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Common Abbreviations: Alphabet Soup Runs Rampant

Updated on September 21, 2017
DzyMsLizzy profile image

Words, wordplay, reading, and writing have been favorites of Liz's since early childhood. She enjoys exploring science and science fiction.

Too Many Stray Letters

Abbreviations of all sorts are very common, and sometimes referred to as "alphabet soup,' for their random distribution of letters.

When I was much younger, I thought alphabet soup came in a can, and I was always disappointed that there never were enough letters in my bowl to spell out my name. Do you call that false advertising? ;-) Now, it seems, we are awash in too many letters!

With the advent of 'social media,' ranging from Facebook, to Twitter, Instagram, Snap Chat, and the myriad of others, abbreviations run rampant. It has become a necessity due to many of the sites (Twitter started it: blame them) severely limiting the number of characters you can use per message.

Note that 'characters' does not equal words. No, characters are anything you input from the keyboard, including spaces and punctuation. So, Twitter's 140 character limit seems like a large number, until you realize this distinction.

This is a real" pain in the drain," especially for us "old folks," accustomed to spelling everything out, dotting every "i" and crossing every "t."

It used to be that the 'alphabet soup' was pretty much reserved to the military, with such designations as "HQ," "BOQ," "COM" or "PX." There are literally thousands of others which I do not know, having never been in the military myself.

Looking For More Military Abbreviations And Acronyms?

Well, be careful what you wish for. This site is devoted to them, and the 'As' alone take up several screens! There are hundreds, if not thousands! Happy browsing!

The Ridiculous Aspect

All of the abbreviations in use on line are somewhat silly, but they serve a purpose--they are a standardized format that anyone frequenting these sites understands and uses. To an outsider, they are jargon, 'geek-speak,' much as computer lingo is 'Greek' to the rest of us.

What is funny is to consider the possibilities of all the other abbreviations out there, most of which pre-date the internet by decades. Let's examine just four of them:


Many choices for you:

  • American Automobile Association for car owners
  • Archives of American Art (at the Smithsonian)
  • Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm (that's a scary medical one!)
  • Animal-Assisted Activity (dogs or other animals trained to assist people with learning or physical problems)
  • and finally, I find this one quite comical: Anti-Acronym Abuse Hmmm; a wee bit too late, methinks!


Wow! This one has a multitude of meanings, depending upon your experience and affiliations. It could be you're referring to the

  • American Dental Association; or the
  • Average Daily Attendance figures for a school. Perhaps you meant
  • American Diabetes Association or the
  • Americans with Disabilities Act. You don't even have to be here in the States to play: there is also the
  • Australian Dental Association, and
  • A Découvrir Absolument, a French music magazine.
  • If you work for a large corporation, your title might be, Associate Director of Acquisition

I could go on and on--there were many more on the referencce site.


Let's see--not so many definitions as "ADA," but a few that can be very confusing. you can have the

  • Bank of Queensland (Australia), or the
  • Bachelor Officers' Quarters, but it also can mean,
  • Base Officers' Quarters, or
  • Basic Officers' Qualification.

End up in the wrong place and try explaining that to the top brass! Leave it to the military to confuse the issue! ;-) (Military "intelligence," anyone???

Probably only the stock market uses more cryptic and bizarre abbreviations.)

The "BOQ" list is rounded out by Bill of Quantities (probably also called a Bill of Lading), and Bunch of Questions (found in web forums).

For my last entry, I submit,


Starting with the one probably foremost in everyone's mind, the American Medical Association. But it also stands for the

  • Academy of Model Aeronautics (a hobbyists' organization model airplane aficionados), and the related, Association for Model Aviation
  • American Music Awards
  • Alberta Medical Association (Canada);
  • American Motorcyclist Association
  • American Marketing Association,
  • Against Medical Advice (noted on your chart if you leave the hospital without your doctor signing you out),

The listing for "AMA" abbreviations is even longer than that for "ADA."

Speaking in lingo or jargon, then, is best reserved for dealing with other 'insiders,' and better spelled out or spoken in full when communicating with the general public.

The Online Experience

I support writing things out, explaining what you meant if there is any chance of confusion, and avoiding 'insider' jargon or slang.

That said, the casual abbreviations used on the Internet are rapidly becoming part of the general body of public knowledge.

I submit for your reference and amusement a brief dictionary of the most commonly used terms:


Twitter and increasingly, text-speak, speak for "I don't know." Has also crept into spoken language, especially among teens and 'tweens.'


Sassier, dismissive version of above, "I don't know and I don't care," or the short version, "don't know/don't care."


Usually accepted to mean "Laughing Out Loud."

(Novices at "net-speak," beware--danger and hurt feelings lurk in misinterpreting--one lady sent "LOL" in a sympathy note to a friend, thinking it meant "Lots of Love." Ooops...make that, 'former friend!')

How things have changed! Before the days of the Internet, it meant "Little Old Lady."


Uh-Oh, that joke was really funny--I'm "Laughing My A** Off!"

LMAO-PMP: Something even funner than above: You've laughed so hard you've wet your pants!


"Rolling On Floor Laughing." This one has crept into spoken it is marginally 'pronounceable.' It is also often combined with the "MAO" from the above example--this combination means you are probably laughing so hard you can't see through the tears!

I've often said, in my comedienne mode, if an earthquake were happening the time, you'd instead have, "LORF," or "Laughing on Rolling Floor!"


This is a related pair, used more or less interchangeably, depending on time frame involved. In order, "Be Back Later," or "Be Back In A Bit." Often used when stepping away from the computer for a while; perhaps to run a short errand or deal with laundry or kids.

A nature call, however, is often more graphically phrased as, IGP (I go pee, or sometimes, IGGP--I gotta go pee.)

BTW: "By The Way..." used as a means of asking a question, just as in spoken language, or when changing the subject; ditto for spoken language!


This means you are going to be "Away From Keyboard" (and presumably your computer as well) for an unspecified length of time.


In My Opinion; In My Humble Opinion


Pain In The A**


Simply the letter k, stands in for "OK" or "Okay."


Talk To You Later, sometimes cut to only, 'Later,' often parsed as, " L8R " especially on Twitter and in text messages.

I doubt I need to explain the increasingly common, "WTF." That, too, has crept into the spoken language, and if you don't know what it means, and can't figure it out, just ask your kids! I guarantee they will know! Decorum and the rules of this site prohibit translation. Suffice it to say, it does not mean, "We Took First!"

Its slightly less offensive partner, "WTH," means 'What the Hell?


Often-seen shorthand for various relatives, outlaws and inlaws, comes out looking like this:

MIL; FIL; BIL; SIL. Now, If I tell you that the first one means "Mother-In-Law," you can now easily figure out the rest of this foursome.

GP=Grandpa; GM=Grandma

GGP=Great Grandpa, and so forth.

But don't worry about these--I include them only as a footnote--they are mostly used in conversations about family history and genealogy.

Where do YOU Stand?

Do you know your internet acronyms and abbreviations?

See results

Using Non-Standard Abbreviations

Note that the abbreviations used are not all standard. The simplest way to 'cheat' is to eliminate vowels from certain words, and substitute single letters for some sound-alike words; 'U' for 'you', and 'R' can stand in for either 'our' or 'are,' the context will tell which.

Similarly, numbers can stand in for like-sounding words: 'Evry1' instead of 'everyone,' or 'this post is 4 U,' and, 'I'm going 2 the store 4 eggs.' (Not that anyone cares about your lack of eggs!) ;-)

Back in high school, I developed my own form of 'shorthand' using this method. Without any "translation," you can probably read this sentence: "Th cvl wr bgan drng th admin of pres Lncln fllwng hs emncptn prclmtn."

Now I know that all us hubbers are familiar with these usages and protocols. But if you know folks who are not so conversant, please refer them to this article. ;-)

Car Games

All of this can also be related to playing "translate that license plate" when away from home. The proliferation of personalized license plates has led to endless guessing games trying to figure out what was meant.

Limited to only 7 characters, some very creative thought must go into just what abbreviation will serve the purpose.

Recently I have seen these gems (state of issue deliberately left out):





See if you can figure them out.

Translations appear below--no fair peeking until you've given it the old "college try!" ;-)


Yes, I think that's about enough of this silliness for one article! Now, go forth and abbreviate!

Car Games Answers

EPIFNIE = Epiphany

10SNE1 = Tennis, Anyone? (Seen on a tennis pro's car--punctuation implied)

H82FE = Hate to Iron (better know your chemistry symbols to translate some of them!)

PT4EVR = Seen on a car at a PT Cruiser show. Knowing that, you now know what it means, even though it was "obvious" what it "said."


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