WTF are the “fboys” in “FBOY Island”?

Although it’s given all-caps styling in the title, FBOY Island, HBOMax’s first foray into reality TV, is not an initialism. Rather, it’s an abbreviation of, and a euphemism for, fuckboy. It’s an oddly diffident elision when you consider that HBO has been gleefully detonating F-bombs for a couple of decades.

I’ll get to the story behind the coyness—and to the history of fuckboy—in a bit. First, though, an introduction to the series, whose first three episodes premiered on July 29 and which will continue through August 12.

Yep, it’s another “dating” show—the title nods to Love IslandParadise Island, and, for all of us 30 Rock fans, the wholly fictional and hilarious MILF Islandwith a familiar setup. Three young women who have slightly different skin tones but are otherwise hard to tell apart (size 00, hair extensions, false eyelashes) are transported to a magnificent villa on a tropical island (not identified, but it’s Grand Cayman, and the villa costs $5,198 a night). So are 24 young men who appear to have spent vast amounts of time at the gym and the barber shop, and whose occupations include “bitcoin investor,” “CBD entrepreneur,” “TikToker,” “club promoter,” “talent agent,” “child care-slash-influencer,” and “exotic dancer-slash-realtor.” Continue reading

“You and Me LFG”

Senator Elizabeth Warren, the planful Massachusetts Democrat, is not the presidential candidate who comes to mind when one thinks of political potty-mouths. (See Ben Zimmer’s 2019 Tucker Awards for examples of public swearing from Beto O’Rourke and Tim Ryan, who are no longer in the race, and from Donald J. Trump, who for the time being is.) So it was a bit of a surprise when Warren’s campaign adopted “LFG” as an unofficial campaign slogan and began selling “You and Me LFG” merchandise.

The back of the shirt says “Warren 46”—as in 46th US president.

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The further adventures of “AF”

In the two years since I first wrote about seeing “AF” — the abbreviation for the intensifier “as fuck” — in various interesting places, I’ve kept track of its spread from the fringes to the mainstream, or at least a major tributary of the mainstream, of popular culture. In April of this year, when I noted its use in New York subway advertisements by the food-delivery service FoodKick, I speculated that this was the first time AF had appeared in a commercial context. Well, I was wrong. It wasn’t the first. And it certainly hasn’t been the last.

“I’m feeling myself because my boobs are swoll AF”

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Commercial as fuck

Back in July 2015, when I wrote about the spread of “as fuck” and its abbreviation, “AF,” my sightings were limited to tweets, rap-album titles, and small-batch consumer goods sold on Etsy and other online marketplaces. In a comment on my post, “Y” predicted a bigger future for “AF”: “It’ll be co-opted by the mainstream. In fifty years, Modern Maturity will have recipes for Scrumptious-as-Fuck Cupcakes, and Midwesterners will tell their minister that his sermon was def as fuck.”

Fifty years? Try 22 months. That’s how long it took for New York–based FoodKick to launch its cheeky-as-fuck ad campaign in subways and social media.

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Ambiguous abbreviations

A little over a year ago, the Health Quality Council of Alberta launched a campaign to eliminate abbreviations in health care, arguing that their inherent ambiguity could lead to devastating consequences in life-or-death situations. Does DOA mean “date of admission” or “dead on arrival”? And in fast-paced health care settings especially, using these abbreviations increases the risk of misinterpretation.

Fortunately, most of us sweary language lovers live and work in more relaxed environments, and we can exploit the ambiguity of abbreviations for entertainment. Here are some favourite examples, in alphabetical order, taken from real sources. Leave yours in the comments! (Mouse over the headings if you’re not familiar with what they euphemize.) Continue reading