Why I hate parenting acronyms and refuse to use them

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Mouthing off

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 Wed 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.

Comments on Why I hate parenting acronyms and refuse to use them

  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?!?!?

    😀 I dislike acronyms too. I’ve been trying to stop using them on the OBT and only doing the typical internet ones.

  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…

  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.)

    • 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.

      • 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!

  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. 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!

    • 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.

    • 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!

  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. 🙂

    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!

  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!

  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.

  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!

    • “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)?”


      • 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…

      • 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?

      • 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?

  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. 😉

  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!

  14. 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!

    • 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??

    • 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?

  15. 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!

  16. Thank you for making this post 🙂 .

    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.

  17. 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.

  18. 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.

    • 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).

  19. 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.

  20. 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? 😉

    BD aka ‘baby dance’ just gives me the creeps.

    • 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.”

        • 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.


          • 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.”

      • 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.

        • 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.

    • 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.

      • 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

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