Why I hate parenting acronyms and refuse to use them

Mouthing off
Photo by db photographs, used by Creative Commons license

Sometimes I feel like I am battling a one-woman war against the over-acronymification of women's communities. This is something I've dealt with on Offbeat Bride for years, but I think the acronyms in online parenting communities are even more intense.

First, let me say this: I don't have a problem with acronyms in general. I use WTF and OMG and a million others. And of course it makes sense to use shortcuts when you can — it's not like I'm some sort of grammar obsessive who insists that everyone type out Laughing Out Loud instead of LOL. I'm all for language evolving as usage dictates. But there's a line between using an acronym here and there and the elaborate acronym dictionaries needed to understand most parenting forums.

A reader sent me this quote from STFU Parents, a website based on a different acronym:

Basically [using acronyms] fulfills two important needs of insecure people: first, speaking a 'language' only known to a certain social group serves to exclude those not immediately in that group. Secondly, it confirms the bond to that very group and thus includes the person doing it.

I totally recognize the ways in which we all use language to establish connection and commiseration, but when it comes to parenting concepts I think acronyms ultimately result in alienation and distancing. When you don't know what EC means, how can you know if you might want to try it? When someone's sharing a story, and they mention their LO … who are they talking about? When a parent rattles something off about "I'm stopping BCP so that we can TTC. If I get a BFP on my HPT, then I hope to have a HB and be a SAHM doing CD, CS, and AP –KWIM?" she's speaking in so much code that even women who might be having the exact same experience can't relate unless they've been running in the exact same digital crowd.

As J.M. Dodd, Chief Internet Officer of Offbeat Empire said, "Acronyming saves you seconds, and costs readers minutes as they try to translate."

I don't like acronyms because, rather than make information accessible to the curious, they create a wall of abbreviated language that shuts people out.

I guess it comes down to this: I hate parenting acronyms because my goal with this site isn't to create an elite squad of parents speaking the same language — it's to expose my readers to lifestyles and parenting ideas they might not be familiar with. I don't like acronyms because, rather than make information accessible to the curious, they create a wall of abbreviated language that shuts people out. When it comes to parenting, I'm way more interested in making "fringe" ideas accessible to the mainstream (and mainstream ideas accessible to the fringe!) than I am in creating a secret, special common language that only my readers know.

Because when it comes to parenting, we need to focus on a common vernacular that helps us share the universality of our experiences.

Join our community!

  1. I have to ask.. Did someone really say this: "I'm stopping BCP so that we can TTC. If I get a BFP on my HPT, then I hope to have a HB and be a SAHM doing CD, CS, and AP –KWIM?" ? Or was that just a bunch of acronyms thrown together? If someone really did say that then FOMG WTF DTS?!?!?

    πŸ˜€ I dislike acronyms too. I've been trying to stop using them on the OBT and only doing the typical internet ones.

    3 agree
      • Maybe not, but it's all too beleiveable that someone WOULD type all that… and unfortunately, it wouldn't stand out much on some of those parenting forums.

        I shudder to realize that I can translate that sentence without hardly even trying.

        1 agrees
      • I was able to follow until the last four and you lost me! I was doin' so good! haha.

        Some of them I'm familiar with from my original experiences with The Tribe, but it felt like every new world I had to enter, I needed to learn a new language, and it started with marriage.

        Tough world, these interwebs!

        1 agrees
    • I had to "lol" when I read that you were trying to stop using stop using acronyms on "OBT" hehehe

    • I've seen something like that on another mom site. I got lost and stopped even trying to figure out what they were saying!

      1 agrees
    • I don't have a problem with acronyms AS LONG AS the unabbreviated phrase is stated somewhere first, like with how news articles usually spell out the entire name of an organization and then use the acronym further in the article. It's when you've got to go off and google something that it's a problem.

      1 agrees
    • I found this blog post because I was trying to look up those acronyms on google! I agree with the writer of this post!!!

      1 agrees
    • I had to google all of those. And the results tended to be businesses or stocks.

      4 agree
  2. Interesting post, and honestly I have to agree. When I first started on some PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome) boards I was so confused by all the acronyms that I generally had no idea what most people were talking about.

    Its honestly taken me 5 months of pregnancy to figure it out, and I still don't get half of them. I want to be able to share my experiences with other women and see it from their experiences, not decipher it.

    To Keri: I honestly have seen some insanely familiar posts on PCOS boards…

    2 agree
  3. It gets especially bad, when these acronyms actually have a far more well known different meaning (sometimes entirely inappropriate in the context of the other meaning).

    The one that I totally stumbled over was on offbeat bride and it was an STD with semi-naked bride and groom and while that acronym seems to be pretty established for save the date, I have more than once thought "why are there posts about sexually tr. dis. on this blog???" before I remembred. (Personally, I'd probably use StD to distinguish these things, but that coming from a language that writes capitalized nouns.)

    1 agrees
    • I sent my newly-engaged sister an email asking questions about "STD's" and "BM dresses" and her confused response made the point expressed in this post very clear to me! I also realized how daunting it must have been for people to discover the Offbeat Bride Tribe and try to hash out all those acronyms, it must have seemed exclusionary. I have to remind myself to avoid it, and I am glad this site is attempting to do the same.

      1 agrees
      • Yeah, I have tried and tried and tried on the Tribe to discourage acronyms … but ultimately just me shouting into the tide of uppercase letters and confusion.

      • AHAHAHA now I have a fantastic mental image of "BM dresses". πŸ˜€ πŸ˜€ πŸ˜€

        13 agree
      • I use FH on the tribe since it's a commonly known acronym on forums (and STDs because it's funny – I've had to refrain from using it when talking to people I know XD), but I refuse to use the term BM for bridesmaids. I mean come on!

        3 agree
  4. I was literally JUST bitching about this on the phone with a fellow mom. I'm expecting #2 in January and this time I really want to cloth diaper. BUT every time I join an online group or go on a cloth diaper forum I am BOMBARDED with all this acronyms and now I'm more frustrated and confused then before. I actually took the time to look a few of the acronyms up and I still don't understand how any of the moms on those forums would guess that I, a complete novice, would know what they were talking about. Its like the secret password to a club when you are five. They keep the unwanted out and make the wanted feel special. I just want advice on cloth diapers -I dont wish to invade some elite secret online society – jeez.

    (Sorry about the rant…this post totally hit home today)

    5 agree
  5. Cloth diapering boards are the WORST! Even on the conception blogs/boards you can at least follow them, and people will almost always stop to explain if you don't. But those diaper parents are just into the most complex random letter combinations! Also, I think the DS/DD/DP etc is a strange convention. Why not just say my son? My daughter? My partner? it doesn't take any longer and it doesn't look as though you need to remind everyone that you love your dear family! That's why you call them dear!

    3 agree
    • The LO, DS, etc is weird to me, too. Son and daughter aren't that long to type and the intended sweetness of it comes off a little trite/glib when it is part of a widely used acronym.

      2 agree
    • Soooo funny!!! ahahahaha DS/DD/DH… the first board I ever joined was last year and it was a Disney forum. They used TONS of these acronyms too, and util I JUST read this, I thought it was for DISNEY Daughter, DISNEY Husband, ect!!!!!!!!!! O, what a good laugh I just had!

      2 agree
  6. I definitely can see where you're coming from, and I completely agree about the point being to share info, and certainly NOT to make anyone feel alienated… but when I was trying to conceive, I found an EXTREMELY helpful group of women online who used a ton of abbreviations. I simply asked when I didn't know an abbreviation, and/or did a quick search on my own to get up on the lingo. It really didn't take that long, and I don't feel like my experience or the knowledge I gained was dampened by the fact that I had to memorize some abbreviations.

    Then again, learning and remembering abbreviations and acronyms is something that I have to do on a very regular basis professionally, so maybe that's why I've never really given it a second thought.

    At any rate, thanks for the article; interesting ideas and I appreciate your opinions. πŸ™‚

    2 agree
  7. THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU!!!
    I instantly stop reading if there happens to be acronyms in the post. I don't understand them and I am one of those people who really do not care to use them..soo unless I really, really need to know what said acronym is, I look it up. I frequent this website and love it by the way for reasons such as this. You ladies try to include everyone.

    I completely agree with the statement: "Basically [using acronyms] fulfills two important needs of insecure people: first, speaking a 'language' only known to a certain social group serves to exclude those not immediately in that group. Secondly, it confirms the bond to that very group and thus includes the person doing it."

    So thank you for doing such a wonderful job with this website as most of the "other parentling" sites can be nauseating at times to say the least and keep up the good work!

    11 agree
  8. My friend is pregnant with twins and I am helping her research the best strollers, etc. for multiples. I told her that it seems that the double snap-and-go is a popular choice. She asked how I knew that, and I said because I saw so many boards and blogs discuss the "DSNG." She said she didn't know what that was when she saw it, thought it was some brand or something. Even I had to Google it with "twins" to find out what the stupid acronym meant!

    2 agree
  9. Speaking of which can somebody tell me what CF means? I encountered it on Offbeat Tribe the other day and even in context I couldn't decode it. It sounded like the title of a person, like DH or FH or FMIL, etc.

    Maybe it was just a typo!

  10. I think one just has to use a bit of common sense when it comes to acronyms. You should always write out the acronym the initial time you use the term and then use the acronym if you want to save time. It's just polite.

    10 agree
  11. I totally second this post. It's like a whole new language! I have noticed that younger people use text speak and acronyms to hide information from parents, so they can discuss subjects without them being overheard (or read).

    Can I also ask someone to translate the post Ariel wrote, I don't care if it wasn't true I just wanted to figure out what it meant!

    3 agree
    • "I'm stopping BCP (Birth Control Pills) so that we can TTC (try to conceive). If I get a BFP (big fat positive) on my HPT (home pregnancy test), then I hope to have a HB (home birth) and be a SAHM (stay at home mom) doing CD (cloth diapering), CS (Co-sleeping, in this context – sometimes also cesarian or child support), and AP (attachment parenting) –KWIM (know what I mean)?"

      Whew!

      9 agree
      • Hahahaha!
        Thats awesome!

        I've come to the conclusion that most people are crazy…
        also, i've only just recently figured out what IMHO means…
        crazy crazy people…

        3 agree
      • That's what BFP means? I was always so confused when women who were trying to conceive wanted to get a Basic Fertile Pattern on their pregnancy test. Ha ha ha… I would stare at that thinking "A pregnancy test can't tell you that? You wouldn't be pregnant either."

        And then there was the night I laid in bed trying to figure out what KWIM meant. We Canadians have a even shorter way of saying that, eh?

        2 agree
        • The trying to conceive boards are the worst. We are currently attempting to procreate, so I went in search of some basic scientific knowledge. The smugness was unbearable.

          1 agrees
          • I am in this boat too. I wonder if there is a Trying to Conceive board where acronyms are not used or at least minimal. I am so annoyed, though I have picked up a few so I can figure out WHAT THE HECK people are trying to say. What's the point of writing something out if nobody can read it?

            2 agree
      • Thank you so much for translating this! I figured out half of it. πŸ™‚

        1 agrees
      • Oh my – I could figure most of them out, but did get stuck on a couple.

        KWIM huh? That's an unfortunate acronym if you try to say it out loud… or is that just me with my crude enjoyment of old, rarely used words?

        1 agrees
  12. I could not agree more!
    After checking out some parenting forums I decided I will NEVER read those forums ever again. I can't understand anything they say anyway. I guess I'll just stick to OBM. πŸ˜‰

    3 agree
  13. I totally agree with this, although, often times, I ashamedly find myself using the exact same acronyms when posting on parenting forums. I'm trying hard to change, though!

    1 agrees
  14. It's just jargon. I am in the army and we use a lot of acronyms too. Chillax, stop complaining, and let people feel special and enjoy their acyronyms.

    2 agree
    • I'm all for people doing whatever they want elsewhere — this post is about why I avoid acronyms on Offbeat Mama. My corner of the web, my rules!

      4 agree
  15. what really bugs me are the long-ass signatures with 10 little animated smiley icons tacked on to the end of each post! Sometimes they are longer than the post itself!

    2 agree
    • OH I know what you mean. I usually stay away from pages with that style of commenting because it is so hard to visually sort content vs. signature-fluff.

      1 agrees
    • yeah, those are super annoying. You can usually turn them off in the account preference settings somwhere, which makes things much more tolerable.

      1 agrees
    • Omg I HATE those. I tend to copy and paste info from the net into a word doc because our internet is monitored at work and I end up with 20 pages where if I delete all the pics and sayings and crap at the end of each post I'd end up with only 2 pages.
      Yes your kids are cute but do their photos, birthdays, ages etc have to be at the end of every 1 line post you do??

      5 agree
    • Yes! I'm getting pretty overloaded on those Lilypie tickers. They're convenient on a blog, or other "my corner of the web" where you're reading a lot about one person's experience and would like to see where they are now, but after every one-sentence comment?

      1 agrees
  16. I agree that the acronyms can be alienating at first but when I was a new mom NAK (nursing at keyboard) for hours at a time and thus only able to type with one hand AND needing lots of new parent advice, those acronym's came in handy!

    3 agree
  17. Thank you for making this post πŸ™‚ .

    In parenting forums it's a different "vibe" than using acronyms in your professional life/when you're literally at work. (Like in the movie Office Space, "We need to talk about your TPS reports…"). Ha!

    The vibe in parenting forums is more like what the quote from STFU Parents is describing. (And if you haven't read STFU Parents, you should really check it out, so funny). I can't really describe it better than Ariel and the quote did, so just wanted to say, thank you for writing this.

    3 agree
  18. Thank you. I agree with this. I look forward to the day I can stay home with our children, but I refuse to be called a SAHM. That just seems so trite. Acronyms like that one remind me of personal ads in the newspaper. Just not fitting for a mom.

    1 agrees
  19. It would help if someone would just put up a post that we/ I could reference as a key. I suppose once you know what they all mean it's not so bad, but for someone like me, with no kids and have never been pregnant (or tired as of yet)I get lost very very easily with all the freehand.

    1 agrees
    • I could do that, but I don't want to enable the acronymification. I must continue to wage my one-woman/one-website war against SFAs! (Stupid Fucking Acronyms)

      2 agree
    • The other problem is that I've seen so many variations on the damn things that you'd still be chasing them around in circles! >_<

      1 agrees
    • Since each acronym can be interpreted in multiple ways, this wouldn't help. (See: LOL means Laugh(s/ing) Out Loud, as well as Lots Of Love. Awkward when signing the sympathy card LOL. Confusing when people are talking about being ChildFree in the fertility forum, or maybe they meant Cervical Fluid? Is BM a Bowel Movement or Behavioral Modification? Best just to ask the specific person what they mean every time; it clears up what they meant, and hopefully illustrates the point (especially if you're asking why the CF-person is talking about ChildFree living in the pregnancy forum).

      2 agree
  20. Thank you for writing this. I live in a world of acronyms to the point I get confused. The simple acronym in my job also stands for Student or Standard or Stranded.

  21. I totally agree. I recognize this language from TheBump, and on that board you can get major snootiness if you dare to ask what an acronym stands for.

    1 agrees
  22. I soooo agree. I didn't use cloth diapers because it was too much work — and too intimidating — to read up on it before baby arrived.

    2 agree
  23. Great post Ariel!

    While I can appreciate some people would benefit from typing shorthand (nursing/holding a baby at a keyboard) I find acronyms make a group sound more exclusive than it needs to be – because our generation invented childbearing and rearing, right? πŸ˜‰

    BD aka 'baby dance' just gives me the creeps.

    1 agrees
    • Yeah, but "baby dance" seems creepy even spelled out, doesn't it?

      My favorite acronym is TLA (three-letter acronym). If someone is using too many and you are confused, fight back by telling them "can the TLAs, dude."

      1 agrees
    • I refuse to call sex "baby dancing." WTF? If they are trying to get pregnant why are people unable to use the word sex? It is one more letter than BD so it can't be laziness.

      2 agree
      • Wait, "baby dancing" means sex? That's a little creepy to me. why would you call it that?

        2 agree
        • Because you've been ruined by our post-Puritanical society into thinking sex is somehow dirty or wrong and so you create cutesie/sexless euphemisms that make it clear this is just something you do in pursuit of reproduction.

          *sigh*

          1 agrees
          • In the immortal words of the Post Secret Community "If you're old enough to do it you should be old enough to say it."

            2 agree
      • ha ha ha. I TOTALLY thought Baby Dance meant like, you could feel the baby kicking! HAHAHA… then I read your post and it took the hilarity of it all to a whole new level!

        Seriously awful.

        1 agrees
        • Me too! But still, ew. It's almost like we're headed back into the days of old – 'Lie back and think of England'.

          So, get this: teens are having sex left and right, and not caring, but once they start trying for a kid (however old they are) all of a sudden it's baby-dancing time. Crazy.

          1 agrees
    • I HATE HATE HATE the term BD, too (especially since I did at-home inseminations with donor sperm to get pregnant). I used an online fertility charting program where one has to enter the dates/time they "BD."

      I found it rather insulting. Why not just intercourse/insemination? Ugh.

      2 agree
      • Oh My God!!!!

        Ive often wondered what the F'ing Heck "BD" stood for… i assumed it was like … some word for sex but not "baby dancing"…

        wow and yuck all in one

        2 agree
  24. I so totally agree! The parenting websites have done a great job of alienating me, probably to my benefit. This is the only mama-page I ever look at.

  25. well, i'm an elitist pig, but i also think avoiding acronyms and overuse of little blinking "bumps" and smiley-gizmos suggests a tone of smarter conversation. it encourages us to use full, real words instead of just posting "LOL" after everything. that in turn encourages people to create real sentences that actually mean something.

    the acronym-fests, blinkeys, smileys, happy diamonds, pink stars, yellow moons, and lol's of most parenting boards make me feel like i've landed in the Internet equivalent of a bad strip mall full of cheesy chain stores with misspelled signs in their windows. i want to gun the engine and get outta there.

    fyi (does that count as an annoying acronym, or is it just part of the english language?) – when trying to thumbs-up or faceboook-like posts and comments here, i'm getting the error "Canceled opening the page" (this on a Mac, in Safari.)

    1 agrees
    • It's good to hear there are others who avoid some of the other "trying to get pregnant" discussion boards. After a while, I started to leave the groups where they used lots of acronyms, referred to sex as "baby dancing," wishes of "baby dust" so the ladies could get their "big fat positive," all mixed in with flashing graphics and stuff.

      2 agree
      • definitely staying away. can't handle all the graphics and cheesy euphemism acronyms. i prefer to call my sex: sex.

        2 agree
  26. ..and us poor non-native speakers often donΒ΄t have a clue!
    i mean, i do have a new baby, i communicate on the internet in english, trying to sound like i know what i am writing, but learning another whole new language of acronyms in addition ist too much… (it starts with looking up, what exactly "acronym" means..)

    so: keep on fighting ariel, and thanks!

    2 agree
  27. Amen to this post! Thank you for having a website that is condusive to productive, supportive communication rather than exclusive. I am a Christian, and when I found the Gentle Christian Mothering network website I thought, ah this sounds like me, but everything is in acronymns, even the words 'daughter' (dd) and 'son' (ds). I spent half my time looking letters up in the dictionary on the site. So, that's one example where those acronymns were just so confusing I gave up on what could have been a great site. Thank you everyone on Off Beat Mama who spells it out! πŸ™‚

    1 agrees
  28. Amen! I can't even go on TheBump's forums anymore because I can't understand anything they're saying! I am a total baby noob, so I had no idea what DH, DS, DD, LO, or any of the other stupid acronyms meant when I first started reading. Most of them don't even abbreviate a long series of words. If you're too lazy to type "my husband" or "my daughter", then maybe you shouldn't be posting in the first place.

    2 agree
  29. well HOOORAH! glad this topic has finally been addressed – Im so sick of not knowing what the hell people are saying – and Im glad that you are lobbying for inclusion!

    1 agrees
  30. Other than the basic acronyms like lol, brb, omg, etc, acronyms tend to be more annoying than helpful. I have left most of the parenting boards I used to belong to because they tended to have an attitude if you weren't a cookie cutter version of the masses. They tended to hide behind the acronyms so they didn't have to spend time with the newbies they looked down upon.
    Thankfully offbeat mama is not like that!
    On one frugal board that I still read, dd, ds, dh are all common. That's the only board I use those on since it is common to use them. Most of the time I end up spelling it out just out of habit. But they also have a sticky post at the top of the boards with the common acronyms for newbies or those of use with not so great memories.

    1 agrees
  31. I was trying to read one of the Baby Bargains forums last night, and I couldn't figure out what one of the posters said because it was so littered with acronyms. Just say what you mean… I don't want to go to another webpage to try to find the meaning of all these acronyms. Plus, acronyms kills my ability to search forums for a particular subject matter, especially when the search functionality is poor to begin with.

    1 agrees
  32. THANK YOU! Thats on reason I just cant read these pregnancy blogs. What the hey do all those mean?! Im so glad I found your site!!!!!

    1 agrees
  33. Amen! I never understand acronyms. Takes me too long to figure out unless it's "LOL". Even as a wedding planner, I hate terms that get shorted such as BM, MOH, etc. I mean, "BM" can either be bridesmaid or best man so it also causes confusion!

    2 agree
    • In parenting comms, BM can be either "breastmilk" or "bowel movement", and, let me tell you, when it takes half a paragraph to find out which they mean, you have a problem!

      6 agree
  34. I just wanted to chime in and say thank you. I've been a member of an online mom community for nearly a month now, and I spend a little time on it every day, and I still regularly feel like I've got no idea what people are talking about. It's totally alienating, and causes me to have these panic-stricken moments of "How can I be a good mother when I have no idea what EBF is?" Which is no good. There are enough reasons already to feel panicky about motherhood!

    1 agrees
  35. Those acronyms on the moms/pregnant womens websites really irritate me, especially the ds/dd/dh ones.

    Who would speak like "when I was pregnant with dear daughter" "dear husband doesn't like to change diapers" in real life? just sounds stupid and also the dear part is meaningless when its said all the time.

    Those abbreviations are one of those stupid things which just grates on my nerves even though I realise its no big deal

    2 agree
  36. Thank you! I thought I was alone in hating them. DD and DS especially… no one always refers to their kids that way.

    4 agree
  37. Yes, enough with the lazy DD and DS stuff. You really can't type a couple extra characters and write "my son"? I haven't seen any other message board genre nearly as bad as the parenting ones.

    Oh, and I found this via a Google search for "parenting forums stupid abbreviations".

    1 agrees
  38. before i had my son or even considered having kids i would get really frustrated with a friend of mines facebook post because i could never understand her internet parenting lingo. sometimes i would google her acronyms with no luck.

    she would even abbreviate laundry detergent brands.

    1 agrees
  39. I've definitely had "lost" moments when I had no idea what someone was trying to say. Not only that, but since having a son with Down syndrome, I can't read "DS" right without effort anymore.

    My DS has DS!

    2 agree
  40. I knew this post existed, and I had to come and find it today to give myself a moment of sanity. I've spent the morning on a parenting forum because my son hasn't been feeling well and I wanted to see if this was a normal growth spurt time or not. I wanted to comment on some other people's posts, but after reading about the woman who is EBF her 3MO LO who is starting to STTN and her FIL and DH want to let him CIO… Okay I'm exaggerating, but only a little bit. I've seen all of those acronyms in use today on different posts, and it's extremely frustrating to have to decipher what they all mean when I just want to know if they think I should call my pediatrician or not.

    There's also something to be said about the way some women seem to wear "EBF" (exclusively breast fed) as a sort of bragging rights crown instead of supporting all moms and all feeding choices, but that's a conversation for another day.

    1 agrees

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