One result of the popularity of (forms of communication like) texting/messaging and twitter has been a sharp increase in the abbreviations, acronyms and initialisms in common use. While the meaning of a lot of these is quite easy to understand from the context of the conversation (BTW = by the way, CU = see you, AFAIK = as far as I know, ASAP = as soon as possible, etc.), some of the newer abbreviations (especially those used by young people) can cause confusion.
Recently, there has been quite a bit of mirth in the British press over the revelation that British Prime Minister David Cameron (until recently) thought the popular youth expression LOL (laugh out loud) meant “lots of love.” So, for this edition of youth expressions I decided to ask my teenage nieces and their friends for a quick heads up as to what abbreviations are popular right now among young people in London.
One interesting thing is that, although many of these abbreviations are still only used in written communication, some are starting to creep into spoken language. Those which are also commonly spoken out loud in abbreviated form are shown by an “ * ” and pronunciation is indicated!
acronym – a word formed from the initial letters of words in a phrase and
often pronounced as a word (UNESCO etc.)
initialism – an initial letter abbreviation (BBC etc.)
mirth – laughter, merriment, sometimes laughter about a mishap that befalls
heads up –information or a warning that helps alert a person to possible trouble
Although there are various rules governing the use of upper/lower case for abbreviations in more formal writing, in the case of texting rules don’t matter too much and usage seems to be dependent upon ease of typing more than anything else!
Thus, while acronyms like “OMG”(Oh my god!) often appear in capital letters, abbreviations containing numbers like “b4”(before) often appear in lower case; short abbreviated words like “yh”(yes) would probably be in lower case and abbreviations that are words for example “awks”(awkward) would appear in lower case and may be punctuated like real words (Awks!).
Lastly, although I have included punctuation in the following sentences, in reality, punctuation like full stops might be omitted altogether!
*awks – awkward ; used when a situation is uncomfortable or awkward
A: I bumped into my ex(= ex boyfriend) earlier.
b4 – before
A: Have you been there b4?
B: I think so.
BF – boyfriend/best friend
A: Have you met Stella’s BF yet?
BRB – be right back ; used when you need to leave an online conversation for a short time
A: Someone’s at the door. BRB.
DW – don’t worry
A: I think I failed the exam.
GF – girlfriend
A: Toby has a new GF.
gr8 – great
A: I got the concert tickets.
GTG/g2g – got to go
A: My mum’s home. g2g.
B: C U tomoz(= See you tomorrow).
HBD – happy birthday
B: TKS(= thanks).
IDC – I don’t care/
IDK – I don’t know
A: Why did Mark break up with you?
B: IDK. IDC.
*IDEK – I don’t even know; used when you have done something foolish
‣‣pronounced “I” followed by “deck” as in “ship’s deck”
A: Why did u(= you) do that!
B: IDEK myself!
ILU/ILY – I love you
B: ILY 2(= too).
IKR – I know, right ; used to express agreement
A: She’s nasty.
*JK – just kidding ; joking
‣‣pronounced as in letters “J”, “K”
A: Are you coming to my BD party?
B: JK. What time does it start?
*K/KK – OK
‣‣pronounced as in letters “K” or “K, K”
A: C U later.
*KL – cool
‣‣pronounced as in letters “K”, “ L”
A: See you at school tomoz.
KMT – kiss my teeth; a sound made by sucking one’s teeth in order to show disrespect or disapproval which can also be used to show displeasure in either a jokey or serious manner
A: Why didn’t you come to my party?
B: Soz(= sorry). I had to do my hw(= homework).
NP – No problem.
A: I can’t come to the party.
*OMD – Oh my days! ; used to express surprise/shock
‣‣pronounced as in letters “O”, ”M”, “D”
A: Jake and Terry broke up.
*OMG – Oh my god! ; used to express surprise/ shock
‣‣pronounced as in letters “O”, ”M”, ”G”
A: I lost my new iPhone!
OP – opening/original poster ; a person who starts a thread on the Facebook etc.
A: Who was the OP?
B: Trish was.
*ROFL – rolling on the floor laughing ; another version of LOL that can also be used sarcastically
‣‣pronounced as in “waffle”
A: That’s so funny. LOL!
WTH – What the hell! ; used as a reaction to seeing/hearing something weird or to show you’re angry
A: Mike said you stole his skateboard.
wuu2 – What are you up to? ; What are you doing?
B: Nothing much.
yh – yeah ; yes
A: R U(= Are you) coming to the concert?
4eva – Forever
A: ILU 4eva.
B: ILU 4eva 2.
If you are interested in learning some more common acronyms or abbreviations, Internet searches on words like “acronyms” and “internet” usually bring up a lot of results!
So, what words and expressions do young people in Britain really use? In this blog we’re going to take a look at some words and expressions that are trending among young people (in the UK) at the moment.
While usage is, to an extent, based on factors like class and region, and while I don’t suggest you actually adopt any of the following expressions yourself (well, unless you are under 20, that is!), it is fun to see what kind of expressions are around and helpful to know how usage is changing. Unless, of course, you want to end up (like one of my 40 something friends) being laughed at for thinking “LOL” tagged at the end of an email means “Lots of Love”, or miss out on seeing a good movie because you heard it was “sick”! (see below!)
Wassup? / Sup? — “Hi” or “Hello” ; “Wassup?” (=What’s up?) has replaced “Alright?” as the greeting of choice among young people. It is also often shortened to “Sup?”
A: “Sup Ben?”
B: “Nothing much”.
Wagwam? — “What’s up?” or “Hi” ; Jamaican English which means “What’s up?” or “What’s happening?” (Becoming a common greeting in England, especially London and the South.)
bro / bruv / peoples — friend, friends ; used by young people in place of older casual titles like “mates”
- Wassup, bro [OR bruv, peoples]?
main man — best friend (males, casual)
- Wassup, my main man?”
fam — used for both “real” family and friends
- Went out with my fam last night. (=friends)
- Going on holiday with my fam tomorrow. (=family)
banging — good, excellent
- This art project is really banging. (at school)
- These crisps are banging! (“crisps” is British for potato chips!)
epic / awesome / cool — good, great ; used by young people to describe a wide variety of things!
- That was an epic [OR awesome] party last night.
- I have an epic hangover.
- That’s a cool bag.
sick — good, great
- That film was sick. (=That film was good.)
Note: “Sick” can also still be used to mean “disgusting” or “perverted” too.
jokes — funny (used as adjective)
- That was so jokes! (=That was so funny.)
moist — not good ; can also be used to insult people
- This mobile (phone) is well moist!
buff — attractive , sexy ; “buff” can be used to describe a man with muscles, but these days is also used by young people (male and female) to just mean good-looking
- He’s [She’s] well buff.
peng — attractive, sexy ; often used to describe females, but can be used by / for both sexes
- Man, that girl is peng!
fit — British version of American “hot” (meaning “attractive” or “sexy”)
- She’s [He’s] well fit.
hench — well-built or muscular looking
- Have you seen her boyfriend? He’s totally hench!
butters — physically unattractive, ugly ; pronounced bu’ers as in cockney silent ‘t’
- She’s really butters.
dizzy — stupid ; can be used to your friends if they don’t understand something obvious or do something stupid
- Are you dizzy, bruv?
hipster / scene / indie — used to describe “offbeat” people – not mainstream
- Raffy’s a real hipster.
- Emily’s so scene [OR indie].
neek — a cross between a “nerd” and a “geek” (=otaku)
- Keith is such a neek!
noob — someone who is new or inexperienced with something (Originally an Internet word for people who were new to gaming, now used more widely to describe someone who is new to something.)
- He’s a noob.
- You noob! (as a mild insult among friends)
wasteman — useless, not good at anything ; used as an insult
- You’re a wasteman!
ali (// pronounced “alley” followed by “eye”) — used by males, sometimes to express agreement
A: Let’s get out of here.
totes — short for “totally” ; used to express agreement (Commonly ironical usage these days, as “totally” is grossly overused!)
- I totes want one of those cupcakes!
A: That bag is epic!
trust — short for “trust me” ; used to persuade a nervous person (by a male) that their idea is good
- Come on, let’s go there. It’ll be a laugh, trust.
end of — used after expressing an opinion, meaning “What I’m saying is so obviously right that you can’t possibly disagree with it. That’s the end of the discussion.”
- That film is sick. End of.
jam your hype — calm down, shut up ; used if someone is overexcited or talking too long
- What are you getting so angry about? Jam your hype, man.
owned — used when you have tricked or fooled someone really badly or beat someone in an argument
- I owned him. (Meaning, “I won the argument or the situation and therefore made him look inferior.”)
well — very
- He’s well buff. (= He’s very good looking)
- The test was well difficult.
LOL (pronounced as in “hole”) — an abbreviation that means “laugh out loud” ; used a lot in written text or email communication but sometimes said aloud
- “I mistook LOL to mean ‘lots of love.’ LOL.”
YOLO (pronounced “solo” but with a “y”) — an abbreviation for “You only live once.” ; used to justify practically anything, especially bad behavior like underage drinking (Often used in an ironic or sarcastic way, as the phrase is generally associated with naive 12 year-olds!)
A: You’re drunk!
A very big thank you to London teenage informants Saskia, Melissa, Jay, Ben and Charlie, and also to Kei, David, Sharon and Henri for sharing how your fam and the peoples around you really speak.