I was an English major, and then a book editor, and so for a good section of my life I found the use of cutesy abbreviations in emails, IMs, and texts to be sexually repellant. “C U soon?” No, you won’t.
But, as these modes of communication have grown more and more common, I started to come around to the idea that perhaps these shortenings were not the worst thing in the world. Maybe they were romantically neutral and marginally useful, like an As Seen on TV product that turns your tortillas into tortilla bowls. “OMG” and “LOL” are just a given in this life, and I could accept that.
Then one day I received a message on Tinder (of course), presented here verbatim:
“YO YOU CUTE THO.”
I laughed, and wondered what would make a dude think that that message was a good idea? Why “tho?” What was I cute in spite of? Why was he yelling at me? I repeated the message out loud to myself. And then I said it out loud to myself again. And again. The phrase played itself in my head for days and days, like that Ke$ha/Pitbull song. YO YOU CUTE THO. YO YOU CUTE THO. I said it to friends and coworkers and a lot of dogs, and once even to a cute boy (and yes, it worked). I was coming to find “tho” to be an endlessly appealing diminution. It was the Jordan Catalano of words, leaning up against a locker and beckoning to me, even though it was dumb and straight-up illiterate. Finally, I understood: while much of textspeak is a boner-killer, some abridgements are oddly enticing, even actively attractive. Some abbrevs are v v sexy.
Herewith, for your texting convenience, a list of hot shortened words to use at will and horrible language-compressions to absolutely avoid (all abbrevs not included herein can be assumed to be neutral, obvi):
Tho: Short for “though.” The Rosetta Stone of alluring truncations. You hate it, but you like it tho.
Yr: Short for “your,” and not “you’re.” Why is this good when “ur” is so, so, so bad? It must be the implied growl. Yrrrr.
Srsly: Short for “seriously.” Again, dat implied growl. The way this spelling mimics the locked-jaw emphaticism of commiseration is the key to its charm. “I don’t know why everyone likes Chipotle so much, their burritos are impossible to eat.” “Srsly.”
Cld: Short for “could.” “Could” is such a fraught word as it is – it’s possibility incarnate. “Cld” is shy, hiding almost half of its letters. How coy. “We cld go to drinks?” Yeah, we cld.
Plz: Short for “please.” Here is something that is sort of a secret but not: the letter z, when randomly added to things, is incredibly cheesy and therefore endlessly funny. There’s no “z” in the word “please!” Oh, you. This touch of whimsy adds this ellipsis to the hot list, while “pls” can be found below with the losers.
Rly: Short for “really.” This is rly rly rly useful, and swallowed vowels continue to be inviting.
4: Short 4 “for.” Numbers are not words, and this should be a rule. So this is the exception to that rule! This gets points for everything that was “4 Kidz” from our collective childhood.
rn: Short for “right now.” Probably confusing for registered nurses, these initials properly convey the time period in which whatever is happening is happening. By the time your eyes scan “r-i-g-h-t n-o-w,” the moment may well have passed.
V: Short for “very.” Look, you go back in time and tell Bridget Jones she was wrong to condense this word to a letter, but she’ll be v v v mad at you. Also short for vagina and also obviously sexy.
Thx: Short for “thanks.” Xs are the same as Zs when it comes to cuteness. I don’t make the rules, I just enforce them mercilessly on this blog. Thx.
Lolol: Long for “LOL,” short for “laugh out loud out loud,” I guess? LOL is like, fine, it’s wallpaper, but for some reason “lolol” makes me feel really funny. Tell your mom it means “lots of love of love.”
Eff: Short for “fuck,” long for “f.” This abbrev exists more for proprieties’ sake than anything else, but it adds a certain consciousness to telling someone to “eff off.” However there is nothing unsexier than the text that reads “Wanna Eff?”
Boyf: Short for “boyfriend.” I don’t know if this is a shorter word so much as a new word (okay, it’s a shorter word, but bear with me). This is word is as fun to say as it is to have. Boyf. Boyf. Boyf. Boyf.
GF: Short for “girlfriend.” Somehow, “girlf” does not have the same power as “boyf,” possibly because it sounds too Tolkien-y. A girlf would be a burly creature with warts for hands, and not a cool lady you both hang and also share sex-times with. Therefore, the more traditional “GF” is preferable here.
IRL: Short for “in real life.” The irony of IRL is that it’s funnier to say IRL than type OTC (on the computer? Sorryyyy), but it remains one of our most vital Internet loanwords.
SMDH: Short for “Shake my damn head.” This wins out over it’s less forceful sister acronym, “SMH,” because if you’re going to shame someone, don’t compromise.
Da/dose/dem: Short for “the/those/them.” Less abbreviations than slang or even dialect, these made up words have a cool attitude all da ladies love. Don’t hate.
D: Short for “dick.” Chasin’ the D, girl. Lower case for small ones.
U: Short for “you.” Abbreviations are at their best when letters are simply removed, and not when letters are forced to stand in for homonymic words. This is just lazy, and makes whoever the “u” is feel unspecial.
Ur: Short for “you’re” or “your.” The duality of this contraction is its downfall (that and the fact that it is built on “u”). You can’t skirt centuries of your/you’re typos by making a catchall word; that’s cheating.
k: Short for “okay.” This double abbrev (okay, ok, k) is so fraught with subtext it should be outlawed. It’s passive aggressive, it’s lazy, and if you say it three times in a row you’re a racist.
Kay: Also short for “okay.” While not quite as passive aggressive as the one-letter version, but why are you typing all that out and leaving off the o? What do you have against the o, and will you show the same o-based stinginess in bed? Unsexy.
Cud: Short for “could.” There could never and will never be anything sensual about pieces of half-digested food favored by lumbering farm animals.
Kewl: Same-amount-of-letters for “cool.” Come on, we’re all adults here.
Pls: Short for “please.” While “plz” has, as mentioned above, a sense of whimsy, it’s more-accurate counterpart gives off a sense of desperation. If that’s what you’re going for, cool, but plz don’t expect me to be into it.
2: Short for “to” or “too.” Look, I said it before and I will say it again: numbers aren’t letters, and this isn’t the exception to the rule. It’s one more keystroke 2 actually spell “to.” Srsly.
NP: Short for “no problem.” This suffers from the same complication as “k” — it seems passive aggressive. If it’s not a problem, say all the words, or I’ll assume you’re not saying a lot more. I’d go so far as to say all truncations with possibly negative connotations are a bad idea.
KMS: Short for “kill myself.” See above, but to the nth degree.
P: Short for “pretty.” First of all, when this first floated as an entry to this list, I thought it was short for penis. Maybe that’s me! But this is short for “pretty” as in “fairly” and not “pretty” as in “physically appealing” and seems pretty, pretty, pretty dumb to me.
enuf: Short for “enough.” We don’t acknowledge this as meaning “enough.” Enuf is never enough.
Ilu: Short for “I love you.” This isn’t actually an abbrev so much as how a drunk person says, “I love you.” “Ilu, man. No, rlyyyy, ilu.” Stop.
Sry: Short for “sorry.” Spell “sorry” out or the apology is not valid, you jerk.
b/c: Short for “because.” Why is that slash there? That slash makes this reduction feel condescending, as if forces you to hit both sections of the word: “Be. Cause.”
w/e: Short for “whatever.” Okay, I guess perhaps I just don’t like slashes. W/e.
jw: Short for “just wondering.” “Just wondering” is already a loaded phrase, and rarely used by people who are actually idly turning something over in their minds. No, it’s used by people who want something. You’re not regular wondering, you’re “just” wondering which means what, exactly? With “jw,” you’re not even spelling out your manipulative move, and isn’t that worse? Jw.
cum: Short for “come,” as well as for “I’m a perv.” This is the worst and not acceptable, when used to mean its non-sexual, direction-based homonym. No one wants to cum over for dinner, or cum to the movies, or cum in the car with you. Okay, maybe the last one, but let’s use some discretion.