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. 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.)

    • 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. ..and us poor non-native speakers often don´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!

  3. 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! 🙂

  4. 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.

  5. 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!

  6. 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.

  7. 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.

  8. 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!

    • 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!

  9. 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!

  10. 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

  11. 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”.

  12. 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.

  13. 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!

  14. 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.

  15. I have a theory that another reason some may do it is because some may not be good at touch typing, or even spelling.

    I would love it if someone did a study on how fast people type versus how many acronyms they tend to use.

  16. It may be 2018 and the post was written quite a while ago but thank goodness I’ve found a post that gets annoyed with the so called ‘support’ forums as I do!! It’s confusing enough heading into the scary world of ivf but these posts people put on the ivf forums are ridiculous!! The forums should ban these meaningless acronyms and get people to say what they actually mean! It takes hardly any time to type stuff properly!! Like get a grip people. These groups are about as supportive as a chocolate teapot!! Grrr.

  17. Like others have mentioned here.. I know this is an older article but still oh so relevant! These parenting acronyms can created an exclusive society where “if you don’t know you won’t know”. Thank you for putting some reasonableness on the topic! 😀

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