the origins of some of your favorite internet slang words.

Unfriend

(source)

Date Origin: 1659

Original Use: First coined by a clearly worrisome Thomas Fuller in his work The Appeal of Injured Innocence – “I hope, sir, that we are not mutually Unfriended by this Difference which hath happened betwixt us.” Of course, now we have to make “happened betwixt us” an Internet meme.

 

OMG

(source)

Date Origin: 1917

Original Use: In a letter to Winston Churchill, one Lord Fisher can barely conceal his high-pitched girlish glee while writing, “I hear that a new order of Knighthood is on the tapis – O.M.G. (Oh! My! God!)” Churchill no doubt appreciated the added explanation “(Oh! My! God!),” since otherwise he might have thought it spy code, instead of a case of someone not realizing the point of an abbreviation is not having to then spell it out.

Me IRL

(source)

Date Origin: 1997

Original Use: Deep in the furry subculture is where we first find the phrase “me IRL”, as used by “Jurann Foxtail” – a fox-human hybrid character of no specific gender given his confusing (and, alas, visible) genitalia. And it is with one of these very drawings of the naked, all-junk-out Foxtail that Jurann brought “me in real life” into being by proudly exclaiming “If you look closely it even looks like me IRL.”

 

FTW

(source)

Date Origin: 1966

Original Use: In the long-running game show Hollywood Squares, contestants would earn X’s and O’s on a giant tic-tac-toe board by having celebrities help them guess the right answers to the trivia questions. If a celebrity was being asked a question, and they would be the third X or O in a row, the host would declare the question was “for the win”. No word on if guessing wrong was followed shouts of “FAIL!” from the studio audience.

RTFM

(source)

Date Origin: circ. 1940

Original Use: The original phrase – “Read the field manual” – came about when new soldiers would ask an already angry drill sergeant a question that could be looked up in their book. Naturally, this being the army, it was only a matter of seconds before that became “READ THE F*CKING MANUAL”, followed by a command to do a thousand sit-ups, or eat a tank.

 

LOL

(source)

Date Origin: 1989

Original Use: Originally used to mean “little old lady” (by the same people who probably think “OMG” stands for “Oh, my grandma”), LOL didn’t come to mean “laughing out loud” until 1989. An online newsletter called FidoNews put “LOL” on a list with other such terms as “ROTF”, “L8R”, and “BRB”. That means we can now celebrate 25 years of people typing “LOL” with a completely straight face because they have no idea how to respond to a message but don’t want to say anything that might prolong the chat.

 

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