my boss might drink during work hours, work acronyms gone wrong, and more

It’s four answers to four questions. Here we go…

1. My boss said they drink during work hours

Based on consistent comments about drinking on the clock, I’ve suspected my boss is drinking during working hours while our org is working from home. Today, unprompted, they told me they had “a drink during working hours last week” so this isn’t an “I need to do some extra stuff and am going to relax with a beer while I work at 8 pm” situation.

Over the past year, they’ve made comments about drinking at work pretty regularly, but have never said “I had a drink at work” until today. They say things about not turning on their camera so we don’t see their beer, needing a cocktail instead of coffee at 8 am, going to have a beer at noon, etc.

I understand both that for some people saying “I need a drink!” is code for “I’m stressed!” and that people do cope with stress via alcohol sometimes. Heck, I’m someone who has had a drink in my hand at 5:05 pm before, but the comments (or “jokes” as my boss calls them) have been odd enough and frequent enough that I’ve mentioned them to my spouse several times. I’ve even drafted several emails to you to see if I’m being weird or if these kinds of comments are out of the norm. I have no reason to believe that their work is being impacted, but the comments make me uncomfortable and (as you might suspect) are a sign of other over-sharing that happens regularly.

What do I do with this info? If we were in the office, I absolutely do NOT think they’d have a flask in their desk. Maybe I just look at the occasional drink as a perk of working from home? FWIW we do have a clear substance abuse policy that allows for alcohol at company events but does not allow for alcohol to be consumed during the normal work day. I wish my boss had never said these things, because now I’m not sure what I am supposed to do. I want to ignore it, pretend it didn’t happen, and never speak of it again. Can I do that?


If I had to guess — and obviously I don’t know for sure — I’d think your boss doesn’t necessarily have a drinking problem but instead has latched on to these remarks as a way to talk about stress. I’d actually be more worried that they’re modeling unhealthy stress management habits for your team than I am about whether they’re violating company policies. It’s just a weird thing to be talking about so much. (I also don’t think having a glass of wine or a beer or something one time during a particularly stressful work day when you’re working at home is a huge deal.)

If you have the kind of relationship that allows for it, you could check in with them by saying something like, “Are you doing okay? You seem pretty stressed and you’ve been talking about drinking a lot.” They might not have realized how it’s coming across, and that might nudge them into pulling back on the comments a bit.

Or, who knows, maybe they do have a drinking problem. If they do, as their employee you’re almost certainly not the person in their life who’s most well positioned to broach it with them.

But if your preference is to be able to ignore this and not bring it up (and it sounds like it is!), you absolutely can go that route. This is above your pay grade and you’re not required to take it on.

2. Work acronyms with NSFW meanings

My nonprofit work place has a new program with a name assigned to it by its funder and I am struggling with the acronym. Actually, what I’m struggling with is that everyone else thinks the acronym is okay. It is not.

The name is three words that are being shortened to FFS. I thought it was hilarious when someone first used it but quickly learned that they weren’t joking. All our internal materials and systems have it embedded now, it’s regularly used with the public, and the straw that broke my back today was finding out that we set up the email address FFS@ [] We work with children and families. We ask them to email us, FFS.

I have a lot of influence and a high-level position here, and I’ve expressed my amusement, bafflement, and outright frustration to everyone who could change the acronym. But, here we are. FFS. They tell me that its usage as a swear word is not common and tease me that I must have a potty mouth if I’m so familiar with it. I indeed have a potty mouth, but not at work, and I don’t think it’s an uncommon usage at all.

I wish I could let this go and just chuckle about it, but it seems absurd to let it happen. Am I overreacting? Do many places use acronyms that are NSFW at work? Should I keep fighting it?

Yeah, sometimes you do run into … odd acronyms at work. I wouldn’t choose FFS, and I definitely wouldn’t set up that email address … but I also don’t think it’s the end of the world that they did. FFS isn’t so universally associated with “for fuck’s sake” that it’s utterly unusable, the way I’d argue STFU or WTF would be. (As an example, if you used it in a comment section, you would legitimately have people asking what it stands for, whereas you wouldn’t with WTF.) In any case, even among people who know what it stands for, I think it’ll read as a coincidence, not a shocking or bizarre choice. What do others think?

3. My difficult, insulting coworker now wants a promotion

I have a coworker who I’ll call Dan who works on my team. Neither of us reports to the other. He is difficult to work with: When I ask him for information that I need to do my job, he is often obstructionist, unhelpful, and unpleasant to work with, to the point that I’ve been actively avoiding him and finding workarounds for months now. He has previously referred to my work as a waste of time, and then subsequently offered himself as a mentor to me to help “grow me into my full potential.” (No, no, no.) A couple of months after that, when our entire company was discussing process improvements, he sent out a document dismissing half of our staff as “coastal elitists” (which isn’t even accurate) and called another coworker’s long-term project a pipe dream.

He recently applied for an internal promotion to a position not in my team, but that would work closely with my team, myself in particular. Because of my prior interactions with him, this makes me very uncomfortable. The hiring team for this position has several other strong candidates in the pipeline, though I’m not sure where they are in their process. Is there a way to convey my discomfort with Dan moving into this role? How would I do this? I assisted with some of the initial résumé screening for this position, which is how I know how strong the other candidates are. The hiring manager said that she might ask for my assistance with interviews — I would need to recuse myself from Dan’s, right?

Talk to the hiring manager. You have input that’s very relevant, as someone who has worked with Dan in the past and would be working closely with him in this role. You can frame it as, “I understand Dan is a candidate for the X role and because I’d be working closely with him if he were hired, I’m hoping I can share my perspective from working with him in the past.” You should also ask her if she’d want you to recuse yourself from his interview, although I don’t think it’s necessary as long as you can keep an open mind; frankly, it would be a good opportunity to ask about some of the concerns you have from what you’ve seen of his actions in the past. (Although you should talk with the hiring manager ahead of time to make sure she’s on board with that. She should be.)

4. Should I let my interviewers know I’m considering other opportunities?

I have been out of the full-time market until recently: I was self-employed the last five years, working hard to transition to where I love what I do! That said, my industry was heavily impacted by COVID-19 last year; work dried up. This year, while things are starting to pick up, I’m open to the idea of a great full-time position.

Recently, I applied for an exciting dream job at a large company and got as far as several rounds of interviews with 10 people. Personally, I thought it went very well and I followed up with thank-you emails and/or questions. A few days later, I saw the job ad reposted on a couple of job sites. Per your column, I tried not to read much into it.

It’s now two weeks and I have not heard back. In hindsight, I should’ve asked their timeline for filling the role. I plan to follow up again, but should I mention to the company that while I remain very interested in this position, I want to check on timeline as there are other opportunities I may be considering? Does mentioning other possibilities jeopardize my running as a potential candidate or does it assert my value? Essentially, I don’t have any solid offers yet, but I’ve put my eggs in several baskets and any day, I may get confirmed freelance / contract work. I am developing new biz prospects that may result in projects where I am unavailable for a few months.

You don’t need to mention that you’re interviewing for other jobs; employers assume that’s likely to be the case with all their candidates.

If you get to the point where you have an offer from another job or you’ve been clearly told an offer is coming, at that point it makes sense to alert any companies you’re talking with and are especially interested in and ask if there’s any way to make the timelines align. (More on how to do that here.) But wait until there’s something solid to point to since otherwise not only are you not really telling them anything they don’t assume, but you risk them saying, “We can’t move any faster, so go ahead and take the other job.”

{ 720 comments… read them below }

    1. Four lights*

      #2. For what it’s worth, I’ve never heard of it. My husband didn’t get it until I told him it was a swear phrase, then he remembered it.

      1. Xenia*

        I wonder if this might be a more generational acronym? I’m a recent college grad and hoo boy, if someone wrote that as their project or company name I’d be hard put to stop giggling.

        1. YouwantmetodoWHAT?! *

          I don’t know that it’s generational – I’m close to 60 and I use it all the time.
          Not at work, of course!

          1. IDK*

            62 here. Have heard the expression but did not connect it to the acronym. Would have had to google it.

            1. Not Alison*

              If the program is named Future Firefighters of Syracuse, as a 50-something, I wouldn’t think anything about using FFS as an acronym. However, if the PR materials only refer to the program as FFS and don’t include the Future Firefighters of Syracuse near the first time the acronym is used, then yes, it might cause me to look at it sideways because the “naughty” interpretation is the first thing that came to my mind when I saw the acronym in the question.

              1. Mental Lentil*

                Totally this. In most writing, it’s only acceptable to use an acronym or initialism only after the full term has been used.

              2. Anoni*

                This. When I saw the acronym, my brain immediately spelled it out to text speak. Granted, I am a very prolific swear word user and I will never not see Point of Sale (POS) as something else, but as long as it was spelled out and then referenced as the acronym, it would just be an amusing coincidence to me. And maybe I would make up a combination of the two for my own enjoyment, a la For Firefighter’s Sake.

                1. Krabby*

                  Lol, POS is always comes to mind for me too with this topic. Dealing with an employee now who keeps calling our Project Management System our PMS. Have to keep reminding him to go by the software name instead, haha.

                2. PJS*

                  POS is also Preliminary Official Statement in the bond financing world. Makes me chuckle on the inside every time I see it.

                3. Vina*

                  Given that most POS I’ve worked with have been PsOS, I’ve always felt it was an apt overlap of acronyms.

                4. BookishMiss*

                  Ha POS is Point of Service in my work world, but i still always giggle when i see it.

          2. Pennyworth*

            Over sixty and its not a term I use much myself, but it is the first thing I would think of if I saw FFS. And FFS is an initialism, not an acronym.

            1. There’s probably a cat meme to describe it*

              I also appreciate learning this distinction, thank you!

            2. Neil Robertson*

              You could be in the minority with that view. From WikiPedia:

              An acronym is a word or name formed from the initial components of a longer name or phrase, usually using individual initial letters, as in NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) or EU (European Union), but sometimes using syllables, as in Benelux (Belgium, Netherlands and Luxembourg), or a mixture of the two, as in radar (RAdio Detection And Ranging). Similarly, acronyms are sometimes pronounced as words, as in NASA or UNESCO, sometimes as the individual letters, as in FBI or ATM, or a mixture of the two, as in JPEG or IUPAC.

          3. fogharty*

            Me too, I am aware of what this means, and would find it hard to take an organization seriously. LOL.

        2. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Eh, Gen X and I use it. But I like swearing. I think instead it might correlate to how much time you spend hanging out on the internet, maybe.

          1. DoubleE*

            Older millennial here. I’m definitely familiar with the phrase but hadn’t seen it abbreviated that way before. When I read the acronym in the context of the letter I immediately knew what it stood for, but if I saw the acronym by itself, I don’t think I would have picked up on it.

            1. Cmdrshpard*

              I am a millennial and for fox sakes was the first thing that came to mind, but with the way OP was writing I was wondering if there was another much worse phrase that it stood for that i didn’t know. I don’t really think FFS is really bad at all. Even WTF or STFU if the abbreviation was based on the name I don’t think would be bad. Southern technical federal university, I might laugh internally the first few times but I wouldn’t think it was majorly offensive.

              1. Allison Wonderland*

                I don’t think it’s necessarily offensive, but it’s still unfortunate. When coming up with a name for a public-facing program, it’s a good idea to consider other ways the name could be read. Seems like a pretty standard part of the branding process. Yeah, most people will realize the other meaning is unintentional, but you still don’t want people having that association with your brand if you can avoid it. It makes the organization look silly, at the very least. I agree with Alison that WTF or STFU would be worse since they are more recognizable, and FFS is not the end of the world. Still not ideal.

              2. Kayla*

                For what it’s worth, the World Taekwondo Federation changed their name a couple years back, specifically to avoid the slang meaning of WTF. It… really didn’t help that their logo for a number of years was just the acronym in a stylized design.

              3. TrainerGirl*

                There is a restaurant in Washington DC called Woodward Table, with a restaurant on one side and a takeout on the other. They named the takeout WTF. I’m sure they did it to get people talking about the place.

            2. MusicWithRocksIn*

              I did not recognize and when I saw NSFW I was worried I would have to do some scary googling. Finding out it was for Fork’s sake was a relief, as I would not have to scary google, but it was also way more vanilla than I thought it would be given the fuss in the letter. I was thinking it was something worthy of a Cards against Humanity card.

            3. MissBliss*

              Younger millennial, very online, and same. My brain instantly processed it but only because I had the context. Otherwise I would not have thought anything of it.

            4. Fabulous*

              Another elder millennial, and I agree – while I know and use the phrase, I would not have immediately linked the acronym when used in a different context.

            5. MapleHill*

              I’m an older Millennial and I had to google FFS as I was reading the letter because I had no clue what it was. So yeah, some will associate it with that, some won’t, but most people I think will assume in a business setting that it stands for something else.

              1. Charlotte Lucas*

                I had to Google it, too. I’ve worked in government healthcare benefits for years, where it’s a common abbreviation for “fee for service.” (How many doctors get paid in the US.)

                1. kelmarander*

                  YES! I work in Medicare and for 15 years said FFS for “fee for service.” Had no idea it could mean anything else until I alerted our millennial intern that I’d be in the “Medicare FFS Conference” to meet with our FFS partners all day. Yikes!

                  FFS is totally a thing for the American health insurance industry. Insert facepalm here.

                2. Hopping to it*

                  Yup! I see it a lot as shorthand for fee for service, and had to wrack my brain for other meanings. I would absolutely not have a problem seeing this in a professional seeing. I did have a project that the director wanted to abbreviate as PROBE that I couldn’t stop thinking of in a UFO context…

                3. Monkey Fart*

                  Thought so too! FFS as fee-for-service. Couldn’t understand why the writer was that shocked about using that acronym for a different purpose. No problem in my mind for using that acronym. So many things are abbreviated for text speak nowadays it feels foolish to eliminate anything possibly used in a swear/sex text shorthand to only honor that one meaning.

              2. PhyllisB*

                I didn’t know what it was, but I don’t swear a lot, and I never use this kind. I would have been totally clueless.

          2. LikesToSwear*

            I definitely think how much time and where you frequent on the internet are indicative of how familiar you might be with it. I’m also Gen X, like to swear, and spend a large amount of time on social media and instantly recognized the acronym. On the other hand, my husband didn’t recognize it. He’s also Gen X, doesn’t swear as much, and spends his internet time on political blogs and news sites.

          3. Ren*

            Southern Europe elder millennial here. While it is true that I spend too much time on the internet, I’m pretty familiar with that acronym even though English is not my first language.
            I agree with OP

          4. LetterWriter#2*

            I think you’re right, and I’m Gen X if anyone’s curious (and Very Online).

          5. W. Rogers*

            I did not recognize the acronym at first but with effort I made the connection. Op should calm down.

          6. SheLooksFamiliar*

            I’m a Boomer and can be very sweary. I’m also an early adapter of all things Internet and use – or at least know – sweary slang terms. I don’t think it’s an age thing as much as a digital-world thing.

          7. Pants*

            Gen X and I use it too.

            In my last job, we worked with a law firm that used MOFO as their shorty name. It’s even their website. Our whole team laughed every single time. Who am I kidding, I’m giggling right now.

            1. NotAnotherManager!*

              Morrison & Foerster is very aware of it, picked it on purpose, and really leans into the domain. It was not an oblivious choice, and many of them think it’s hilarious, too. How often do you get to tell someone your email is

              1. Pants*

                I didn’t know if I could name names, but yes it’s definitely them! I was really hoping they did it on purpose because it’s so effing funny!! Or mofoing funny, as the case may be.

                I knew I wouldn’t be the only one. Y’all are my people.

            2. Gimble*

              My org works with them too! Honestly I love it because every time someone mentions them it makes me smile. As branding goes that ain’t bad.

            3. Ginger Baker*

              Came here to say this! It’s literally mofo dot come for their website. And it was founded in 1883 so not exactly a startup.

            4. More dopamine, please*

              Xennial here — I don’t swear much, so I had to think about it for a minute to understand what LW was worked up about. At work, I see FFS used in healthcare as Fee For Service, and no one has ever laughed about it.

              But honestly, the slang use of FFS is pretty vanilla. I wouldn’t describe it as NSFW.

              1. More dopamine, please*

                Ugh, posted this in the wrong spot.

                But I love Morrison Foerster’s branding. Really, who doesn’t want to be able to say that their lawyer is a real mofo?

            5. Autumnheart*

              I did a mini-site for MOFO way back in 1999. I giggled then, and I was running right here to bring up that example again. They really leaned into it, not to mention grabbing up the coveted four-letter .com domain. They’ve been for decades at this point!

              At my own job, we have a process shortened as “SOL” and a digital asset management tool (DAM). Then of course there’s point-of-sale systems (POS). We still privately smirk, then move on.

          8. Sopranohannah*

            I wonder if it’s regional as well. I’m an older millennial who is online a lot, and while I’ve heard the phrase, I haven’t heard friends/family/coworkers ever use it. I was drawing a blank on the acronym.

          9. Paris Geller*

            I definitely think it’s something that has to do with how much time you spend online. If I saw FFS in the wild, it would definitely bring up the acronym for me and I would be surprised a company picked it–not because there’s anything wrong with the three letters by themselves, but because I would think that someone would point out it’s use on the internet–and the OP did! For me, FFS is just as prevalent in my communities as WTF. I seem to be in the minority, though.

          10. Windchime*

            Boomer here, reporting for duty. I immediately connected it with the meaning, but I also have a potty mouth and am online a lot. However, I don’t think it’s crazy common and I would probably just be momentarily amused if I saw this as an email address. I wouldn’t be shocked or horrified or anything like that.

          11. RC*

            I’m with Alison–50-ish Gen Xer here and I like swearing. I also don’t think swearing is overtly offensive on the face of it–context matters a lot to me, and I’d be the one snickering in the background, though I realize that attitude is not universal.

          12. mmppgh*

            This thread makes me LOL. I am Gen X and I swear every other Facebook comment I make starts with FFS but them I am pretty much a smarta$$ and exasperated by the stupidity in this world. I don’t know that I would equate the initials in a business context though. I also agree that best practice is not to use acronyms/initialisms as a standalone, except on second reference. Even so, I always mix it up in writing to avoid confusion.

        3. Artemesia*

          I am, well, elderly and that jumped into my head the first moment I saw it. I’d not want this as an acronym on my project. But then I grew up hearing the Nixon re-election campaign committee referred to as CREEP.

          1. mreasy*

            Ever since I did a report about Nixon in 5th grade, I have wondered why that acronym was allowed to stand…especially given how accurate about their actual activities it ended up being!

            1. SheLooksFamiliar*

              I don’t recall that it was an official acronym, but it was quickly adopted because it was so appropriate. Nixon was considered creepy before he ran against Kennedy.

              I guess if there truly is a god, s/he has a sense of humor.

          2. Chinook*

            As a Canadian, will always remember the short lived naming of the newly formed Conservative Reform Alliance Party. I think it took a week before it was renamed to something that would read better when printed on the live feed for the House of Commons. You can never live down calling your newly formed party CRAP for the official record.

        4. Batgirl*

          Gen X and while it made me giggle, I don’t see it as a stupidly obvious acronym you must avoid. If I came across an innocent coincidence in the wild, I’d snort-laugh once, then just mentally reframe it as Fab Fashion Store or whatever, and move on.

          1. kitryan*

            Another Gen X who made the connection ASAP but isn’t particularly bothered by it and wouldn’t think less of the org.
            I *am* always briefly thrown when cognitive behavioral therapy is referred to by its acronym, due to the context in which I first encountered it.

        5. Sleeping Late Every Day*

          I’m 71 but my inner 11-year-old immediately snickered. A lot of friends of my generation have robust vocabularies and use acronyms so we don’t shock the younger generations.

        6. Rachel*

          65 here. I don’t swear much or hang around with people who do, and I recognized the acronym immediately without even having to think about it. If I were doing business with OP’s organization, my eyebrows would definitely go up. If that were all, I wouldn’t go any further than that. But if there were anything else that seemed clueless or sketchy, I would reassess whether I wanted any involvement with either the program or the organization.

          1. Carol the happy elf*

            Boomer here. Waaay back in the olden days, (early 80’s) the US Air Force had a moment of idiocy and decided that their Communications Squadrons, or “Commies” (remember, this was the Cold War era) HAD to have a new designation. With computers new and exciting, and beginning to be essential, the powers that be decided that every Comm Squad worldwide would now become the Information Services Squadron, or ISS. Furthermore, they would have a regional location letter.
            We were in Europe, so Comm became E.I.S.S., northern America became N.I.S.S., etc.
            My friend was stationed in Hawaii, which is in the Pacific.
            She said it was so funny to go from being a Commie to being a PISS-ant.

            1. Carol the happy elf*

              Or maybe it was Information Systems Squadron. Either way, they do adore their acronyms and operational names.

        7. Yorick*

          I’m 36 and I’ve heard and used the full phrase, but never the acronym. I had no idea why OP would object to it or what it would stand for, and would never have connected it with anything if I had seen it in the wild as the name of some program.

        8. Sparrow*

          Older millennial, and I immediately recognized it. I would internally snort-laugh if I saw it in the wild, but if I was exposed to the workplace-specific FFS enough, I’d eventually stop noticing.

          1. Superb Owl*

            I think a key difference might be that while people sometimes actually *say* “double-u tee eff,” I am not sure I’ve ever heard “ef ef es” spoken, so I’d only recognize it in writing.

            (also a geriatric millenial)

            1. Galloping Gargoyles*

              I’m a Gen X-er and I’ve only heard it spoken on a frustrated huff so I definitely didn’t recognize it right away.

        9. Sarah*

          I’m 47, and I know what it means.

          I’d definitely find it strange for a company to use it as an acronym!

        10. 23&me*

          Maybe it’s regional? I graduated college last year and I have literally never heard of it.

        11. Jake*

          Could it be regional?

          I’m 32 with a really big vocab for expicit words and phrases, and I’ve never heard or seen the acronym.

        12. EmbracesTrees*

          I’m mid-50s and got it right away. … that probably says a lot about me. =)

        13. Clisby*

          I don’t think it’s generational. I’m 67, and I laughed out loud when I saw it.

        14. Betteauroan*

          I see this acronym a lot online being used as a short cut. It is actually quite common. I think OP should put the kibosh on this, especially the email.

      2. Lime green Pacer*

        As soon as I saw it, I cracked up. But I have a knack for decoding these things quickly. I can’t recall ever seeing FFS actually written as an abbreviation similar to LOL or IIRC.

        1. Seeking Second Childhood*

          Web search for “askamanager + FFS” turns up pages of responses where it’s used by commenters.
          OP pointed it out so if company takes flack, they’re the visionary.

          1. LetterWriter#2*

            Ha! A visionary, awesome! I hope it doesn’t make us look bad, or out of touch, or the butt of jokes, but will tell you all about my told-you-so if it does go sour :)

        2. Jane Austin Texas*

          I also think that’s hilarious. Just enjoy it! My job tosses around FML (family medical leave) and STD (short term disability) like they’re NBD. Still giggle every time I see it.

          1. WFHHalloweenCat*

            Yeah my HR lists Short Term Disability as STD Insurance and I have to pause every single time…

          2. Karo*

            I’m surprised I’m not seeing more of this in the thread! I also have to send save-the-dates a lot (STDs) and work on RFPs which often if you get to the second round have Follow-Up Questions (FUQs). As we initialize and abbreviate and “text-speak” things more and more, stuff like this is going to keep coming up.

            1. Someone*

              My work is military-adjacent, but I’m in the private sector with no military history. First time I saw the abbreviations for certain army installations, I definitely giggled at “FCKY” (Fort Campbell, Kentucky).

              I would not GAF about FFS, LOL.

          3. an infinite number of monkeys*

            We had a positive version when our office joined a Farm-to-Work program. Farm-to-Work FTW! I was pretty excited about it. Although once I saw the offerings I changed my mind (basically leftovers that hadn’t sold at the previous weekend’s farmer’s market). We’re state government so I figured we were getting low-bid vegetables.

            I’ve always snickered at POS machines (point-of-sale), FML, and the fact that the Executive Director of our agency is generally referred to as the ED.

            1. Not So NewReader*

              POS machines. I heard people in the arena say the term is an accurate description of the quality.

              1. Charlotte Lucas*

                Healthcare work has really jaded me! I think “place of service” when I see POS.

                I guess no abbreviation is really “safe.”

            2. Katie*

              Be glad there’s no such thing as Work-to-Farm! (Although perhaps that would be relaxing. Esp. if it were a llama farm!)

          4. Anon for this*

            I worked somewhere that was named after a donor with a very long name. It was something like The Jack and Jill Wang Family Foundation Community Recreational and Childcare Center of Anytown.

            Colloquially, everyone called it The Wang. That was its internal name because the full one was too long and that was that. The Wang.

            If anyone noticed or cared they kept their giggles to themselves.

          5. GothicBee*

            I was part of a student group in college that abbreviated to STD. They used the abbreviation all the time and even played on the meaning as a joke in some of the email communications (it was a bunch of college students after all). New people would laugh about it, but you get used to it pretty quickly and can easily understand based on context what people are referring to.

        3. Environmental Compliance*


          An old coworker and I at a previous job, when needing to deal with a particularly complex EPA standard on the daily, along with incredibly annoying internal processes that made it more difficult than it needed to be, would say “for feck’s sake” on a regular basis between the two of us.

          We got t-shirts with FFS across the front.

          This would absolutely crack me up and I would bring it up and then just be entertained.

        4. NotAnotherManager!*

          I’ve worked around governmental organizations or the military most of my life, so I’m also pretty good at decoding acronyms quickly. BARFO is still my favorite (best and revised final offer in response to an RFP). I got FFS immediately, but I’m also used to there being a slightly unfortunate overlap between official and slang/text-speak acronyms (like the aforementioned STD).

          A peer of mine had one that they could not figure out – an agency they were working with kept offering them “GFE”, and all they could find online was “girlfriend experience”, which they could not image the government was offering them. Turns out it was “government furnished equipment” – they were offering to send hard drives to receive the large volume of data my peer needed to send them.

          1. Data Analyst*

            BARFO!!! I love that so so much and wish I had occasion to come across it (well, actually not, after my brief and disastrous time at a place that did get RFPs, but you know what I mean).

          2. RecoveringSWO*

            When I was in the Navy, I had to discuss ISIS reports often (couldn’t tell you what it stands for, but it’s about logistics). The other ISIS was established and gaining notoriety around when I left that tour. I can’t imagine that they kept ISIS as the acronym for that report, but I’m not sure…

        5. GothicBee*

          I feel like I’ve seen ffs, but it’s not usually capitalized unless someone capslocked their entire comment. The context and capitalization is different enough that even if someone sees FFS and immediately thinks of the full statement, they’re most likely not going to be offended by it.

      3. sacados*

        I’ve heard of it, and in context of reading a comment, for example, where someone was like “I can’t believe he did that, ffs!” I would understand it.
        But if I encountered that acronym “in the wild,” so to speak, I’m honestly not sure if I would make the connection without someone pointing it out.
        So I think OP is probably more worried about this than is necessary.

        1. Willis*

          I agree with this. In the context of the letter, I made the connection right away but I don’t know that it would’ve particularly stood out in my mind just seeing the acronym by itself. (Although admittedly, I do more swearing aloud than in writing…) And it would probably stand out even less if I was seeing it some other specific context like “to learn more about our Free Fuzzy Sock program, please email” The OP’s attempts to have them change it were smart, but if they refuse, it wouldn’t be the hill I’d die on, FFS.

          1. MI Dawn*

            Exactly. In a single statement, I know exactly what the writer is saying. But in an email address or a company, I’d assume it was an acronym or similar. As a nurse, SOB is often on charts – shortness of breath – but out of context, or if you aren’t familiar with the usage, one might think we were calling you son of a bi***. But, like Willis points out, in a context sentence, I wouldn’t think anything more about it except maybe to giggle about it privately.

            1. Mel*

              Yeah, now that patients can read charts in real-time, we all got a memo about maybe changing the use of SOB.
              My favorite that we commonly use in my specialty is a lab that looks for the MTHFR gene. My brain immediately translates that to something inappropriate….
              But in relation to this thread, I’m in my 40s and use FFS very frequently.

                1. Mishi*

                  Can’t change it to BS as we already use that for bowel sounds. So you can see that a patient has SOB and BS + x4. Lots of it is going away and it is becoming less common for people to actually write so we are losing all the fun abbreviations. In a few years no one will know the joy of having someone come in claiming STD with SOB and good BS while documenting on the POS system.

          2. Karo*

            This is a really good point that I hope the OP sees. You can do a lot of damage control by prefacing it with what it stands for whenever you can.

          3. DrRat*

            My first thought about this was literally “is this the hill you want to die on?” Years ago, my org made a change that I absolutely HATED. A senior manager who was much more politically savvy than I was literally took me out for martinis and asked if this was the hill that I wanted to die on. He pointed out that 1) the decision had already been made 2) all the complaining in the world was not going to change it and 3) all I was doing was wasting any political capital I had built up. It was a good lesson in office politics.

            So I guess my question to OP is…what’s really going on here? Because honestly when I got to the “think of the children” part my second thought was – this isn’t the real issue.

        2. turquoisecow*

          Yeah, same. In context, I know what it means, but it’s definitely not widespread enough that I’d think of it immediately. Eventually, maybe, it might dawn on me, but it wouldn’t be my initial reading the way WTF or something like that would be.

        3. TooTiredToThink*

          Oh my word. I kept thinking I had never heard FFS before, ever, until your comment. I’ve literally always thought it was supposed to represent that sound you make when frustrated with something! *headdesk*

        4. Context is everything*

          This is where I come down too. In context, sure, I would understand it right away. But in the context of the Future Firefighters of Syracuse, I wouldn’t notice it.

      4. allathian*

        I literally went :facepalm: when I realized what it meant, although it took a while.

        That said, I’m glad that I managed to persuade my org to avoid using the abbreviation WTF for an e-service that we provide to the public. Granted, I’m not in an English-speaking country, but abbreviations like that are commonly understood, at least among those who hang out on internet forums and blogs.

        1. Quoth the Raven*

          I’m not in an English speaking country (Mexico), but the first thing that comes to mind with “FFS” is “for fuck’s sake”, and I think that would be that case for people in here who hang around English speaking boards.

          That said I’d probably have a laugh about it, but I wouldn’t think much about it in the end.

        2. Canadian Yankee*

          Here in Toronto, one of the boutique commercial property development companies is called the “WTF Group” – you see their signs all over the trendy, converted warehouse part of downtown where many of the tech startups are. From their website and their advertising, there’s absolutely nothing tongue-in-cheek about it and they completely ignore any possible double-meaning.
          I have no idea how they’re able to survive this name!

      5. Ellie*

        Lol, ffs:) I think its a total joke and you are right to have tried to stop it. But hey, if they won’t listen, why not just go along for the laughs?

      6. Well...*

        I’ve seen the acronym and from context I got that it was expressing exasperation. I read it like a keyboard smash more than as an actual phrase.

        Anyways there are oblivious people like me (and i guess a lot of LW’s coworkers) who won’t see the acronym weirdly.

      7. Epsilon Delta*

        At my previous job, we worked with a private company on one project that also had the acronym FFS. So OP, your company is far from the first to pick this, and it was unremarkable to everyone but me. I giggled and was met with blank stares. I had to explain what it stood for to my two work friends.

      8. Lucy P*

        I had to look it up so that I could understand OP’s letter in context (before I got to Alison’s response).

      9. The vault*

        I also have never heard of this or seen it. I was like….is this something the OP made up like giving fake names to people. I honestly couldn’t think of what it was. I’m an elderly millenial (best new phrase ever)

      10. Sloan Kittering*

        I was going to say, some people are Very Online and know all these acronyms and assume everyone does, because that’s their bubble. But most people do not know them, especially older folks, children, and people who don’t spend a lot of time on social media. I wouldn’t make this a hill to die on.

    2. in a fog*

      LW #2: We once had a committee that shortened to DTF. The first time it was announced in a staff meeting, there was a definite ripple that went through the room. I finally approached one of the leads for what was an exceedingly awkward conversation.

        1. Hare under the moon with a silver spoon*

          Just when I thought today’s post and comments couldn’t get any better…

      1. Simply the best*

        Oh my god, we had soooo many DTF committees. For like a year. No one said anything to our ED because we were all like well obviously that also has a professional meaning so let’s be professional and not giggle. But when she finally realized it had a NSFW meaning, she was pissed no one mentioned it to her.

        Also CBT comes up a lot in my sister’s workplace, but that also has a super NSFW meaning.

        1. Simply the best*

          Oh! And now I remember that back when I was in college, all courses were listed as four letter abbreviations and then a number. So like HIST 101 or ENGL 202 or BIOL 303. This is how they were listed in the official course list, on your official transcripts. This abbreviation would be used anytime you got an email from your professor. Etc. Most classes would just take the first four letters of the word as seen above, but that was not always the case.

          I took a lot of Comparative Literature classes. With a very questionable abbreviation.

          1. SleepyKitten*

            Analysis was often shortened in the worst possible way in course lists and library catalogues. I think my favourite was functional analysis which we all called funcanal for the entire term.

            1. Annika Hansen*

              We used to have a job title that our HR system truncated to Systems Programmer Anal. I chuckled like a 12 year old every time I read it.

            2. Elsajeni*

              We have a Statistical Analysis for Such-and-Such Majors class that always gets abbreviated to “Statistical Anal” in the online catalog. “Stat Analysis” wasn’t an option?

          2. Chas*

            My undergrad university had a name beginning with C, so every club acronym started with the letters CU, followed by the acronym of the club itself (so the roleplay club was CURP, for example).

            It was a bit awkward for the (M)usic and (Mass)age societies.

          3. ADHD Anon*

            I love this thread! My giggle – City Leadership Initiative Team. Was presented by a real ass of a coworker. I was dying. Slides all said C.L.I. Team. He really didn’t see it. Still remember him saying that the City should ‘embrace’ … never heard the end of the sentence. Had to get up and leave the room.

          4. Generic-username*

            Lol, my college used the same sort of abbreviation. I remember sniggering over the course catalogue every year

          5. Windchime*

            Seattle has a short trolly line that used to be called the South Lake Union Trolly. They changed the name of it when people started calling it the SLUT.

            1. hello to jason isaacs*

              This was a thing when I was in middle school – it became VERY cool to wear the promotional “Ride the S.L.U.T.” t-shirt.

        2. SleepyKitten*

          And ED stands for eating disorder… There’s no way to get away from ambiguous acronyms!

          1. English, not American*

            Also for erectile disfunction, though that seems to be a less common usage these days, now that spam is themed around bitcoin rather than viagra.

          2. The vault*

            I still refer to “emergency department” as “ER – emergency room” I always think ED sounds weird. I also do indeed, have an eating disorder, and that’s what I relate it to.

        3. RabbitRabbit*

          A colleague and I were scheduled a few years back to go to a work conference in Denver in the middle of April. Unfortunately the way it was told to us was that we were going to Denver on “4/20” and I snorted out loud, then had to explain myself, as no one else knew the reference.

          420 is a slang reference for smoking marijuana, supposedly around police codes for it or something, and so April 20 is also commonly celebrated among pot fans with festivals. Especially in big places that had some legalized marijuana, like Denver. (I don’t even smoke it!) So yeah, we went there and Snoop Dogg had a huge concert that night and there was a big street festival on the main shopping strip and I was like, “SEE?! It’s a THING!”

          (Unfortunately, it’s also the birthday of Hitler so evil people celebrate that, but I’m not going to mention THAT at work unless someone’s using some very unfortunate combinations like 88 / HH and “14 words”.)

        4. Picard*

          I just had to look up all of those (plus the original one) so if I saw any of them, not likely to have much of an issue. I’m in my 50s, speak five languages and hang out on here a lot… shrug.

      2. DyneinWalking*

        Oh gods! I do think that’s way worse than FFS. At least, FFS is just a curse word/exclaim. Sure, it has the f-word in it, but it’s used in a curse context which I feel is less jarring in a work context than when it’s used to refer to an actual sexual activity.

        1. hamsterpants*

          This reminds me that my old company had a piece of equipment whose three-letter abbreviation was OMG. So I’d occasionally have to receive or send emails with subject lines like “OMG quality issues” or “OMG maintenance scheduled.”

      3. Tree*

        As part of their performative inclusion efforts, a former workplace had the Women’s Task Force, later changed to the Diversity Task Force.

      4. Anonone*

        This might need you to be slightly more online, but one of the national audits I handle at work is called FAP and I haven’t looked at it once in about 3 years without laughing. I can’t believe it got named without at least one person knowing what they were doing though.

        1. Elenna*

          I think that one’s less an “online” thing and more a British thing? Could be wrong. Definitely some fun giggles in this thread though!

          For the record, I knew all of these (although DTF took me a minute) but I wouldn’t particularly think badly of a place that used them as the acronym (especially if the full name was written somewhere and the acronym was an obvious shortening of it). Mid-20s and very online.

      5. womanaroundtown*

        There is a Big Law firm with an extremely dubious acronym that they use as their email address. I think that at this point, they’ve just embraced it. But emailing someone @mofo is always fun.

      6. Cat Tree*

        Before Covid, I was in a couple of role-playing groups. It seems every group is perpetually short by one member, so we were always looking. This is how I found out that “dnd” is also used in personal ads to mean drug and disease (free).

    3. AnneMoliviaColemuff*

      I think FFS is fine. It might elicit some chuckles (like POS still does for me), but it’s not an actual curse word.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          POS is a perfect example of something that gets used a ton in businessy situations yet has an utterly different meaning too, and is fine.

          1. Jamie Starr*

            Also STD — in HR it’s “short term disability” and for event planners it’s “save the date.”

            I disagree that FFS is fine, though. If I saw a company using that I would wonder if they knew what it meant and have second-hand embarrassment for them.

            1. Bridget the Elephant*

              Where I used to work we had the STD Unit (Staff Training and Development). They even had sweets with STDU printed on them.

              1. My Dear Wormwood*

                “Sexually Transmitted Disease University”

                Well, they’re not wrong…

            2. Mae Fuller*

              Every time the bank asks for me OTP, I want to type “Jake and Amy!”

              But yes – working with children and families means working with a significant number of internet-literate teens. I would replace “FFS” if at all possible.

            3. Not Australian*

              Huh, I’m old enough that ‘STD’ means ‘Subscriber Trunk Dialling’, i.e. you can dial this call yourself without having to ask the operator to connect you!

            4. LetterWriter#2*

              Yes, it makes us seem “out of touch” to me – maybe not offensive but embarrassing for sure.

              1. BethDH*

                Yes, it might make me think a tiny bit less of your company in certain contexts, but it would probably only matter to me if you were trying to convince me that your company was a good choice for social media marketing or something like that.

              2. Dwight Schrute*

                For what it’s worth, if I was emailing someone with FFS@companyname I would definitely get a good chuckle out of it but it wouldn’t make me concerned about working with them at all.

              3. Flor*

                Yeah, out of touch and with poor attention to detail is the concern I’d have, because my first thought would be “Did NOBODY say anything??” Of course, in this case *we* know that somebody DID say something, but as a potential client being told to email FFS@ I would be concerned about the level of attention to detail I could expect.

            5. Marsupilami*

              FFS is the italian name of the Swiss railway (“Ferrovie federali svizzere”). Having lived in the Italien speaking part of Switzerland, that would be my first association… Acronyms, short ones in particular, very often have a lot of different meanings; I do not see a problem with that at all except for very few exceptions, where one meaning is so prevalent that it is the only one known to most people.

            6. Red 5*

              I feel like I’m the only person at my office that refuses to use STD for save the date. I just can’t make myself do it because they were so rare and weird when I was growing up that my brain has to take a long time to figure out which thing is intended. I just don’t reach for “save the date” first.

          2. Dragon_Dreamer*

            I named my first computer PoS. Because it was one. >.> Made it to 25 years old as a server, though.

          3. Freya*

            Dance partner is often shortened to DP in many a community I’m in, and I die inside every time

            (I haven’t heard “teabagging” used instead of “the nightclub two-step” in a while, and I truly hope my dance communities have dropped that one from their vernacular… )

            1. There’s probably a cat meme to describe it*

              I’ve heard “teabagging” used in reference to kayaking, when the person at the back of a 2-man is getting tired/feeling lazy and only dipping their paddle in for show.

              But all things considered, talking about teabagging – in daylight and on an open body of water – is a rather different context to drunkenly yelling it in someone’s ear in a club late at night…

            2. Ana Gram*

              I once had a very sweet, fairly naive coworker ask if she should go ahead and toss her salad for the potluck now or wait until later. Silence…and then hysterical laughing. I got nominated to tell her what it meant. That was an unforgettable moment!

              1. Elenna*

                …Okay, that one I didn’t know. And I knew all the other acronyms above. I’m kinda surprised you had enough coworkers who knew it that you got hysterical laughter, but maybe it’s a regional thing.

                1. Yvette*

                  I think “toss my salad” is a euphemism for vomiting. I have usually heard “toss my cookies” , or am I way out of touch?

                2. Christina*

                  Replying to Yvette… Toss my cookies is throwing up. Toss my salad is… Very different.

          4. AvonLady Barksdale*

            I mean, often I write “F/U Charles” in my notes. I like Charles. Enough that I want to talk to him again.

            Sometimes acronyms play out in weird ways. We just chuckle and get on with it.

              1. My dear Wormwood*

                DNA is commonly used for “did not attend” which is very confusing for a molecular biologist moving into clinical research.

                1. EvilQueenRegina*

                  In my current job, I can come across DNA as either Did Not Attend, Decision Not to Assess or actual DNA test results.

                  I always make a big point of not using the acronym at all and using the phrase in full when adding one of these to someone’s records to avoid confusion.

            1. Red 5*

              I actually have a filing system where in theory my file names of that sort should end up being called FU_PersonName and almost nobody else would ever see it. But that’s my one exception to my system, I always type out FollowUp_PersonName just in case ;)

            2. Empress Matilda*

              I always laugh at f/u as well!

              My favourite work acronym was a project called ROUS. I spent an entire *year* going “Rodents of Unusual Size? I don’t think they exist. THWACK!” I don’t know if anyone else found it as funny as I did, unfortunately…

          5. NYWeasel*

            POS is Point of Sale in our world, and I often forget the more common meaning, lol.

            But also, I recall having a document that shortened down to OTP, and I joked “You down with OTP, yeah you know me!” My 20-something coworkers looked at me like I had 15 heads, and then I had to explain that I was making a dad joke about a 30 year old rap song about cheating. :facepalm:

            1. londonedit*

              Yeah, ‘piece of ****’ isn’t a common phrase in the UK (or at least not as common in the US) so I wouldn’t immediately recognise that acronym. But ‘for ****’s sake’ absolutely is a common phrase in the UK (we like swearing) and it’s a common acronym here too now. I also only found out recently what ‘the D’ means in the USA – I think that’s becoming a more common thing here too, but more among The Young People and I’m not one of them!

              1. MeTwoToo*

                ‘the D’! My mother recently got the results of her labwork back and was telling me that the doctor says she needs ‘more of the D’. My son, her grandson, lost it! ‘Grandma, you can’t go around telling people that! Then he had to explain it to her. Bet he wishes he hadn’t said anything!

                1. MarfisaTheLibrarian*

                  In “grandparents saying awkward things,” my grandmother made it into her 80s using “thong” for “flip-flop” before her son’s MIL went “Um, that has…another meaning.”

                2. Autumnheart*

                  I dunno, if I were Grandma, I might do a Betty White and tell people “My doctor says I need more of the D!” completely straightfaced.

                3. Dave the Cat*

                  I’ve worked places that followed certain rules for Decision-making that involved figuring out “who has the D”

              2. EvilQueenRegina*

                UK here as well, and understood FFS straight away – as for POS, it happened that I was recently chatting with an American friend and he used that expression, so I did recognise it but may not have done without that context. Now I’m wondering about The D which means nothing to me!

            2. Wintermute*

              I have a workflow I am responsible for called OPP– and make the same joke. ODB is an IT term as well (object database) so that one comes up too sometimes.

            3. Putting the "pro" in "procrastinate"*

              I made the same joke once in a meeting about something called OPC. I was little nervous about it (because the original meaning is pretty damn NSFW) but I couldn’t resist so I just said in a normal voice, “you down with OPC?” One of the senior managers in the room — she’s a little younger than I am but old enough to be the HUGE fan of 90s rap that it turns out she is — hollered “YEAH YOU KNOW ME!” It was hilarious. And yeah, not everyone in the room got it; strong dependence on age and nationality.

              We also have something in our group that abbreviates to PMT, or at least I tended to abbreviate it that way when it was new. There are a couple of Brits on the team, and they couldn’t bear to call it that — evidently this initialism to them means “premenstrual tension,” which is what we call PMS in the US. And I guess because of their influence, nobody calls it PMT anymore — they use other abbreviations for it instead.

                1. NotAnotherManager!*

                  OPP is a 90s rap song by Naughty by Nature. Give the lyrics a quick google. :)

              1. NVHEng*

                In the late 90s my company came out with a new HR “Performance Management System” that was quickly renamed to “Performance Management Program” (PMP) when someone pointed out that PMS wasn’t a fabulous acronym for an engineering company that wanted to retain women.

                I agree that context will help the FFS@ email address be more normal and acceptable. I would still giggle every time I saw it though.

          6. boop the first*

            Anytime someone purchases an item in a store that has “assorted” in the name, A-S-S is displayed on the screen in big letters and no one mentions it.

            (usually without the dashes but I don’t know if I can say that here lol)

          7. Rachel*

            I was driving through a rural part of my state today and saw a business called “FML.” I wouldn’t have thought much of it ordinarily but after reading this post this morning, it cracked me up!

      1. Mrs. Norris*

        Proof of Service. I am an old fuddy duddy at a courthouse who uses POS for Proof of Service.

      2. The vault*

        In Virginia we have SOL’s in school. I thought that was hilarious for so long. It’s “standards of learning” It’s weird because I thought people used SOL prior to text abbreviations and things, like I remember it from middle school in the late 90’s…

        1. Red 5*

          I mentioned it in my comment, but I was in high school when the SOLs were introduced and almost nobody was online at that point because it was the early 90’s and I was in a rural area of the state. Nobody knew any internet slang at all, but almost everybody knew what SOL meant because it’s been military slang for ages and there’s a lot of former military in town.

          Incidentally I just looked it up after I commented to be sure my memory was correct, and the internet tells me that SOL was first created as an acronym in the military in WWI, so it’s been in use for so many generations that you’d think the Virginia governor would have known better.

      3. turquoisecow*

        Yeah I work in retail and POS just sort of flows past me but whenever I mention it to my husband he immediately wonders if the system I’m talking about is a POS in the other manner.

    4. maybe maybe*

      Nnless it’s a common thing that keeps going on like ffs@companydotcom followed by a lmao@companydotcom, I really wouldn’t worry about it then. There’s also the demographic factor, if they’ll be in correspondence to younger generation who might get the reference or not.

        1. just another anon*

          Ophelia Harris’ work with the Fun and Friendship for Seniors group is very important!!

    5. Em*

      My old job loved acronyms for different committees and functions. They had a “CBF helpdesk” and I would die laughing every time it came up.

      1. Blue*

        Ha, see, to the point Alison is making, I have no idea what that means and even googling isn’t giving me a straightforward answer!

          1. Hamish the Accountant*

            Oh, that’s so funny… I’m guessing I didn’t know that one because I’m more used to the British version, CBA for “can’t be arsed”.

            1. Superb Owl*

              well now i’m excited that i can double entendre collective bargaining agreements!

        1. Mary Bennet*

          I had the same response to “DP”, that someone mentioned above. After googling, I’ve definitely heard of what (I assume) it’s referencing, but I’ve never used/heard an acronym for it.

      2. Keymaster of Gozer*

        We currently have a Control Of Covid Safety person who, yes, puts ‘COCS expert’ on their signature and sends my 40+ year old self into giggles.

          1. Keymaster of Gozer*


            I mean, I get it – we have COSS officers (Control of Site Safety) so a bit of demarkation is needed for different skill sets but…yeah, I’m the kind of person who laughs at Scunthorpe setting off the profanity filters.

        1. Blarg*

          ALSO though. “Control of Covid Safety” sounds like you’re controlling covid safety. Not controlling Covid. Shouldn’t it just be Control of Covid OR Covid Safety?

      3. londonedit*

        In Britain ‘CBA’ – can’t be arsed – is a fairly popular phrase, so I guess that acronym would be another one Brits would enjoy but probably wouldn’t raise an eyebrow in the US.

    6. Need a WFH policy*

      #2 I absolutely knew what it meant and I think many of your clients will have a field day with it if things are going sideways with their interactions with your organization. FFS what were they thinking!?! FFS, why did I expect anything else!?! Things along those lines.

      One of my big regrets was missing a meeting where an internal system was being named. I yelled at the group for not going with calling the database SAD when we had a chance!

      1. Felis alwayshungryis*

        At an old workplace we used to get a kick out of the internal number for the IT helpdesk being 5050. The joke was that it was the chance of them being able to fix your problem.

          1. Felis alwayshungryis*

            Some genius with a sense of humour had to be responsible for that! Amazing!

        1. Keymaster of Gozer*

          I once lobbied for our internal helpdesk number (I work in IT) to be ‘404’.

          1. There’s probably a cat meme to describe it*

            Would anyone be able to find the number though..?

            1. RosyGlasses*

              They can probably find it but the better question is – would anyone answer it or would they get the old school dialtone of – “I’m sorry, that number cannot be found”? :)

          2. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

            When I worked second shift, I would page coworkers to extension eighty-four eleven.

            8 got you an outside line.

      2. LetterWriter#2*

        That’s what I worry about too – it would be so easy to mock us online that the mockery could take on a life of its own. We work really hard to avoid upsetting people, so hopefully that won’t happen, but if it does, the jokes write themselves!

        1. Keymaster of Gozer*

          In my experience of funny acronyms and companies – it gets a laugh for a bit but fades out equally quickly.

        2. Wintermute*

          The thing is, it’s SO common that to be honest, it doesn’t even ping in the top ten. I mean for the longest time Research In Motion had a careers page at “RIMjobs” and they weren’t widely mocked, it just showed up on a few lists, and they were a very famous company with a site that was so blatant people wondered how it could ever get through.

          If Experts Exchange, Powergen Italia, Pen Island and their kin can survive their URL mockery, you’re not going to even be in the top 50 for mistaken implications.

      3. Elenna*

        Yeah, I knew what it meant, and since LW works with families I expect they’ll get some giggles from teens. That being said, I don’t think it’ll really make people not want to work with LW’s company (especially if the full name is also written somewhere and FFS is the obvious acronym for it). If anything, it might make me think that LW’s company wasn’t super familiar with internet slang, but in most cases that doesn’t matter, assuming the company doesn’t work in social media or anything which requires detailed knowledge of the internet.

    7. MKinCA*

      My old job used “FFS” (specifically in all-caps) as a written abbreviation for “fee-for-service”. The acronym was much faster and easier in emails and such. It literally never occurred to me that it had another connotation, until this question here. Ha! Well, chalk one up on the side of “folks won’t notice this as much as you might worry they will”

      1. KayEss*

        One of our most obnoxious clients has a fee-for-service billing code in our tracking system. It takes a bit of the exasperation out of doing stupid tasks for their poorly-managed projects when I log the time to [clientname]-FFS.

      2. Nevertoolate*

        My current team has been referred to as the FFS team because we mainly set fee-for-service rates. The term is so imbedded into our work I honestly didn’t think of the other phrase for years! But once you know, you know, and on occasion I chuckle to myself but that’s about it. Our industry is a heavy user of acronyms, which are mostly meaningless to those externally, so I think in general it’s best to steer clear of using any acronyms externally such as e-mail addresses. Internally can be more flexible though, but given how language evolves there’s no way to get out every scenario. Phrases and acronyms take on different meanings in different situations, so context is key.

      3. Parsley*

        My office also uses FFS for fee-for-service. It’s been the case for many years and only struck me maybe a couple years ago that it’s the same as the other acronym. It’s a convenient abbreviation, used almost entirely internally, so I’m not inclined to give it up. If it sometimes gives someone a giggle, I can live with that.

      4. Bex*

        Same. FFS has meant Fee-For-Service in my field since well before textspeak because a thing. For me, context matters. But I also grew up with a close relative who went by Dick, which was a pretty common nickname in his generation.

    8. Kat*

      #2 Absolutely hilarious. I’m very familiar with this one and would have a hard time taking it seriously.

    9. jcs*

      LW 1: My employer branded itself as a “smoke and tobacco free university” and briefly used the acronym on signs.

      1. Virginia Plain*

        There’s a rumour (I believe it may actually be true) that a British police force once had a Special Homicide Investigation Team…

        1. Not Australian*

          There was a certain amount of brouhaha when Northern Ireland got its own (i.e. devolved) police service. Should they call it NIPS, for example, or something even less reassuring? No, it ended up as the Police Service of Northern Ireland.

        2. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

          We have Super Helpful Information Technology Specialists.

        3. Phony Genius*

          I heard a story that a new British TV service was going to start up, and changed their name at the last minute because they realized that Scottish Islands and Highlands Television could create problems.

          1. Phony Genius*

            I meant “Scottish Highlands & Islands Television.” What I wrote, is less of a problem (and may have been the solution).

        4. Anomalous*

          I am very sad that there is no “Sam Houston Institute of Technology” in Texas.

      2. Ama*

        About a decade ago, the NYC subway system phased out the “V” subway train and all of the stops handled by that line became part of the “M” train. To keep things simple, they made a bunch of M train stickers to just paste over the V train logos on any of the signs in the system. Only at a couple of stations, the V train was sharing a platform with the F and the L train –and yup, they were in the correct order for several of the signs to now read “FML” (which is a fairly apt acronym at times in the NYC subway, especially when there are system delays).

        It got a lot of bemused photos on social media until they went out and switched the order of the lines on all the affected signs. I still wish they had left it.

        1. Grace*

          The Canal subway station we stopped at last time I was in NYC had all the Cs scratched out, so…

          1. The Impossible Girl*

            A city near me has a series of trails/walking paths near the rivers called The Canalways. The Cs on the signs are removed frequently.

    10. Mike*

      I’ve had two colleagues at different places use “FU” for “follow up” and I never read it that way, and it amused me.

      1. My dear Wormwood*

        One of our librarians retired and her successor was named Felicity Yu. Lovely name, but in accordance with our institution’s email styles, the departing librarian’s auto-reply said, “please refer further enquiries to

        1. PT*

          I worked somewhere where the email nomenclature was Firstname then first initial lastname, and then if two people with the same first name and same last initial got hired, they’d go to the second letter.

          Well we had a TangerinaF at work dot com and then we hired a Tangerina Funke, whose email was about to be TangerinaFu. But IT would not allow that, so she became TangerinaFun at work dot com. Which was also silly/vaguely suggestive, but worlds better than eff you.

      2. Two Chairs, One to Go*

        I worked in a whole department that used FU for follow up. Just got used to it.

      3. RabbitRabbit*

        The medical office I used to work in fortunately abbreviated it as “f/u” which seems less likely to raise thoughts of the alternative.

      4. nonprofit writer*

        I use f/u for follow-up in the to-do list I keep for myself, and sometimes if I happen to be annoyed with a particular client it makes me giggle a little to myself when I write f/u Client Name. I’m a freelancer so this is all in my own head, but I still enjoy it.

      5. Queer Earthling*

        “I hate little notes on my pillow. Like this morning. ‘We’re all out of cornflakes. F.U.’ It took me three hours to figure out that ‘F.U.’ was Felix Unger.”

      6. It Me*

        A long ago boss who was just learning to use email (up until then he had the email printed on paper, he would read and dictate a response, which would then be sent and printed on paper…) started responding to messages in all caps, with minimal niceties, using FU for follow up. So his emails read like:


    11. Janeric*

      My last job had a project named WTF and it was a DISASTER. Partly that was because the project management was from a field that usually did more focused work, and WTF had a lot of moving parts — but also the attitude from the group that named a project in our abbreviation-happy field “WTF” caused issues in other parts of the project team.

        1. Batty Twerp*

          I was hoping someone would mention this acronym, because I *genuinely* worked at a place with a Hot Item Task list and a Super Hot Item Task list. I wish I could say I was joking!

          We were a small government subdivision that got bought out by a private company. They knew very well what they were doing.
          (Especially when someone, fairly high up if I remember rightly, suggested adding a prefix to make it the Business Unit Limited Liability Super Hot Item Task list – this bit was obviously a joke by them)

    12. H*

      I managed to stop some people at my job to refer to a project and in the long run their whole department as S&M. I was very relieved over that.

      1. H*

        Not refer just, officially name it. I tried to discreetly point out that it was a NSFW-abbrevation, and it required a final “if you don’t understand why it is unsuitable, please google this on a device and in a setting that works for NSFW-material”.

    13. AnonFromCH*

      My university’s platform for booking rooms and events is called Servix, so my standards are significantly lowered, but FFS sounds kind of harmless.

      In case you’re wondering, apparently it’s short for “The Service Platform for Event Management and Services for Activities or Events at ETH Zurich”. (Why?)

      Tell me your IT team is all male without telling me it’s all male….

    14. Stephen!*

      My aunt, decorating pastry for Valentine’s Day, decided that “Happy VD” would suffice for the space challenged donuts. Some people snickered, some didn’t register anything at all, and really, in the end, it didn’t matter. Ffs, it’ll be fine!

    15. a sound engineer*

      I would think that it’s mildly funny, but probably not give it a second thought beyond that. I don’t think it’s as big of a deal as the OP makes it out to be.

      1. The Prettiest Curse*

        Yeah, having worked in the nonprofit world, I came across a lot of weird acronyms that would have a different meaning in another setting. I’d usually just be amused for a moment and then move on.

      2. Snow Globe*

        The only thing that makes it potentially a big deal is that they are dealing with children. The kids will definitely make the connection, and eventually one of the parents will complain about it.

    16. Non non*

      As I read your letter, every time I saw FFS, my brain said the words “for fuck’s sake”, as in “The name is three words that are being shortened to for fuck’s sake. … we set up the email address forfuckssake@ [] We work with children and families. We ask them to email us, for fucks sake.”

    17. tired_panini*

      Not sure if others brains go here, but FFS is also an acronym for facial feminization surgery. This was my first thought on reading the acronym and I was confused at why it was considered NSFW for a moment til I remembered the more common usage.

      1. Sparkly Librarian*

        I had a similar moment of confusion upon visiting a (non-queer/trans-specific) parenting forum for the first time and encountering FTM outside the context I’m used to seeing it in.

    18. Phil*

      If it was an internal only thing I’d chuckle at the double meaning. Hell, I’d be the one coining these and seeing if anyone notices. Using it externally… Not such a good idea. Even if no one is offended by it, it’s only going to generate endless “uh, do you know what that means?” comments.

      I also love misguided abbreviations, like when older Christians refer to their Bible Study as “BS.” Also, today in a group message for the church team I serve in, someone said “WDGAFS” and I’m still trying to work out if that’s some new and innocent thing, or a more obvious answer (albeit with an S on the end).

      1. Xenia*

        I think especially if this is aimed towards kids. Adults might be willing to just ignore any awkwardness. Kids will take it and run with it.

    19. Jamie Starr*

      There’s a law firm in NYC called Morrison & Foerster that uses “MoFo” as their url and nickname. And, yes, it’s entirely intentional.

      1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

        I have instructed MoFo (and taken instructions from them) and can confirm the URL choice was indeed deliberate. But also you get over it very quickly *and it’s very memorable* among law firms that are jumbles of family names.

        1. My Dear Wormwood*

          I think this might be my favourite in this thread.

          (As is your username. I keep hearing it in Helga’s introductions voice.)

    20. Greg*

      Just a bit of a side note. Sci Fi channel changed its name to syfy

      The term “syfy” has negative connotations in Polish,[1] because it is a plural form of the word syf ‘dirt, syphilis

      1. My Dear Wormwood*

        The shop “Can You Keep A Secret” in my town has abbreviated their name on some signs to CYKA Secret which has an entirely different meaning in Russian.

    21. WTF Group*

      My kids used to go to a preschool with various groups named after the days of the week they attended. Mine were “WTF” (Wednesday Thursday Friday), which was proudly emblazoned in various places including invoices and the cubbyholes they stored their stuff. The invoices also had a line item called “Annual Ass Fee”, as in association, I think. (Or at least hope.)

        1. PT*

          My university used to abbreviate Thursdays as R but instead spent a ton of bandwidth reminding freshman that a TR class met Tuesdays AND Thursdays lest they miss their first day of class. Because it happened every year. Changing the computer system to read Tu/Th would probably have been easier than haranguing 4,000 freshman for three months.

      1. Phony Genius*

        I once saw the job title “Assistant Engineer” abbreviated in a very improper fashion.

    22. Cambridge Comma*

      I advised colleagues against two initialisms that would be widely used externally, COK and DIK (always used together). They went ahead anyway and I have to say that no feedback was ever received.

      1. My Dear Wormwood*

        Reminds me of the first time, many years ago, when our university tried to add a spam filter to the email system and got lots of irate feedback from the ornithology department that there are in fact workplace-appropriate reasons to email people about tits, cocks and boobies.

        1. Batty Twerp*

          Or the outrages residents of Scunthorpe who found their addresses were not allowed past certain overvigilant nanny software.

          Honestly, we’re grown ups. But you’d never tell!

    23. MEH Squared*

      For #2, Gen X person here who is fond of a swear word or ten, especially in writing. I knew what it was immediately and thought it was much tamer than the acronyms I had floating around in my brain before reading the actual acronym. If I came across it in the wild, I would have a little chuckle and then move on without thinking twice about it.

      The commentariat shows that this is not a universal response by far, however.

      1. Mox*

        Yeah, I assumed it was gonna be something like CBT or DDLG. FFS is fine, not any worse than the near-universal POS machine.

        1. MEH Squared*

          Agreed. Many of the acronyms mentioned in the comments are way worse–like DTF and BDSM. And, yeah, I’d put it around the same level as POS, which is acceptable in business settings.

          Context really matters and FFS wouldn’t immediately make me think of the swear version in an email of a nonprofit. Even if I did, it wouldn’t be more than a moment’s snicker.

    24. Fried Eggs*

      Sometimes acronyms are weird. You’ve brought it up, people didn’t care, and it’s not the hill you need to die on. Even for people who know what it means, FFS isn’t that NSFW. I’ve worked in offices before where it would be okay to say that non-abbreviated out loud.

      I used to work at a company that worked closely with a well-known German organization called GIZ. You spell it out rather than say it as a word.

      Americans who’d never heard it before would snicker the first time they saw it and then get used to it.

      The worst was when German colleagues would see people laughing and ask me what was funny. I’d have to say “They assumed it was pronounced “jiz,” which sounds like a rude word in English – don’t google it at work.”

    25. Cake Diva*

      I don’t have much in the way of advice for LW2, but I’m laughing right along with them. I also have a similar story, though in my case, corporate stopped it before it went public.

      Last November, corporate decided that our Christmas cake design would be a gingerbread man. However, the actual design of the little cookie man looked like smiling, very happy… Uh… Male genitalia. Everyone who saw it giggled. This thing was going to become viral, but probably not for the reasons that corporate intended.

      The design made it so far along that they had sent detailed instructions to the stores. And being the maliciously compliant decorator that I am, I was prepared to make the most glorious gingerbread members that I could (after all, the regional manager says I’m supposed to stick only to the official designs and not make changes…). But alas, word got back to the powers that be, and a new design was sent out in early December. Boo.

      Now, I’m super low on the grand scheme of my company, so it wasn’t going to affect me if we had a display full of phallic cake designs. I’m just doing what I was told. But it sounds like LW is a bit more involved. Still, if it’s not going to personally embarrass them, I’d suggest just rolling with it. Laugh. Wink wink, nudge nudge. “Yeah, I know. FFS, am I right?”

      But if that’s not an option with Law’s position, I’m afraid I have no advice. Just the confirmation that I immediately went to the same place as you.

    26. Acronynomous*

      I actually didn’t know what FFS was an acronym for until reading Alison’s reply but I do have two funny inappropriate acronym stories for commiseration:

      Several years back a specialized branch of law enforcement in my country decided to combine a few different units and rename the new combined task force. My relative worked in one of those units and told me the new name they’d decided on: Federal Organized Crime Unit. Yes, they picked FOCU for their name. I laughed very hard while pointing out the acronym pronunciation issue, which *somehow* my relative had not picked up on. Apparently the Powers-That-Be also realized the issue upon printing the letterhead and the name was changed to a much more inoffensive acronym in less than a month.

      Another unfortunate acronym is from the martial arts I practice. The World Taekwondo Federation (WTF). I’ve had to just hold in my immature giggles on seeing that one because there is no way I want to explain why I’m laughing to my very strict Grandmaster. After a while it does get easier to ignore although I’ll probably always find it humourous.

      1. Foxy Hedgehog*

        In 2017, the World Taekwondo Federation changed its name to simply “World Taekwondo” because of that problem.

        1. Acronynomous*

          Perhaps our wall signs/flags are out of date. There is a giant all-caps WTF on the sign and it’s on the testing paperwork too (as recently as 2019). Lol

    27. Bex*

      #2 – I think this might depend on the clientele you serve. You said children and families. The type to hang out on reddit, Twitter, Snapchat, or Instagram? I see more use of FFS in those aspects than in general social media or internet activity (even compared to Facebook), and don’t see it often in text for the most part.

      Pay attention to how the folks you work with respond. If there’s giggling or sideways glances (or whatever the new version of that is) consider broaching an alias for the email at least. But this might slide depending on demographics.

    28. Who the eff is Hank?*

      I used to work at a music school where our nicest piano was a Steinway D, or “the D” for short. Using this piano for performances and recordings was often requested and we had to limit the number of people who used it. So it was not uncommon to hear my 60-something boss loudly ask, “But why does she need the D?!?”. No one in the office could keep a straight face, even after working there for years and hearing about people “needing the D” regularly. But we still never gave it another name!

      1. My Dear Wormwood*

        Now I’m imaging my elderly boss saying this in his thick Austrian accent and it’s glorious. “But vhy doss she need ze D?”

      2. Personal Best In Consecutive Days Lived*

        There’s always the classic joke for any stringed instrument with one string tuned to G: your G-string is flat. (Hilariously this one is most likely to be flat on an acoustic guitar.)
        I knew exactly what FFS means, I am immature, and love swearing, but I wouldn’t be judgemental about the email because context is key.
        (Though there are two industry terms that were carefully crafted to avoid “tit” and “ass” and that does make me giggle.)

    29. Medusa*

      FWIW, the Swiss railway system, whose name is in German, French, and Italian, is abbreviated to SBB CFF FFS.

    30. Anonny Non*

      Someone I used to work with once told me about an English-speaking relative who caused a commotion when working at a European firm.

      She sent an email with the header FYI. She meant “For Your Information”, but the recipient assumed it was an acronym for “F*** You, Idiot”, and she was summoned to a meeting with HR to explain herself.

      1. Quango*

        Oh to be a fly on the wall in that meeting when they realized. Also, I will totally have to stop using FYI now out of fear of that

      2. lailaaaaah*

        And this was why I included lessons on acronyms and slang when I taught English as a foreign language. So useful! So overlooked in language teaching materials!

    31. Audrey Puffins*

      I’m familiar with FFS as an obscenity, but I would simply be amused and consider it one of those funny coincidences if I saw it on a business website. Acronyms often have more meanings than intended; I work in an education-adjacent role in the UK and frequently have to look up what TRA stands for in a work context ‘cos I know it’s not Trans Rights Activists there.

      Let FFS go into the world. Most people won’t think anything of it beyond that moment of initial amusement, and if feedback does show that more people are bothered by it than not, your company can consider reassessing then.

      1. Audrey Puffins*

        Also, I’m of an age where “cyber” used on its own rather than as a prefix is very solidly fixed in my mind as another way to say “cybersex”. I am able to carry on professionally, just allowing myself a private giggle, when it is frequently mentioned in workplaces nowadays. You’ll be fine.

    32. honestly it could be worse*

      Our local funeral director has the initials FFS (imagine Frederikson Funeral Services) and all their vehicles have FFS on their registration plates.

      It tickles me every single time, even when I’m at a funeral. It’s a nice thing, a bittersweet smirk, an in-joke. I think people are either oblivious or mildly amused, but I’ve never encountered anyone who thought it was shocking or inappropriate.

      I’m millennial and extremely online, so FFS is as engrained as ASAP. But I still don’t think it will actually turn out to be a problem.

      1. DyneinWalking*

        I love all these little stories in the comments!

        I feel like most people would have been against the use of FFS in a funeral context if asked about it.
        But you are right – it really does work! I can just imagine it being uttered in a sad, grieving tone of voice, bemoaning the death of a loved one.

    33. Might Be Spam*

      My dad was a programmer back in the days when they were limited to 8 characters for program names. He named a program Calculate Reproduce And Punch. CRAP. It took awhile, but management at IBM caught on and made him change it.

      1. My Dear Wormwood*

        This is only tangentially related, but there’s ma governing body that vets new gene names because we’re massive nerds and without some check, half the new genes named will be an obscure Star Wars reference or something. Case in point, a very early-discovered gene family called hedgehog has a member called sonic…which has turned out to be critical in development and gets referred to constantly in the literature. “A knock-down of sonic hedgehog produces…yes, yes, now stop giggling…”

        1. Solana*

          Oh, yes, I work with lab animals and had to chuckle seeing a strain of mice called ‘JEDI’. No, they didn’t have tiny lightsabers.

    34. Seal*

      As one previous job, we had a BS team, whose actual function was fairly innocuous. The running joke was that every workplace needs a BS team. A different job had an ASS department. That department generally spelled out their name for obvious reasons, but their staff LOVED their acronym.

      1. Mostly Managing*

        My husband worked in Business Services.
        Then a reorg was combining them with the Finance department.
        It was going to be… unfortunate, until a colleague stood up in a company wide meeting and said, “BS was bad enough. you can’t seriously be intending to call us F&BS”.
        The CEO backtracked very quickly

      2. There’s probably a cat meme to describe it*

        I used to have to deal with the CACA team. Coincidentally, their work was also shit.

    35. Quango*

      (Western Europe waking up here) This is very possibly an international thing. I’m English and FFS one means one thing (although back in the 90’s we used it to mean “fresh fruit salad”, inexplicably).

      When I lived in USA ten years ago, a few people there asked me what it meant when I used it. They would have said “goddammit” instead (which isn’t used in England).

      1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

        Honestly, I think FFS has lost some of the power of the original swear – I hear people say “eff eff ess” out loud, or certainly read it as “for flip’s sake” or “for frick’s sake” without losing any of the meaning. It’s quite far removed from the f-word nowadays, I think.

        By comparison I find “goddammit” still sounds like a swear and I wouldn’t expect to encounter it in a work environment. I think this is possibly because the British are generally more casual about swears relating to body parts and bodily functions swearing than Americans are, whereas we still find swearing related to Christianity more edgy. Language doesn’t have to be logical!

      2. There’s probably a cat meme to describe it*

        I am here for Fresh Fruit Salad. Slow serve with a drizzle of sarcasm over the top would totally work for me as a classic FFS sub. Just saying.

      3. Lemons*

        Re: ‘goddammit’; this might be regional, but it’s very much used in England. (I would probably spell it with spaces though.) And conversely it doesn’t register as ‘swearing’ to me, and I tend to think of stronger reactions to religious cursing more of a US thing. For example, the bowdlerisation ‘omigosh’ is extremely American slang IME, and I didn’t get that to a lot of people ‘damn’ is a legit swear word for many years, mainly after seeing it described as such on US telly. Granted I was raised irreligiously, but the standards for swearing are fairly uniform among my cohort.

      4. No Tribble At All*

        A long time ago I worked at a place that had several different brands of, let’s say, trucks. Everyone referred to the different types by their manufacturer name. One type in particular was always breaking down, needing maintenance, and causing problems. It was always referred to as the “GD truck” — the GD truck has a flat tire again, the GD truck keeps pulling to the right. Out loud and in emails! After a month I finally commented that I was surprised people called it the “Goddamn truck” in emails.

        Readers, it’s from the company General Dynamics.

    36. Anthony J Crowley*

      Honestly I would have the same reaction as OP2: laugh hysterically at first, then move to NO this is ridiculous.

      At this stage I don’t think there’s really anything else they can do: the company has really committed to it. But you’re not wrong, OP2.

    37. Jessica*

      I use FFS (outside work) frequently. GenX here.

      On the other hand, I work in IT and in government so Im used to acronym overload. If I was a customer/client of FFS it would make me snicker to myself every time I saw it (and possibly make sniggering jokes in private on my social media) but other than that I’d get over it and it wouldn’t affect my trust in the company.

      Honestly even when the acronym is safe it sometimes isn’t. A common acronym in use for Canadian government employees is “NPSW” (National Public Service Week) and every June during NPSW when we are inundated with emails with this acronym in the subject line I am constantly amused because of the similarity to NSFW.

      Also safety is in the eye of the beholder. I was once naming a new batch of servers with a Norse mythology theme and when it came to a pair of web servers “thor” and “sif” a consultant working on the project the servers were for (who was mostly complaining because he was miffed that he – a temporary consultant FFS – wasn’t getting to name the servers) kicked up such a fuss about “sif” sounding like we were naming the server syphylis that I had to pick a different name so he would finally shut up about it.

    38. Green great dragon*

      As long as it’s ‘natural’ abbreviation, and it doesn’t look like someone’s deliberately made up a name to get this acroynm, I really wouldn’t think twice. There’re only a certain number of letters in the alphabel. A few people might amuse themselves by exclaiming FFS when something goes wrong with it, but I can’t really imagine people being that worried.

    39. FD*

      Until last year, our local building safety department, which was known for having employees who were…not great had as its general inbound email BSrental. And they really did choose to capitalize the first two letters when they put it on their website and the like.

    40. Freya*

      I’ve developed a habit of searching for acronyms in urban dictionary before I suggest them, for just this kind of occasion

      1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

        Our clients frequently reference a Financial Assistance Program. I wish they’d follow your lead…

        1. Zephy*

          I am a financial aid professional. They recently transitioned to a new site with a new URL, but for the longest time the government website where the Education Department handed down notices about financial aid stuff for folks like me was called IFAP.

          1. Exme*

            This is the one I was thinking of! I’m no longer in the industry, what did they change it to?

    41. Orch dork*

      Relatedly, I really really really would like the kind, elderly, conservative religious admin assistants at an elementary school I work at to stop sending emails about cumulative files using the abbreviation “cum file” in the subject line buuuut…I also CANNOT be the person to tell them so here we are twenty years later and each time it happens I jump out of my chair. ‍♀️

      1. lailaaaaah*

        Oh my GOD, I’d like to think I’d say something but I don’t think I could bear to breach that topic with them.

        1. Not Australian*

          Yeah, I’ve used that at work – in a medical library where we shelved the Cumulative Index Medicus, always known as the Cum.Ind.Med. The full stop makes all the difference in this context!

        2. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

          “Cum” is just the Latin preposition that means “with.” “Magna cum laude” and “summa cum laude” just mean “with great honors” and “with the highest honors.” So this is more a benign word that English has made bad.

      2. There’s probably a cat meme to describe it*

        It would appear that there are some entrenched blind spots when it comes to elderly, conservative-run religious institutions and cum files.

      3. Red 5*

        I had a coworker once, and English wasn’t her first language but she’d been speaking it for a long time at this point, and she wrote the word come with the…inappropriate spelling every single time she used it. Finally somebody said “um, are you intentionally being crude with this message?”

        She argued with us for a while that it was how “come with me” should be spelled, and we had to find like three dictionaries to it to her.

      4. Whoops*

        I work in a professional services organization which refers to income from clients as PSI (Professional Services Income). This is tracked per week and also cumulatively over the year, so each week we get a report with a graph labeled “CUM PSI”. In my head PSI is pressure (Pounds per Square Inch) and it always makes me wince.

      5. just a random teacher*

        Every school I’ve worked in, from rural conservative middle school to alternative high school, has used that abbreviation. Everyone pronounces it cyoom (like the start of “cumulative” since that’s where they’re getting it from) and uses it out loud as well as in writing. This is just one of those things that you have to stop thinking about when you work in education.

        What I couldn’t get past and couldn’t explain sufficiently to my co-workers was that the rural conservative middle school’s mascot was the “Toppers”. I just could not unsee the top/bottom connotations and was absolutely NOT going to try to explain that reference to the administration of a small logging town’s middle school at that particular political moment. (The high school’s mascot was the “Loggers”, you see, and a “Topper” is apparently a specific job/task within logging so it was a play on the high school mascot, and apparently the entire town knew enough about logging terms that no one but me found this out of place.)

        I still have a “Topper” lanyard somewhere.

    42. Helvetica*

      When the EU was setting up the task force for negotiations after Brexit, they very carefully named it “U.K. Task Force” and not “Task Force U.K.”, so the acronym would be UKTF and not TFUK… Now in that case the connection would’ve been too obvious. FFS doesn’t quite rise to the same level.

    43. lailaaaaah*

      My work email uses people’s initials- which is fine until you have to get in touch with LOL, SMH, WTF, or OOO about a serious matter and just end up giggling internally.

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        Ohboy… the team working with the mail hub server is going to get Marlene Hortense Smith’s email a lot, aren’t they?

    44. KateM*

      I’m thankful you told in the post what it means because I wouldn’t have guessed.

    45. Oska*

      The code in our (Norwegian) time sheet system for PTO is FML (fri med lønn, or F My Life if you will). We also have a LOT of products with acronym names. I notify the right people of the worst ones (like FAG, and yes, I’m aware of the significant difference in US/UK meaning, but we have customers in both countries) but leave the cuter ones, like HAG, alone. That said, none of my notes have led to changes. I guess that might change if emails start getting caught in customers’ spam filter because of Bad Words.

      Our email addresses used to be FirstInitialLastInitial@, but that didn’t last very long after they grew to a two-digit number of employees, so now they are usually the first two or three letters of your first and last name, which leads to some interesting ‘nyms. Mine sort of sounds like a slang term for coffee with moonshine, while a colleague has the name of a certain famous Internet cat that likes to sit in boxes. :)

    46. Asenath*

      In my sixties, and although I do sometimes have to look up online acronyms, the slang meaning of “FFS” immediately jumped to my mind as soon as I saw it.

      1. Agnes*

        The first time my mother heard the name “Unix” she wondered why on earth anyone would call a system “Eunuchs”. We all have our connotations.

    47. Ari*

      For what it’s worth, even WTF isn’t absolutely unusable in a professional context. In college I interned at the Williamstown Theater Festival. It was on our shirts!

      1. Chash*

        I grew up in Williamstown and remember when WTF did go through a period of a few years where they realized what their acronym went and tried to rebrand to a classy, single W. Everyone still called it WTF, so they gave up and went back to it, albeit with the knowledge of what most people would think when they saw it. They do some punny t-shirts now, and I still fondly think of their promotional email “WTF is in your stocking,” which had the advantage of being amusing if you knew the other acronym and completely innocuous if you didn’t.

    48. Coffee Cup*

      I mean, a structure I sometimes work with published a document whose title is shortened to RIP and it is used everywhere. A colleague and I got a good chuckle out of it, but context is everything, so you just go along with it. haha

    49. Azelma*

      My work used to have a document called a “Wellbeing Action Plan”. We would regularly ask team members to fill in their “WAPs”. Funnily enough, after the Cardi B song, they got renamed.

      1. Azelma*

        Also, I don’t know if it’s true, but it’s a well known urban myth round my way that when our local polytechnic got uni status, it was originally going to be renamed as the “City University of Newcastle-upon-Tyne”. Then they started making the branding with acronyms and changed their mind.

        1. Anthony J Crowley*

          Apparently true. When I first heard it I googled, because I did NOT believe it, and there were reputable sources saying as fact. All gone now unfortunately.

        2. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

          Around here, the faux pas belonged to Franklin University and their Charging Knights.

          1. Karo*

            We in SC joke that Furman University chose to make their mascot a Paladin under duress – we all know they wanted to be the Christian Knights

        3. There’s probably a cat meme to describe it*

          If you search for CU in the NT you’ll see how well that Northern Territory tourism campaign went in Australia.

    50. LetterWriter#2*

      Thank you all! I’m Letter Writer #2 and what a bunch of LOLs these replies are! Reading through my giggles, I did ask myself why this mattered to me. I can see that using the acronym is not that big a deal to most people, and it’s not like I agree with every decision made at my work, so I will try to shrug it off and enjoy the silliness. My frustration probably came from there being no good reason to use the acronym after its other meaning was pointed out. Using the Free Fuzzy Socks example in the replies, it could be the FFSocks@ email address or FF Socks program, right? Sigh.

      A wise friend told me to channel my energy into getting a program started with the acronym FML. I’ll let you know how that goes :)

      1. Justin*

        There’s a subway station in Manhattan where the F, M, and L trains go. And once that became a thing they just rearranged the letters at the station.

      2. Lisa*

        I worked on a particularly hellish project a decade ago and some of our consultants were tasked with creating a takeaway document for their organization. They deliberately titled it to include an F______ M_____ L______ phrase. It was a teeny tiny stress valve. No higher ups at either company ever figured it out.

    51. A Pinch of Salt*

      Not advice, just funny. I work with an internal configuration table that has settings for “anal_ass”. How did no one stop to say “maybe a different abbreviation guys?”

      1. animorph*

        I guessing it was analysis assessment? I struggle with abbreviating those two words all the time! :)

    52. Anonymous tech writer*

      I talked someone out of a product code starting WTF by suggesting they google “WTF” and “WTF Wednesday”.
      Wiki disambiguation page for FFS is tame by comparison.

    53. animorph*

      Our organisation has a management training programme called ‘Know Your Staff’ and they abbreviate it to ‘KYS’.

      I have wondered about pointing out to them that KYS is used by kids as an acronym for ‘kill yourself’ (bullying over the internet of course…), but I didn’t at the last minute and looking at these replies, I’m glad I didn’t. It wouldn’t have changed anything (all the branding had been done), and we are a professional environment – entirely different from kids at high school being nasty to each other.

    54. Stitching Away*

      Anyone else flash to the pilot episode of The Closer when the acronym for the new squad was PMS?

      1. Donkey Hotey*

        Former Sailor here. PMS was the Preventative Maintenance System.
        Want to guess how often the maintenance was performed? Monthly.
        I never learned which came first.

    55. I take tea*

      I’m giggling a lot at all the examples, thank you!

      I’m middle aged in a European country (not UK) and I got FFS immediately and snickered. But I hang around on the net a lot and have a loud mental twelve year old in my head. That said, I would not do more than a little snicker and eye-roll, it would not upset me in the least.

      It’s funny with abbreviations, they can mean a lot of different things – I certainly need to check often when reading here. I don’t have an especially juicy one to share, but at our work we sometimes talk about Patron Driven Acquisition – PDA – which for me means Public Displays of Affection, usually in the context of “ew, get a room”. It makes me smile a little every time, the thought of too-affectionate books.

    56. Nearly Grad*

      World Taekwondo Federation is the one that came to mind. Always abbreviated to WTF. We found it funny as kids doing gradings but you really do just get over it. The bad one was my analysis lecturer would abbreviate analysis to well… the first four letters!

      1. Lizzie*

        Reminds me of John Cooper Clark’s song ‘I don’t want to be nice, I think it’s clever to swear’ on YouTube (1978 Old Grey Whistle Test ), a punk blast from the past

    57. anonymous 5*

      Years ago, the snickers over an org trying to get a domain name with their acronym (Wisconsin Tourism Foundation or something similar) actually inspired a question on “Wait, Wait; Don’t Tell Me!” The panelists–or most of them?–weren’t really aware of the acronym at the time. One of them learned pretty quickly, though, when she was later announced as being in last place and she forlornly replied, “WTF!”

    58. Discordia Angel Jones*

      I haven’t scrolled through all the replies but there’s a company in the UK which sells shaving products for women which is called “Friction Free Shaving” and they use the acronym FFS but I’m pretty sure they’re fully aware of the sweary-ness and it’s part of the point of their name.

      TBH in a business context it wouldn’t really give me much pause. There’s plenty of examples of acronyms having different meanings in different contexts.

    59. Delta Delta*

      If the company was called “Freysburg Family Services” or something, and I saw the FFS email, I’d giggle because I’d assume they know the double meaning, but would assume it’s directly related to the organization. And I’d probably think that they should have found a different email but would also get over it.

    60. LadyByTheLake*

      What came to mind was the law firm Morrison & Foerster, widely known in the industry as “Mofo.” They leaned into it — that’s their domain name, they use that name in branding, that’s what they call themselves. It’s a wee bit cheeky, but once it was normalized everyone stopped considering what else that could allude to.

      1. Mason*

        Former workplace — that’s a deliberate branding choice, though, not an unfortunate coincidence for a program geared towards children. MoFo is meant to be cheeky and memorable, whereas this just seems unfortunate.

    61. FashionablyEvil*

      I work with folks in the federal government who have PIV cards (they’re something to do with security and computer access.) In my corner of the Internet, that stands for “penis in vagina” (to distinguish when people are talking about sex and “sex” could refer to a variety of acts.) I smirk every time someone mentions them.

    62. Sleepless*

      I send in a test called an FNA (fine needle aspirate) almost every day, and read out loud it sounds like “effin’ A.) Not the biggest deal in the world but it makes me smile.

    63. Mrs Nesbitt*

      I use FFS as a swear all the time. A gas station near my house is called “Friendship Food Stores” and we regularly refer to it as the For Fuck’s Sake.

    64. I'm just here for the cats*

      Ok think you might be overthinking this. I’d never heard about FFS and I did my college thesis in text speak and acronyms usage in the English Language.
      I don’t think anyone is going to be so showed and outraged. If anything someone will see it and get a silent chuckle.

      1. I'm just here for the cats*

        I have no idea what I was trying to say, maybe wowed and outraged? I obviously shouldn’t type before I am fully awake and caffeinated.

        But I don’t think it will be a big problem. I’ve had to use a lot of weird acronyms before that were questionable. If anything you might get someone who asks what it stands for.

    65. Jam*

      There’s an organisation my company works with that launched a campaign last year called FU Friday – “follow us” Friday apparently…

      I LOL’d when I saw them announce the plans, and actually couldn’t believe they carried it through. And then I really stared when they did it again this year “since it worked so well last time”! FU Friday!! ROFL, some people are purehearted I guess.

    66. Karen Zucconi*

      I was born in the last year of the boomers and I know FFS. I’m pretty connected to pop culture though and I’m also very good at using context clues and Google. I’d be in the same boat as the OP.

      I had a similar issue in the high school my son attended. Every other Thursday they start an hour late due to “CPT”, which means common planning time. Well, I know CPT as something racist. Every other Thursday I would think “Was it a regional thing?” “Did someone I know personally make it up?”

      Then came the day that NYC Mayor Bill DiBlasio finally endorsed Hillary Clinton for the nomination as his party’s candidate for President. He apologized for his delay, saying he was on CPT – cautious politician time. There was backlash. And it was confirmed that CPT was a racist term.

      You can bet I emailed the superintendent with a link to the DiBlasio/Clinton CPT video. He claimed he had never had that term but promised to speak the high school principal and get back to me right away. So, yeah, my son just graduated from college and I still haven’t heard back. Oh, and they’re still calling every other Thursday CPT.

    67. Thomas*

      Mildly amusing, but not so common as to be unavailable for other uses. It’s no Williamstown Theatre Festival.

    68. Sssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssss*

      At my work, we use MF everywhere as an acronym. It’s short for “member facilitator.” I used it recently in a large meeting on an electronic whiteboard and our newest team member had to pause the discussion to clarify the use of the term! We been using it for so long like this, it didn’t occur to me to flag it to the new folks that this was a thing for our team.

      Myself, it took me a few weeks to stop reading it as the other more commonly used expression.

      FFS is not ideal…but you’ll get used to it.

    69. English Rose*

      This is the most educational thread I’ve ever read, I didn’t know half of these acronyms!! But when it comes to FFS, yes I agree with OP, there’s only one thing that means to me, context or no context, and it looks very innocent and a bit stupid, not to mention unprofessional, to have it as an email address. Thanks for the laughs.

    70. Person from the Resume*

      I had to google it. “For fuck’s sake” showed up right on top of google results but it’s not universal.

      I’d say why does “For fuck’s sake” need an acronym because who says that that frequently? But you never know.

    71. Junior Assistant Peon*

      The commenters here tend to be highly online people. I doubt the average person on the street is fluent in Internet acronyms, especially Twitter / social media type stuff that many Internet users won’t encounter if they don’t frequent those kinds of sites.

    72. The Crowening*

      I use FFS all. the. time. and have for years. However, if I were to encounter an organization that had a Flippy Flappy Sales program and its email address was, I would giggle every time I used it, but it would be a delighted giggle, not an “OMG this is the most clueless organization” giggle. Like, I’d get it. But it would give me that little hit of dopamine. :D

    73. No Coffee for me, thanks*

      I work with machinery that has parts that need to be replaced often. The labels on the boxes for these parts have limited space, so anything that is any type of assembly gets abbreviated as “ass.”
      There are also a lot of awkwardly named parts for the machine: “penetration roller”, “retard roller”, and “stripper fingers”.
      The last of which also has an assembly for it, so there’s also a part called “stripper finger ass.”
      I still chuckled privately about them like a middle schooler, but we keep it professional when we talk about them between each other at work. Fortunately, none of that is customer-facing. Otherwise a lot of renaming would have to be done, I think.

      1. There’s probably a cat meme to describe it*

        I would genuinely like to know what kind of machinery the stripper finger ass goes into and what stripper fingers do exactly, if you have time and are so inclined to explain.

        1. No Coffee for me, thanks*

          Sure! They’re digital print presses (think of a big office printer, but on steroids).

          Stripper fingers are parts that help separate (strip) the paper from the heat roller so they don’t stick after they pass over them. They are kind of shaped like a spade and each one is protruding off a spring loaded rod. So all lined up they look like a set of fingers laying against the heat roller.
          It’s totally sensible in context, but a civilian walking by seeing the list of these awkwardly named parts on my desk will probably do a double take haha

          1. There’s probably a cat meme to describe it*

            Oh! I love finding out about this. I am a total print nerd, but I cut my teeth 20+ years ago before these digital behemoths were conceived. Digital machines weren’t great (or fast) back then so everything long run was done on the 2-col sheetfed or outsourced.
            Bet you’re careful about adhesive sheets though. I can imagine those stripper fingers getting sticky with the heat rollers and jamming the whole ass. up.

            1. No Coffee for me, thanks*

              Surprisingly, it does pretty well!

              …as long as you have good quality adhesive sheets.

              One time my boss decided to switch brands to save some money on a run of 10k+ sheets.
              The adhesive on that paper got squished out and smeared along the entire paper path in the machine. That was one of the worst, most stressfull, and backbreaking weeks of my job here. And I was dealing with the adhesive in the machine for weeks afterwards O.O

              1. There’s probably a cat meme to describe it*

                I hear you. There was a reason the place I worked at adopted a “no client-supplied stock” policy. Even after the whole roller ass and more was replaced there was burnt up crap smooshing out randomly over jobs for weeks.

        2. Not So NewReader*

          Years ago, my husband called them picker fingers. It wasn’t much more than a plastic coattail party toothpick. And the darn things broke the way you’d think they would. Eh, it kept him employed. Even with regular paper, people would get to horsey pulling out a jam and break a picker finger. Then he’d get a service call.

    74. LBAI*

      I had a similar situation occur. An operation I was auditing had a lot of improvements to make, so as they developed their plan, the ending results were called a “picture of success”. This of course was abbreviated to POS. Both meanings of the phrase (picture of success and piece of shit) were entirely on point. I could never stop giggling when I saw POS in emails.

    75. Metadata minion*

      FFS is pretty firmly tied in my mind to “for f-s sake” and I still would find it at most mildly amusing to see as an email from a business/organization. I would feel very different if the acronym was F–K, but for something like this, I think reasonable people understand that there are only so many letters in the alphabet and sometimes slightly unfortunate acronyms happen.

      For comparison, the university I work at has an International Business School, and apparently an unofficial part of the orientation is “Why Americans Will Find Your School’s Acronym Hilarious”.

    76. Mason*

      Definitely knew what it stood for as soon as I saw it. It sounds to me like OP has mentioned their discomfort, but not gone much further. While I might not choose this as a hill to die on, I’d consider proposing some alternatives / having a few more serious talks about brand image.

      These things happen in business sometimes… George Mason nearly named its law school the Antonin Scalia School Of Law (ASSOL? ASSLaw?) before public backlash generated changes.

      1. Acronyms Are Life (AAL)*

        HAHA, this was also the first thing that came to mind when I read FFS. I just remember the amount of jokes and memes that came out of that, so GMU was like WHOOPS, name change time.

    77. Business Socks*

      When I worked for a certain large insurance company as an underwriter, there was a complex underwriting spreadsheet we used called the “Multi-Funding Tool”. It was a very ugly, non-intuitive took that everyone hated. It was commonly abbreviated as “the MFer” or the “MF-ing tool”. I actually had to speak with some colleagues about not using that terminology in emails to external contacts.

    78. Sherri*

      Count me among those who didn’t know what FFS stands for.

      In any event, I have my own bad acronym choice. Years ago, the CEO of our company announced at a manager’s meeting that the Operations would be renamed Business Systems.

      “What department do you work in?”
      “I work in BS.” Don’t we all!

      I work at a bank, so we have acronyms out the wazoo. How she didn’t see that coming is beyond me. She struck me as pretty smart. Or maybe she hates operations?

    79. Special Agent Michael Scarn*

      Letter 2 reminds me of when I saw a truck for a company called Pest Management Services once. They shortened it on their logo to — you guessed it — PMS.

    80. Lady Ann*

      I genuinely had to think about what the naughty meaning of FFS is because in my field (mental health) it means Fee For Service.

      Every once in awhile I come across CBT in non-mental health contexts (to me it just means Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) and I am reminded that acronyms can have many meanings.

      I don’t think this is a big deal.

    81. OHCFO*

      My husband works on a lot of high profile, multi-billion $$ acronymed projects. It’s my mental habit to immediately pronounce acronyms as words. A couple years ago one of his projects’ acronyms sounded out to be the “n word”. Like exactly. I pointed this out to him & apparently NO ONE ELSE HAD MADE THST CONNECTION. I was baffled.

    82. Dust Bunny*

      Anybody else remember when the Wisconsin Tourism Federation changed its name?

    83. Justin*

      My job works with a state agency that we built a curriculum for. We call our classes whatever the agency involved is. So when I started this job, there was a 9 month period where everyone was talking about the Department of Taxation and Finance class.

      Think about it.

    84. HailRobonia*

      I help administer my offices CRM/Registration system for “lifelong learning” courses that are taught both here in the US and also internationally. We had a workshop in Beijing and the lead administrator for that program asked me to create a discount code for her called “BJworkshop.”

      I discretely told her that maybe she should choose another abbreviation for Beijing because… well, it’s not that kind of “lifelong learning.” She herself is Chinese so I was not sure if she knew the slang (she did, but it wasn’t something that stood out to her).

      I also joke that I want to create some sort of agriculture course like “Emerging Ideas in Enhancing Increased Optimization” taught, of course, by Old MacDonald.

    85. oirishgal*

      I’m in UK where FFS is a pretty common term so if i saw it in that work context I’d think the organisation is pretty out of touch and would questions their general expertise etc.

    86. Kaiko*

      Okay, so while I’ll admit that that FFS is something I use (the full form, not the acronym), my only “concern”is that if you’re a service organization for families and kids in distress (and it’s unclear from your letter), the FFS is going to feel like a cheap shot at/for folks who are struggling.

    87. Blarg*

      STFU is a common and long-used acronym for short-term follow-up in the newborn screening (NBS) world. You can find it in state and federal guidance, journal articles, etc. It was used for years before it became what it is now, and honestly, it’s rare to even hear/see it is as the foul version when it is in a work context. We also have LTFU, long-term follow-up. A search for “NBS STFU” comes up with 136,000 results. Do I giggle when I have a calendar invite for the STFU Committee? Yes, occasionally. But I once mentioned it to a colleague in the field longer than I, and she’d never even realized it. She used STFU in the other way, but they’re just … different words in the brain. (Of note, STFU doesn’t really get used with patients/families, it’s more an internal designation of roles and responsibilities).

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        That’s a good point about learning homynyms and such and never spending any effort on how reign and rein and rain–they mean different things! Every once in a while I run across a derivation and have a brief “…. Oh. Huh, I never thought about that, but it makes sense as the origin.”

    88. Karo*

      FFS is unfortunate, but hopefully those in the know will just giggle and move on. It’s better than actually naming something a slur or a taboo swear word, at least.

      I’m on a marketing team and we’re launching a product that our competitors just refer to by company name and type of product but it spells something super unfortunate for us. Like if our company name is Fergus and it’s a User Experience product, which would normally be shortened to FergusUX and then eventually FUX.

      It doesn’t help that our actual company name could be shortened to something that’s common in “adult” situations but not most peoples’ first thought. Like Danny, Thomas & Fergus and our vendors abbreviate it to DTF – I can’t bring myself to write in work emails that we want DTF to get more media coverage.

    89. Res Admin*

      If it makes you feel any better, many years ago, the department my spouse worked in (a very large department that worked with the entire business and had their acronym clearly labeled across their work badges, etc) decided to rebrand themselves and update their name. They had all of the letterhead, business cards, signage, etc. updated prior to making the big announcement: They would no longer be “S— H— C— S—” and would now be “S—H—I—T—“. Everyone applauded until one lonely person (my spouse) raised their hand to ask the obvious question: “What about the acronym?” It took a few moments until the realization hit and one Exec turned to another with a look of horror–“We can’t do that!”

    90. MrsFillmore*

      So, I rushed here to ask an important question to LW, which was…what is supposed to go to the FFS email box?? Which questions are directed there?

      But now I’m reading more, and wondering if I’ve slightly misunderstood the situation. Is LW saying that their org uses FFS with the meaning that we’re all thinking of, or rather that they are abbreviating someone else (ie they have a Food and Family Service department, that they call FFS)? Given line in letter about using with the public, I’m thinking it is the latter, as in the hilarious DTF example from another commentor. If that is the case, I don’t think it’s weird at all to use FFS as an abbreviation for something. Some people might think briefly of the other meaning, but it isn’t common enough to be a problem.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        I’m pretty sure it’s the latter–the program is “Family Food Services” or “First Flight Selections” or “Famous Five Signage.” In which case I agree with you that there isn’t a problem.

        1. LetterWriter#2*

          Hi, Letter Writer here, and yes, that’s the case. I just don’t understand why we can’t set it up as FFSignage, for example, since we have the option. I’ll get over it and I’m glad to hear it doesn’t have a ‘bad’ meaning for too many people. (and the DTF example – and others – have me in stitches :) )

    91. Sam*

      My old workplace decided to call our new computer system a slang term for penis. None of the (older) generation had heard the term before and nearly launched it before a couple of us millennials stepped in! It was the most awkward conversation I’ve ever had with my boss. “Hey, did you mean to call this male genitalia? No? Well…”

    92. anya forger*

      My department (at a higher ed institute) uses the exact same acronym for one of our contracting agreements. In my experience, it has not been a big deal, likely because no one ever calls attention to its alternate association and we tend to reserve the use of the acronym for internal email communications. During meetings, people tend to say the full agreement name and, perhaps not insignificantly, while every other agreement type on our websites is referred to by its acronym, this agreement type is not. I (an elder Millennial) sometimes have a quiet giggle to myself when I see it in an email, but honestly because the use has become so normalized, and there is some awareness of when and where to apply the acronym vs. the full name, that it’s become just another victim of higher ed’s weird love of acronyms.

      I think it’s trickier that the acronym for OP2’s organization is in use with the public, but if they are able to create a strong association between the acronym and the program, people will kind of get what the intended use is for in this specific context.

    93. Richard Hershberger*

      Run FFS through acronym finder and it turns up a long list, the vast majority being entirely innocuous. I don’t get the sense that it is skunked.

    94. JSPA*

      for me (older gen X-er) it’s entirely context-dependent. If someone said, “I told them to put it in the kitchen for food use, so why is it now in the bathroom, FFS?” I’d read it one way.

      If I were looking for information on the Federated Furby Society or the Fast Funding Stream, it would not be odd in the least to find FFS as an acronym, to the point that it would not register. would be fine!

      Now, if (say) the complaints line for a company were FFS@, I’d have a chortle, and could see that others would be offended.

    95. MsClaw*

      As someone who once had business cards that said I belonged to the STI division, I feel you. We all tried to tell them, they did it anyway, and then 6 months later they renamed us because a potential customer couldn’t contain their laughter at being introduced to the ‘head of the STI team’.

    96. Falling Diphthong*

      I think if your program acronym spells out a word, and you can’t say that word on public radio, you should look for a different name. But an acronym that can also be an acronym with a bad word in it? Life is too short and the hep language conventions change too fast. Plenty of times I have wondered “What does FSM mean? Because flying spaghetti monster doesn’t fit at all” and googled and it doesn’t seem to match any of the definitions, you need local knowledge of the webspace to parse it. Or I’ll google and toss out the first 8 suggestions as clearly not working in this context, but 9…. yeah, 9 makes sense. Even if one of those 9 variations contains a naughty word, I don’t look askance at all the possible phrases that contain the letter “f” just because the youth might turn them into a texting short-hand for something.

    97. Zoe Karvounopsina*

      Fond memories of the time we had a series of related committees called ACC, SAC, and CAC.

    98. OldMtnLady*

      I’m 67, and started giggling as soon as I saw it. Of course, the full version is an expression I use fairly often, but I’m a little stunned that an organization would do this.

    99. calonkat*

      I work in State government, with school district funding. We’ve had the acronym “BS” for 30? years in a major funding program. It’s a perfectly fine acronym that makes me giggle like a 4th grader every time I have to tell a school district to use it.

      1. ADHD Anon*

        Once saw a job posting for a company where duties included managing a ‘First Aid Response Team’. They had to know, right?

    100. Joanna*

      OMG. I’ve been using the acronym FFS weekly for over 20 years at work and in a work context, I read it as Full Flight Simulator. I do have a potty mouth, and if I’m on social media I do read it the other way. In fact, until reading this post, I never even realized it was the same acronym. So for me at least, as long as I knew what your FFS means, I think I would read it the way it’s intended. I definitely wouldn’t be offended by it.

    101. Ada*

      Considering I used to start every morning calling on the CUM command to combine data, I can’t say I’d worry about FFS too much.

    102. Certified Scorpion Trainer*

      there’s a company whose work truck i pass every morning on my commute with the giant acronym “JFC” emblazoned on the sides. i chuckle to myself and keep driving.
      i think they’re more of a generational phrase to be honest. you’ll get a giggle out of the younger generations but others who aren’t on message boards or social media as much will probably not understand unless specifically pointed out.

    103. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

      Worked for many years in defense contracting. Ridiculous amount of TLAs (“three-letter acronyms”, yay recursion); at some point you start to run out of obvious ones. We had to be trained out of one of them.

      Our working name for this effort during the proposal phase was “JOPES Development and Implementation Contract”, or JDIC. Pronounced “Jay -Dick”. Yes, ha ha. It was how we filled out our timecards if we were writing the proposal, it was in our revenue forecasts shared during all hands meetings, and so on. After we won the award, the government was not happy with our nomenclature, and our program manager was very clear and insistent that the name was “JOPES D and I”. (Yes, JOPES is another acronym, and somethings they get stacked 3 or 4 levels deep. Don’t ask.)

    104. Crazykupo*

      We have a Production Print team. It’s the PP Team. All emails go to ppteam. AFAIK I’m the only one who sees it, as the parent of multiple young boys.

      I can’t take it seriously. And every email feels like one of those “replace one word of your favorite movie title” sorta things.

    105. IT Guy*

      I’m so immersed in trans culture that I assumed OP2 meant facial feminisation surgery and wondered what as so nsfw about that

    106. UK girl*

      I am familiar with it and think it has it’s place in online discussions like this one. If I saw FFS llama groomers or FFS teapots I would think the company was trying to be edgy rather like French Connection UK.

    107. My Brain Is Exploding*

      I knew what FFS was, although it wouldn’t jump out at me in this case for to context. But oh, AAM commenters, please go back to your comments and give some hints to what your initializations mean!! There are a few of them I don’t get.

    108. Erin*

      Gen X here. FFS def means “for f***sake” and LOL at the org who can’t simply think of a new name & set up a new email!

      However, this could be a good thing. If the service primarily serves Gen X or younger (I’m assuming anyone younger than me would know what FFS stands for) this catchy name would help the program to be known.

    109. Lora*

      About, hmmm, last fall, one of my colleagues had started a new job where she had to put together Work Action Plans. She listens to bluegrass music, and doesn’t pay a ton of attention to pop music or rap at all. Nobody at her workplace would tell her why she had to change the acronym, only that she had to pick something else. She asked me and when I was done cackling I sent her a link to the video and told her not to open it at work.

    110. MCMonkeybean*

      I think as far as abbreviations go, that one is totally fine. I have used “FFS” myself a few times but I don’t think it’s as widely used as many others and I would not read anything into that email if I were corresponding with it. I wouldn’t even bat an eye.

      Sometimes these things happen. There are some you should probably try to avoid more than others, but for the most part people understand context and it’s not a problem. We have a report that frequently gets abbreviated to something with “ass.” as part of the file name–I usually try to add an extra letter to the abbreviation when doing it myself but I also don’t care that other people don’t. We use a software that gets abbreviated as “BO” and sometimes my internal 10-year-old giggles a little but most of the time I don’t even really think about anything other than the software.

    111. 2 Cents*

      As a digital marketer, I can say your organization may have a rough time of it. Marketing 101 in the digital age is putting any acronym or “is this a nonsense word” into Urban Dictionary to make sure there’s not some well-known second meaning. Reminds me of a bank the old agency used to do that had a Kids’ Kritters Klub<–we never shortened that name.

      1. Donkey Hotey*

        YES! Urban Dictionary is there for a reason! Why more people don’t use this resource amazes me!

      2. Autumnheart*

        Language changes eventually, though. I live not far from the Schwing concrete production manufacturing plant. I’m sure the early to mid-90s were very tiresome for them.

    112. Mayor of Llamatown*

      I had to do a double take because I worked for a company that used that acronym. But this was a large, retail corporation, about ten years ago. I quietly asked around, “Does no one in marketing realize what FFS stands for?”

      FWIW, some of the people around me knew what it stood for, others didn’t.

    113. Cat Tree*

      We’re moving to a new version of software that is the original name followed by AF. The AF stands for something legitimate, not conveying that it’s the original software to an extreme degree. It’s mildly amusing but nothing more than that. There are so many acronyms it’s nearly impossible to avoid them.

    114. fhqwhgads*

      To me, the issue is as much using an acronym that has one very specific meaning to the organization, but which has a wider, more common, known to the general public and having a totally different meaning outside the organization – as it is that this particular acronym’s outside usage includes the word “fuck”.
      For example, I know not everyone immediately thinks “Major League Baseball” when they see “MLB”, but enough would, that if I offered a service called “Managing Local Bureaucrats”, I would not call it “MLB”. I know this probably isn’t an ideal example since MLB may also be trademarked, but my larger point is if a significant portion of your audience is going to think of something else first, the acronym isn’t very effective anyway.

    115. El l*

      It is a pretty common thing to have this sort of acronym thing.

      A boomer boss in my office once came up with a name for an energy project and insisted on abbreviating it as ICP.

      10,000 jokes about the Gathering of the Juggalos ensued. But he never heard them. He’d never get it anyway.

    116. Your Weird Uncle*

      Last year a city official in my state advertised the Weatherization Assistance Program using WAP and the slogan ‘There’s some holes in this house!’ It was one of the best pieces of news I’d read that year.

    117. Cooper*

      The overlap of acronyms is unavoidable, and this isn’t even the worst one. I mean, I struggle to avoid giggling every time there’s a discussion of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, especially since the other term that shares its acronym is, uh, EXTREMELY not appropriate for work.

    118. Not So NewReader*

      11 AM and 350 out of the 450 comments are about FFS.

      And, OP, we haven’t even started on the times where parents never thought about what their kid’s initials spelled out.

      You landed in a good place here- you said something, nothing happened and now you say you are just going to let it go. You’re right, you have done your service here, OP and it’s okay to move on.

      Thanks for the laughter and I am sure people were relieved to get their own examples out in the open. I had to use the Urban Dictionary a few times. But I did know FFS. It’s matter out of place- we don’t expect cussing in the work place and something like FFS might slide right by a lot of people, just because they “know” for a fact that people would not be cussing in the workplace. They aren’t expecting it so they just don’t see it.

      Growing up we were told, “Some times you will see stuff like [your example, OP] and the thing to do was just ignore it.” And maybe that is why some people can seem lax or complacent because that reflex to ignore is just so ingrained by now. I dunno.

    119. Van Wilder*

      So far today, I have written F/U for “follow up,” “MF” for Master Fund, and “FFS” for “for fuck’s sake.”

    120. FFSAllDay*

      My company also has an “FFS” acronym and, as a 30-something millennial who uses it ALLLLLL the time in the swearing context, I crack up every single time.

      Personally what I do when telling others about it, is say “FFS, for Friends of Friday Slurpees, at company name for com” or in written form “email this to Friends of Friday Slurpees at”. When you’re explicitly saying what the acronym is actually for it makes any other connotations less noticeable in my experience

    121. Alexander Graham Yell*

      Honestly if I saw this email I would giggle, show it to my colleagues, and just enjoy it every time I sent an email.

      But then, I worked for a company that had two interconnected systems named VODKA and JUICE. They were internal, but still – it always made life a little funnier when you could complain about VODKA not working correctly.

    122. rnr*

      #2: At my last job, they were changing some of the terminology of risk assessment documents, and went from “as low as possible” to “as far as possible”… AFAP. I used to spend a lot of time on reddit, and that one made me giggle every time. Still does…

    123. Momma Bear*

      I think it’s benign enough that most people won’t read it that way or won’t think much about it, especially if there’s other info in the email or website that clarifies what it means to the company. If it’s really legacy, it may predate texts and all the LOLs and similar shorthand.

    124. M*

      A client told us that they wanted to create a value in their system called FAP, which was an acronym that make sense in their business. A few days later, their project manager emailed us and said something along the lines of, “A younger staff member has pointed out that our acronym might have an unfortunate and inappropriate double meaning and we’d like to change it to FP.” A few of us here got it (FAP is not an acronym, it’s a euphemism for something else), but we were too bashful to explain it to our other coworkers, so we had the technical engineer change it and moved on quickly.

      1. Donkey Hotey*

        If people are still curious, technically it’s onomatopoeia.
        Or rather, onan-moto-poeia.
        *I’ll show myself out.

    125. V. Anon*

      Immediately cracked up. If I got this from a company I worked with, I would guffaw. I would not be offended but I would think it was hilarious.

    126. inoffensive nickname*

      I work in higher education. The new student basic study skills class had a prefix of STD. It took at least a year and a lot of snickering in the curriculum committee meetings before someone had to good sense to point out the “other” more common meaning for that abbreviation. There was some posturing and calling people immature because we are all adults, but seriously? Even the students were saying they didn’t want to take the class because they thought it was about sexually transmitted diseases. They finally changed it to STU.

    127. Gail*

      Acronyms we use every day at my company that I don’t even notice anymore. We work with a mix of native German and English speakers:

      I’m sure there are more, but it’s so common place I don’t even giggle anymore.
      ( my first name is very close to a German word that can mean cool or horny depending on the context. We all manage. :) )

    128. just another anon*

      (Millennial, don’t swear, but am very online.)

      I would recognize the acronym if someone used it in a message, but it wouldn’t bother me to have it also stand for a work thing. There are only so many letters in the alphabet. Coincidences happen. I might snicker once, but I’d quickly get used to FFS standing for Future Firefighters of Syracuse, or whatever.

      I work at a university that uses first name + initials as an email username. I’ve already *almost* gotten used to receiving updates from* At first whenever I saw it I chuckled a little inside and thought “he must be so very Darren!” But I certainly didn’t think he was being unprofessional by keeping this email address, or that someone was trying to reference vulgar slang at work.

      *(Names changed.)

    129. Chel*

      My mind didn’t immediately go to the phrase and I don’t think it’s a big deal if someone does think of it. I worked in investments for years and some of the mutual fund ticket symbols were in this vein. My boss and I joked that they needed to get a 12yo boy in their focus group to see if he snickered at the symbol

    130. Annie*

      I totally understand why it gives the letter writer pause, but people may not really notice the acronym. I worked at a place that went by their initials all the time and people didn’t really seem to care even though the abbreviation was CLIT, and we were a daycare center so people were on high alert for that sort of thing.

    131. Hit my head Glass Ceiling*

      Thanks to Allison for defining FFS so I didn’t have to google it. I don’t use a lot of texting shorthand so outside of context, it doesn’t strike me as naughty.

    132. Kate*

      Millennial. Had no idea what this meant until Alison defined it. Then I went, oh, yeah, I guess it could mean that – but my mind would never go to that when I saw a company using it as an abbreviation. I don’t see acronyms in the context of an email address and automatically assume they’re dirty the way I might if I was reading a Reddit thread.

    133. Marxamod*

      The people at my company who handle staffing are Staff Operations Leads. Need help? Sorry staffing is always SOL

    134. Purple Cat*

      We’ve always used Weighted Average Price at my job. “WAP” was totally innocent until Cardi B came along ;)

    135. Kyrielle*

      Honestly, I’d just mentally snicker at it (don’t let it be out loud) and move on. It’s a fairly common swear stand-in, but in this context and assuming the program’s title is known and fits the letters, it’s fine.

      Ask me how much time I spent not saying anything about my internal giggles when seeing emails including the sales and marketing team, because someone thought s&m@ was a good email for that. (Even just omitting the & would have been less hilarious….)

    136. Darth Brooks*

      My workplace uses the acronym FFS and to be honest that’s the only thing that pops into my head anymore when I see it. It doesn’t jump out as weird to me.

    137. JJ*

      I had a very amusing exchange the other day when a card reader was acting up, and when the person ringing me up apologized for its slowness/lack of reliability, I said “oh no worries, they don’t call them POS systems for nothing!”

      Chuckles for all!

    138. Red 5*

      I use “foul language” on the regular, and I’ve been online for nearly three decades at this point. I use abbreviations and acronyms and meme-language all the time.

      And it took me a full two seconds to figure out what FFS would stand for if it’s a bad acronym. I have almost never used it, and I’ve never really come across it before. Granted, it could be it’s more popular in some pockets of the internet than others, or maybe with a younger generation (last I heard the “kids today” actually weren’t acronyming that much, they’re using emojis to shorten things so a lot of acronyms are out of fashion anyway).

      It’s really not that bad. If somebody brought it up in the brainstorming stage I might have taken a moment to consider other options, but once the horse is out of the barn, I don’t see a strong enough reason to try to stuff it back in.

      And this is coming from somebody living in Virginia where our state-wide standardized tests, which have been going since the mid 90’s, are the Standards of Learning tests. So you spend a ton of time every year talking about SOLs, which kids are taking the SOL, did they pass their SOL, what’s the school’s SOL scores, etc.

      Back when they started, it wasn’t an internet acronym (it may not be still, I don’t see it often) but everybody who had spent any time in the military was standing on the sidelines going “um, you guys do know…you know what, nevermind.”

    139. The Bill Murray Disagreement*

      It’s a nothingburger, FFS ;-)

      For real, though. I might chuckle at seeing that email address or seeing that acronym in a signature, but I’d recognize that’s my inner adolescent laughing.

    140. Meh*

      You can be sure people will remember it. :-) I think anyone who is familiar with the acronym will simply giggle and move past it. We have an arena with naming rights for sale. At one point in time, its full name was shortened and it was called the FN Center. (Say it quickly, people.) People giggled. Wondered what the marketing people were thinking – did no one shorten it up and say “hey, do you realize….?” I’d let it go.

    141. anonforthis*

      I think it matters – FFS is pretty well known in the midwest where I live at least. My favorite so far has been using “STD” as short form for “Save the Date”. Or “POS” for “point of sale.” When you’re getting emails with subject lines – “Action Needed – STD” it’s too much.

    142. CollegeSupervisor*

      The name of the college I work at starts with W. Their track and field team have tons of merch with WTF all over it. I think this predated the common usage of the acronym as a swear, but I still either cringe or giggle like a 12-year-old when I see it, depending on my mood that day, lol.

    143. Donkey Hotey*

      OP #2
      OK, I -highly- doubt you work at the same company I do. (Unless the initials FFB and GTS ring a bell, you don’t.)
      My company also sells an FFS machine. Three different models, as a matter of fact. In the four years I’ve been here, not a single person has ever noticed or commented on the overlapping acronym.

    144. Sinister Serina*

      I used to work at company that had a meeting every Monday morning. Business Development and Sales Management. Yes, I giggled inside every time I saw that pop up, because they always used the acronym for it and I always wondered if I was the only who thought it was funny.

    145. A Feast of Fools*

      I worked at Yahoo back before instant messenger was ubiquitous in the business space. Yahoo decided that they had a cash cow in beefing up the security behind their instant messaging product and packaging it as enterprise software for companies.

      Because it was a messaging tool for businesses, they called it Business Messenger. And built an entire marketing program around this great new offering, BM.

      Internally, we peons started saying things to each other like, “Great question, let me send you a BM with the answer.” “Slow day today, have you had your first BM yet?” “Any BMs for the team this morning?”

    146. SNAFU*

      FFS immediately registered for me – elder Millennial who swears and internets a lot – but I think if I saw the acronym I’d just have to giggle and let it go. I used to work at West Point, and the week before classes start is called Reorganization Week, or REORGY (pronounced with the hard g) for short. The first time I saw it written down, I did a double take. I eventually got used to it, as that’s never going to change. The military/government has a lot of acronyms that conflict with our internet acronyms!

    147. Helen*

      I’m trying to swear less because my nephew is at the age where he is just learning to talk/repeating what he hears. In my family FFS means ‘For Fudge Sakes’ now.

    148. Onyx*

      Speaking as someone who once suggested we should probably spell out “World Taekwondo Federation” in full in an email to a university mailing list rather than abbreviation and often jokes about amusing acronyms/initialisms with colleagues at my acronym-happy workplace, I think LW2 is overreacting. It’s fine to bring it to the attention of the decision-makers, but if someone continued to fuss about it after being told it’s not considered a problem, it would make me wonder why they’re struggling with a acronym/initialism having more than one definition, which is extremely common. (Personally, I recognized what FFS could stand for, but initially wondered if there was some more extreme meaning, because I didn’t see why it would result in anything worse than mild amusement in anyone who noticed.)

      So far in the comments, I’ve seen people giving examples of funny/”unfortunate” initialisms, acronyms, and abbreviations because they:
      1. Match a NSFW or funny or “inappropriate” initialism/acronym
      2. Spell out a NSFW or funny or “inappropriate” word
      3. Are or could conceivably be pronounced like a NSFW or funny or “inappropriate” word (even if the organization spells it out as an initialism rather than pronouncing it as an acronym and/or even if the initialism is in a different language from the “funny” interpretation and/or even if you have to insert vowel sounds to make it pronounceable in the first place)
      4. Contain a shorter set of letters that matches a NSFW or funny or “inappropriate” initialism or word
      5. Resemble (but do not actually match) a NSFW or funny or “inappropriate” initialism or word
      6. Sound like something NSFW or funny or “inappropriate” if you spell out the letters.
      And these possibilities are applied to initialisms as short as just two letters. (Occasionally one letter, as in examples of something referred to as “the D.”)

      At some point, you either have to accept that pretty much any initialism/acronym/abbreviation you choose will likely be interpretable as funny or inappropriate to *someone* (either now or in the future as slang evolves) or you have to swear off all use of abbreviations. But even if you go the latter route, you’re still not “safe” since there have also been examples given of funny/”unfortunate” names that are only funny if you figure out the logical initialism/acronym, even if the organization doesn’t use it. So you’d have to stick to short names with no “obvious” abbreviation, while still making sure that the name is distinct enough not to be amusingly confused with anything else with the same or a similar name…

      Or, you know, we could just all remember that the same words/abbreviations have different meanings in different contexts, have our little giggle internally/with friends when we see a funny one, and move on. It’s great to try to figure out if the abbreviations you’re choosing have a really prominent association, but you aren’t going to be able to avoid everything, and if you’d have to use a weird/convoluted/less clear name to avoid a possible association, you need to weigh whether the trade-off is worth it (and every person/organization is going to have a different threshold for where that line is).

    149. Nonniiii*

      A local company to me actually used WTF as an abbreviated name/slogan. I thought it an odd and bold choice, I don’t think it lasted more than a year, but never heard anyone scandalized about it. It did make people look twice at their bumper stickers.

    150. That's just me though*

      I’d say FFS is a known acronym. But then, I’ve had to talk my boss out of naming a brand “Edge” because she kept talking about how we could say we’re edgy, we’re edging, we’re edging everyone out… And then there’s CUP, which is Centralized Utility Plant, and everyone says it “see you pee”. I have to clench my teeth to keep from giggling when we’re talking about the CUP collateral, the CUP campaign, the CUP presentation.

    151. e271828*

      Kicking myself for not registering, .org, etc, etc, when squatting for profit was a thing!

    152. I swear this is true.*

      I worked for a couple that referred to all customers with an acronym. The acronyms were generated by an algorithm that apparently could not be altered. Little comfort to the customer that was referred to CUM on all their service tickets.

    153. 1st floor dweller*

      I worked on DTF for six months. It was internal and we usually referred to it by a one word name. I chose not to say anything until the last day, and it turned out the organizers hadn’t put two and two together and thought it was hilarious.

    154. Katz Pajamas*

      I am in my sixties, childless, not a lot of contact with the youth of today, and not a person who swears, and I knew what it was. I don’t know how I figured it out, or any of the other similar acronyms! But I would look askance at that as an email address.

    155. Loredena Frisealach*

      Very online GenXer, and for fox sake is how I read it so I’d have the same reaction as the OP. On the other hand, I always read stfu as stuff you, which while rude, is not actually what it stands for, so your mileage definitely varies!

    156. Janet*

      I don’t use a whole lot of acronyms for swear phrases. I’ve seen this one used that way, but that is not the first association I’d make with the acronym. I think it will be fine.

      I’m assuming something like Family Financial Services or the like, and the people looking for that kind of service wouldn’t assume it’s a swear phrase, would they?

    157. Mie*

      Reminds me of the technical school UTI. I saw a commercial for it (“go to UTI dot EDU to learn more!”) and cackled. That acronym is taken already!

    158. Skeeder Jones*

      My first thought was “Fee For Service” and I had to stop and think for a bit on what NSFW acronym this would be. #WorkInHealthcare

      I wouldn’t be too worried about this acronym. There’s a whole page in wikipedia on all the uses for FFS. I would stop wasting a ton of energy on this.

    159. Ladycrim*

      I work for a union. A number of years ago, they decided to put together a web design program so the Locals could develop and maintain uniform websites. They proudly called their first iteration Locals On Line. Yes, they referred to it by its initials. LOL it was. No, they never acknowledged that it might stand for anything else.

      A few years later, they completely revamped the system, and with that came a new name: Web Technology Framework … which they helpfully shortened to WTF.

      A few years after that, they overhauled the system again. This time, they just gave it the initials of its lead designer: FCK.

      To this day, I don’t know who was being pranked: them or us.

    160. Blueberry Spice Pancake*

      Elder millennial here and the first thing I thought while reading this post was “at least we’re not the only ones bad at naming things!” Then again, my company has a tool named a** (without the asterisks), though that was a deliberate decision. I’d be hard pressed to think of FFS as anything other than for fox sake. While I agree with the commenters who think it’s not the worst thing in the world, if this is an abbreviation that’s going to be widely used, then that’s not a great look for the company, and it’s super unprofessional in my opinion. FFS, OP’s leadership, check your abbreviations before you publicize things like this, and maybe hire a professional writer so you don’t do this again!

    161. SleepyHollowGirl*

      I used to work for a company–one that that you’d probably heard of–that used the acronym stfu (and not accidentally–it was used to silence all pages). There was an alternative, but I don’t remember what it was!

      It had guidelines, and one summary section I linked to often was a section titled “idgaf, just tell me what to do”. (For “I don’t give a fuck”.)

      The internally glossary’s short url is “wtf” (you could also use “what”). There was also an internal system that used the acronym “omg”, though it officially stood for something other than what you’d think.

      At a different former company, we had a scripting language, and initially we added a config section, which had been called “knobs” until our UK colleagues requested a change.

    162. Max*

      If it makes you feel better LW, for a moment while reading your question I was wondering what was supposedly NSFW about cosmetic surgery (FFS = Facial Feminization Surgery).

    163. Denver Gutierrez*

      This letter reminded me of a book I read a few years ago. The main character, a detective, said her police station was so enamored with acronyms she was waiting for some clueless soul to introduce the Crime Unit National Taskforce.

      As for as acronyms go, FFS isn’t that bad. I got it right away, use it myself a lot, though not at work (well, not out loud at work). If I saw this in the wild, I would laugh but not be offended or think badly of the company. If anything, I would find it memorable.

    164. Galgal*

      #2, I think that most Millenials and Zoomers (that is, Generations Y and Z) will either be amused or confused by the use of “FFS” as an acronym in a professional setting, as well as a good chunk of Gen X. Some Boomers may not get it, but some will. The young children of the families you work with may not get the reference, but a majority of the older children and teenagers likely will.

      As for this nonsense from your colleagues: They tell me that its usage as a swear word is not common and tease me that I must have a potty mouth if I’m so familiar with it. I indeed have a potty mouth, but not at work, and I don’t think it’s an uncommon usage at all.

      Can people like this please just leave their sanctimonious tittering at home? No, swearing doesn’t mean that you have a poor vocabulary. Yes, you have unintentionally come up with an acronym/abbreviation that means something rude to a large chunk of your target market. Get over yourself and change it.

    165. Older GenXer*

      My ex was in the military when we were married and I heard this a lot, both the full phrase and as an acronym. This was back in the 1980s so it’s been around awhile.

    166. Evelyn*

      One of my clients routinely refers to WAPs – wireless access portals. It takes everything I have to keep a straight face. I cannot figure out a way to bring up the other meaning appropriately in a work setting.

      1. Bowserkitty*

        Oh no, thank god I am masked because I am about to lose my composure at work!!!!

    167. Tudorgrrrl*

      This story reminds me of when I was told our office was bringing in a new CBT program… and I did not immediately think Computer Based Training or Cognitive Behavioiural Therapy…

    168. Bowserkitty*

      FFS may be my most used acronym. There’s too much frustration in my life, haha!

    169. It Me*

      I work with some questionable initialisms, including STD (short-term disability) and WOP (waiver of premium). It’s just understood to be a term of art, although we aren’t encouraging people to email us at STD @ companyname.

    170. Yes I'm actually 13, why do you ask?*

      A fairly straight-laced person in our business office routinely sends follow up requests as “F/U”

      We looser-laced folks a couple floors down giggle hysterically each time we need to remind each other to respond to a FU request.

    171. Jam Today*

      In my work universe, FFS stands for Fee For Service medical payments (i.e. the insurance company pays for each procedure performed plus the cost of the office visit, versus capitation or other bundled payment) and when I see it in my online universe with the other definition, my brain reverts to medical insurance and I wonder what they’re talking about.

      On the flip side, a woman I used to work with was so used to using online acronyms that when she sent a department-wide email to let us know she’d be working from home she accidentally typed ‘7/6 Jane WTF’ instead of ‘7/6 Jane WFH’ which was hilarious and awesome.

    172. ObserverCN*

      I’m 40, and I first saw “FFS” on Facebook. I was able to figure out what it meant pretty quickly from the context.
      I usually assume “F” stands for the F-word in acronyms/initialisms — I thought “FTW” meant “F— the world” before I realized it means “For the win” :)

    173. ObserverCN*

      I also live in Virginia, where veterans can get license plates that end in “AF” (short for Armed Forces).
      At least they also say “Armed Forces” at the bottom.

    174. DollarStoreParty*

      I’m really surprised that FFS isn’t commonly used, and it’s not a generational thing because at 52 I use it quite a bit. LW, thanks for the laugh, and I’m pretty sure that fighting to get it changed is a hill I’d die on.

      1. DollarStoreParty*

        Also, FWIW, my initials are CMF, which someone once pointed out to me is “chief mother fucker”.

  1. gracack*

    LW #1 I know people who DO have an Irish coffee in the morning, or a beer with lunch while working from home…but they definitely don’t bring it up to their coworkers or comment on it in meetings.

    The way he’s bringing it up all the time makes me think it’s an awkward joke your boss has landed on, that may be a way of saying he’s stressed, or just a weird way of him addressing the awkwardness of working from home altogether. If he was actually drinking all the time I kind of suspect he’d be better at hiding it.

    Who knows. But definitely not something that you need to get involved with. I worked with kids and had a co-worker who would talk about needing a beer…in front of the kids…at 8am. That’s a work issue. This is just a weird thing you have to put up with with your boss.

    1. allathian*

      It really depends on the organization, though. I work for the government and have access to sensitive information. If I started joking on team meetings about having a drink in my hand or needing a drink, I’d expect my manager to tell me to cut it out if it got to the point of sounding like a verbal tic, especially if I started saying something like “I’m keeping my camera off today so you can’t see my beer.” If someone’s found intoxicated on the job, their access to our systems will be removed faster than they can blink. It’s not grounds for immediate firing, but certainly a warning and a PIP. If there’s substance abuse involved, going to rehab is a condition of continued employment. I’m in Finland, and according to some estimates up to 10 percent of the working population are alcoholics, so it’s not really an appropriate subject for jokes.

      1. MangoTango*

        More jobs aren’t like that than are. If the OP’s job was like that it probably would have been mentioned.

          1. Dwight Schrute*

            I think that’s true for almost any company, even those where jokes about it would land fine

          2. Andy*

            But that is true everywhere including in companies where actual drinking on the job is normalized.

      2. Brooks Brothers Stan*

        I don’t work in the public sector anymore but when I did I remember that it very much was a “some agencies are okay with these jokes, but others *very much are not and do not even think about making them because it will cause A Thing To Happen.* This has carried over into my current job which interfaces with parts of the public sector, some places just do NOT have a culture that even tolerates things like this.

        Like you said, if it was a joke or two it’s one thing. But there comes a point where a joke runs its course.

      3. Observer*

        Well, there is a difference between what a supervisor / manager needs to do regarding an employee’s behavior and the reverse. Also, the OP is not indicating any level of sensitivity of the work and on the other hand they say that their work is not being affected.

        In short, a totally different set of circumstances

    2. Glomarization, Esq.*

      I think if LW#1 is reasonably certain that Boss is actually drinking during work hours, that violates company policy and LW should report it. I don’t know what LW’s salary is, but I’d be it’s above their pay grade to decide how much worktime drinking is OK for Boss to be getting away with under the business’s policies.

      1. WellRed*

        But they aren’t reasonably certain. The boss makes comments but could be joking. There’s no slurring, no work not getting done or errors made, absenteeism etc. at least not To OPs knowledge.

        1. LW #1*

          I’m certain it’s happened at least once, and I suspect more often than than that. They have been “jokes” about it for nearly a year until a few weeks ago when boss said: “I had a drink during the work day last week.” I also don’t think their work is being impacted. They’re a decent-good boss and are still working hard on behalf of their team.

          I made it a throw away comment in the letter, because the details are too specific to get into and remain anon, but this is part of a pattern of inappropriate-for-work oversharing from Boss. Another co-worker was in the meeting where this was said, and they were surprised as I was that Boss said it so clearly.

          1. sacados*

            I definitely see where you’re coming from. A one-off where my Boss mentioned they had a beer/glass of wine at lunch on a workday wouldn’t throw me at all. But that kind of frequent “joking” about needing a drink/drinking at work would definitely make me uncomfortable — regardless of whether the boss was *actually* drinking or not.
            I agree that Alison’s “wow are you ok” kind of wording might jolt your boss into realizing how often she talks about it/how it’s coming across, which at least means you don’t have to hear about it anymore!

          2. Observer*

            I also don’t think their work is being impacted. They’re a decent-good boss and are still working hard on behalf of their team.

            but this is part of a pattern of inappropriate-for-work oversharing from Boss.

            To be honest, I think that the over-sharing is AT THIS POINT something that is more likely to need some intervention, depending on what he’s sharing.

      2. ABBBBK*

        Seems a bit pearl clutchy to report your boss for MAYBE drinking, at home, between 9 and 5. I’ve working in fairly buttoned up corporate environments that keep beer in the company fridge. Not start ups with beer taps! grown professional men and women in business professional attire drinking at work. So maybe my norms about this are a bit more lax.

        1. SuperDiva*

          I think it’s more the awkwardness of the boss repeatedly referencing it to their direct reports. It’s weird, and it puts the team members in an uncomfortable position. Want to have a beer during your lunch hour, or at 4pm? Cool. But don’t “joke” about it repeatedly to your direct reports.

        2. MassMatt*

          I think that’s a bit off-base; the boss is repeatedly saying they are drinking during the workday—in the morning, at lunch, and at other times during the day. That’s hardly “pearl clutching” about “maybe drinking”. Drinking multiple times during the workday sounds to me like a problem, and at minimum it’s really inappropriate info to share at work, especially with a subordinate. Contrary to popular belief, the first thing to happen when drunk is not slurred speech but deteriorated judgment (which LW is seeing) and attention to detail. I wouldn’t want them handling my transactions.

          If the boss is making these comments and NOT a actually drinking, IMO that’s even more odd.

          But I agree with Alison, unless she sees something egregious (terrible things might be happening she’s not aware of, because boss) there’s not much she can do, except maybe say these comments are making me uncomfortable, can you please stop talking about drinking at work?

        3. Observer*

          Firstly, it doesn’t matter what your company does, the OP’s company does have a policy against it, so that’s weird to start with. Secondly, this is more than “maybe the occasional drink.” So, that’s another thing that’s really on the boss.

          I still think that the OP doesn’t need to do anything here. But this is not someone being precious or “pearl clutching”. It’s the boss being weird.

      3. Observer*

        that violates company policy and LW should report it.

        Why is that necessary? You’re right that it’s almost certainly above the OP’s pay grade to figure out how much is “too much”. But it is also definitely above their pay grade to monitor or manage their manager.

    3. MusicWithRocksIn*

      I seem to have a strange double standard in my head, because someone of my parent’s generation talking about getting beer at lunch (or seeing my parents get beer or drinks while out to lunch from work) seems totally normal to me, but if someone I was working with got booze at lunch I would at least raise an eyebrow.

      1. Junior Assistant Peon*

        The norms vary greatly between companies. A company I worked for acquired another company, and they took a manager from the acquired company out to lunch. They were at a fancy brewpub/restaurant kind of place, the manager from the acquired company ordered first and asked for a beer, and turned red as a beet when he heard everyone else asking for water, iced tea, or lemonade.

        1. turquoisecow*

          My husband works in tech and I was astonished to learn that they kept beer at their *office* in lower Manhattan and he had no problem with his direct reports having some beer during the day, as long as they didn’t get totally smashed and cause a scene or have it affect their work. While I’m sure some of my coworkers have grabbed a beer on their lunch breaks with no issue (but not bragged about it), my much more traditional company would never allow drinking in the office during work hours. Every year we have a barbecue in the parking lot in the afternoon where food and beverages are provided – but not alcohol – and when we have our annual Christmas luncheon, alcohol is not available even though the restaurant they hold it at has a liquor license and serves alcohol.

          It definitely varies by industry.

      2. Hillary*

        I’m in supply chain and I mostly work for manufacturers. At most of my jobs alcohol during work hours has been an immediate termination unless you’re a salesperson with a customer (and the customer has to order it first).

        I think it’s tied to safety and changing cultural norms in the US. At one previous company the policy changed around the same time as the last death in the plant, thankfully many years ago. Keeping employees safe in a manufacturing environment is hard enough without adding impaired judgment. It’s less of a factor for those of us in the office, but I don’t think it’s unreasonable.

        1. Chinook*

          I think it is absolutely tied to safety as well as fairness within a company. I have seen companies that have a zero tolerance for intoxicants make the rules the same for even office staff so as not to create separate cultues as well as to make it easier to enforce. On rule for everyone just makes H&S policies easier to write.

          On the flip side, when working with data and numbers, being slightly intoxicated can very well cause errors that cost time and money, so I can understand why this standard has made its way to corporate orgs. As well as the issue of someone drinking at work and driving home – if done on the premises, it could leave the company open to liability.

      3. Denver Gutierrez*

        I know what you mean. Back in a certain time, drinking at work lunches was pretty common. I think there is even a term for a long lunch meeting: three-martini-lunch or something like that.
        It also seemed to be a class thing. Bigwig corporate executives could get away with drinking at lunch but blue-collar employees would get fired for the same thing.

    4. Malarkey01*

      In my social and professional circles joking about “needing a drink”, “starting happy hour at lunch”, “momma needs a wine to get through this”, “moms juice to go with kids juice” (the last 2 obviously social and not work) has become incredibly common. In fact there are lots of media articles about the concerns about toddler/school age moms overly joking about wine time. I think this is just becoming short hand for a lot- in the way “just shoot me” used to be a saying for a crappy situation that is now insensitive.

      1. a clockwork lemon*

        I think that’s exactly it. It’s become socially frowned upon to say things like “just shoot me” or the more dramatic “this makes me want to [insert violent/self-harming behavior here] so drinking has become the default jokey way to try and convey being stressed or overwhelmed. Jokes about booze just don’t register the same way as someone joking about self-harm or non-alcoholic substances. It might be a separate question as to whether it’s appropriate for the boss to be making so many jokes about being stressed and overwhelmed, but “I need a drink” is way less concerning than someone saying “I need a Xanax.”

        Either way, I just don’t see how any of this is reportable. Boss’s work product hasn’t suffered at all, LW hasn’t actually seen boss drinking at work, they’re not working on company premises, and there’s no impact on work or output. What’s the company going to do, launch an investigation into whether or not an adult has alcohol in their house?

        1. Observer*

          Either way, I just don’t see how any of this is reportable. Boss’s work product hasn’t suffered at all, LW hasn’t actually seen boss drinking at work, they’re not working on company premises, and there’s no impact on work or output. What’s the company going to do, launch an investigation into whether or not an adult has alcohol in their house?

          This is the bottom line, isn’t it.

        2. Denver Gutierrez*

          At my job, when things get hectic and non-stop we all make jokes about needing a drink or filling our water bottles with vodka, etc. Even management joins in. This is all out of earshot to the clients, by the way. Anyhow, none of us are actually drinking. It’s just a silly way to cope with stress and feel bonded as a team.

      2. MassMatt*

        This is true, but the boss isn’t saying things like “ugh, I need a drink!”, they’re saying they ARE a drinking.

      3. Andy*

        I never seen article about excessive drink joking among moms.

        But, I remember finding that being stay at home mom is in fact risk factor for alcoholism. I found out when I was getting ready for first child. And then I stayed at home for some times and understood why it ia so.

        Moms making drinking jokes dont mean there is no worry. It just mean that yet another more at risk demographic makes jokes about alcohol, because jokes are part of how humans process world around them.

    5. LW #1*

      I think it’s super interesting that you’ve pegged Boss as a man. I intentionally wrote the letter without gendered language, and Boss is, in fact, a woman.

      1. anonymath*

        Then I think there’s also possibly some of the gendered stuff around wine and relaxation going on (“It’s wine o’clock”, “mommy needs some wine”, etc, just think dishcloths and t-shirts and wine glasses with gold script and some gold confetti with a touch of pink or black, saying something cute about wine). In some subcultures that’s really prevalent and normalizes joking about alcohol for coping in a way that’s jarring if you step out of that subculture. Any chance that’s playing a role?

    6. matcha123*

      This doesn’t seem worth reporting to me, either. In fact, I find it really strange that they even care. The boss’ comments come off as jokes. I’ve made similar jokes with some coworkers and friends and I have never had alcohol on the job.
      I would never smoke weed, but if a coworker joked about smoking it, I wouldn’t care. If my boss joked about smoking on the job, as long as they weren’t smoking near me and their performance didn’t suffer, I wouldn’t care.

    7. Mimosa Fridays!*

      I would tend to agree. I don’t drink while working from home because I am constantly exhausted (mostly the fault of my toddler) and alcohol just makes me want to sleep. But, in the before times, I would sometimes have a cocktail with lunch or even very occasionally do mimosa Fridays (which was a thing at our coffeeshop at work where they would serve mimosas on Friday mornings), etc. It was never a big deal and I certainly never had more than 1 drink or did it if I was about to do something super important/thought intensive (as with many jobs, my days can vary wildly in this regard). So I don’t think of (occasional, light, not-to-the-point-of-being-drunk) drinking at work as a major red flag of anything. I think your boss could be simply making a weird joke, or maybe he is occasionally drinking in a way that doesn’t impact his performace, but either way it’s not something you need to deal with. Obviously if your boss is interacting with you in a way that makes it clear he is obviously intoxicated, I think that is reasonable to raise with HR, but it doesn’t sound like that is the case.

    8. Chelsea*

      I think it’s an awkward joke too. OP seems to be reading into it a little bit. While it’s not appropriate at work, it just doesn’t seem to be worth caring about.

      1. Lorelai*

        Appropriateness depends on industry. In my field drinking at/during work is pretty common. No one is getting hammered, but a margarita at lunch or a beer in the afternoon is no big deal. In fact my boss often has a beer during our 1:1s. I generally don’t drink during the workday just because it’s harder for me to focus, but I wouldn’t blink if someone else did.

  2. Not A Manager*

    I’m surprised at Alison’s interpretation of the boss’s remarks in #1.

    “Today, unprompted, they told me they had ‘a drink during working hours last week’” – assuming that’s actually and exactly what the boss said, then to me that indicates that they had a drink during working hours last week, AND that it bothers them enough to mention it. When you couple it with all the other remarks, I think the boss is pretty clearly signaling that they are, in fact, drinking the workday and that they have Feelings about it.

    I don’t know that it changes the takeaway – I think LW is perfectly within their rights not to respond to those remarks and not to escalate them – but I completely agree with the LW’s intuition that the boss is a drinker.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Yep, I would take that at face value … but like I wrote in my response, I don’t think having a glass of wine or a beer one time when you’re working at home is a huge deal.

    2. Jen*

      Agree, they are definitely having a drink during the workday, and seem to want to discuss it…or maybe he thinks it’s funny but it’s kind of a weird thing to joke about if no one is really responding. LW definitely doesn’t have to engage, but if they’re saying it in a group setting, I might discuss with others to see if they’ve said anything to anyone else that might give a clearer picture of what’s going on.
      Honestly, I might escalate it…but my last boss was using heroin/fentanyl during the work day and no one said anything so it went on for like a year. So maybe I’m biased to not wanting to let this situation get worse or go on for too long. It could become a bigger issue.

      1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

        Yeah, I think there’s a whole culture out there that implies that any disaster is resolved with a drink, with hashtags like “Mums need wine”.
        That said, according to Bill Maher (!) people are drinking more now than before the Prohibition. Not that it makes the boss OP’s problem of course. OP needs to make sure the boss’s standard of work is upheld, that their drinking doesn’t wreak havoc in the team because of impaired judgment, and go over the boss’s head to have a word with their grandboss if they think it’s become a problem.

        1. Reba*

          Hm, I rather doubt that Maher factoid!

          There was a recent interesting essay in the Atlantic called “America Has a Drinking Problem” that draws distinction between social drinking and what I would think of as drinking to cope.

          Somehow I think “wine mom” culture manages to be both? Drinking alone but also joking about it with peers via cute decor?

      2. alienor*

        Yeah, I’ve had a boss before who was a barely functioning alcoholic, and it was not a fun working environment at all. They were never actively drunk during work hours that I’m aware of, but multiple times per week would come in late, clearly hung over and moody as all hell, so everyone who reported to them had to walk on eggshells. They also dropped tons of balls and had trouble remembering both things they’d been told and things they’d said, which made every day an adventure. And, like LW’s boss, they made a LOT of jokes and comments about drinking, to the point where it stood out even in a work culture that was already pretty heavily drinking-centered. I don’t know if LW should necessarily report it (my boss’s boss already knew, you couldn’t not know) but they probably ought to be planning what they’ll do to protect themselves if things get worse.

      3. Observer*

        I might discuss with others to see if they’ve said anything to anyone else that might give a clearer picture of what’s going on.

        I don’t think that this is at all useful. Unless the OP is seeing something that is concerning about the Boss’ behavior, I don’t think there is anything to be gained by discussing it with others. It’s far more likely to devolve into useless gossip than anything else.

        It could become a bigger issue.

        If that happens, then the OP could always report it then. Unless and until there is evidence of either illegal activity or something that could affect the work or the company, they simply don’t have anything TO report.

        And alcohol is NOT the same as heroin / fentanyl.

    3. Batgirl*

      I don’t know if this is British drinking culture or what, but I hear those sorts of remarks all the time and they’re totally meaningless. Particularly the dad joke one about keeping your drink out of shot while on camera. Usually it doesn’t mean they are actually drinking, it’s just something harmless to say about working from home. If they are actually having the odd drink, and then mentioning it as an example of one of the dizzying luxuries of being at home, I’d have a hard time being shocked about that to be honest. They’re an adult, they can have a drink.

      1. Bagpuss*

        Also in the UK, and I would agree that jokes about what might be in your mug / off-screen glass are fairly normal and not of concern . I think the comments about wanting a cocktail at 8 a.m. are similar but a bit less common, and in context I would definitely see it as a way of expressing that boss is stressed, so depending on my relationship with them might respond to it on that basis, particularly if your workplace has an EPA or other obvious ways of getting support.

        The comments about getting a beer at noon or explicitly stating they have been drinking during working hours I would take more seriously, especially if they’re seeming to say they are drinking ‘neat’ as it were, rather than having a glass of wine or a cold beet with their lunch – not because I think that having a drink during working hours is necessarily or automatically a bad thing or something which means that they have a problem, but because it is an odd thing to say – and again, context mattes.

        1. Anon for this*

          I once had a boss who said, at the end of a long day “Go home and drink a gin.”

          And I did! It was a relatively light hearted suggestion! But also it was a sign that my boss was not willing/able to provide ways to mitigate work stress that weren’t “Go home and drink a gin” I think there is a difference between references to drinking qua drinking and drinking qua “we need stress relief here and it’s an issue”, but also that is something I am not sure how to phrase.

          (But when “go home and drink a gin” happened once a week, that was a sign that all was not well with me in that job)

          (British again)

      2. Forrest*

        Also British, and I have just enough alcoholism in my family that that kind of comment bugs me *a lot*. It’s true that joking about heavy drinking is kind of lowest-common-denominator social bonding in Britain, but it is something I’m pretty uncomfortable with in the workplace.

        LW, I wouldn’t address it from a “I’m worried about you” point of view, but I might address it from a, “hey, I’m sure you’re joking, but I am quite uncomfortable with jokes a out compulsive drinking as stress relief because of my family history. I would really appreciate it if we could not do that” point of view.

        (And if you don’t have that history, you never know who else in your team does.)

        1. LW #1*

          I agree with all of this. Sadly, Boss has acknowledged this themselves (I shouldn’t joke about this, alcoholism isn’t funny, etc.) and continues to make the comments.

        2. Data Analyst*

          Agreed. Once you tune into it you see just how weirdly ubiquitous it is. The new-ish director of my large division keeps ending zoom meetings by telling us she’s going to go have a margarita and she wants us all to do the same…like, you’re talking to hundreds of people! Why do you keep bringing up alcohol and compelling us to drink? And then there’s my manager who keeps a block of time open on his calendar in case anyone need something, and always says some alcoholic drink he plans to be consuming during this time – “if nobody comes, I’ll just be drinking mimosas by myself.” That one in particular is clearly a joke, but just…why!! I mean, we know why – it’s just shorthand for stress relief/playful bonding, but for people who don’t drink for any reason, it’s tremendously alienating.

        3. meyer lemon*

          Yes, and I think it could also be uncomfortable for people who don’t drink. Even if it’s for a non-sensitive reason, it can be hard to come up with a good response to jokey drinking comments without sounding judgmental or like a killjoy.

    4. Batty Twerp*

      I might couple it with other things though. I have a coworker who, this week needed to finish drafting a very important contract for a very important client, while juggling caring for her less than 2-year-old because the child minder has had to self-isolate at short notice. She messaged me regarding a question and mentioned at the end “yeah, I’m having more than one glass of wine later!”. Coupled with the fact I also got emails from her this week at 10pm and 5am, I’m taking her comment at face value *and* the implied association that she’s really stressed.
      We dont really know the full context for these comments. Is it a joke that’s falling flat, a genuine weird running commentary on his life or a veiled cry for help? None of which is OP1’s problem to solve.
      I’d almost be tempted, the next time he makes such a comment to say “odd thing to say on a work call”, and see if there are any follow up clarifying comments or gestures. But that’s just me and other than that, I’d let this go.

      1. londonedit*

        I agree. Also British, and these sort of comments are totally normal where I work – even when we were in the office, if someone was doing a tea round and said ‘Can I get anyone a drink?’ you could guarantee at least one person would say ‘Gin and tonic, please!’ or ‘I don’t suppose there’s any wine in the fridge?’ That didn’t mean they were an alcoholic, it just meant they were joking about being a bit stressed and wanting a gin at 10am. That sort of humour – not just to do with alcohol, but that sort of ironic comment that’s absolutely not meant to be taken seriously – is an extremely British way of communicating and pretty much everyone would take it in the spirit (no pun intended…) it was meant to be taken.

        But out of context, I do agree it’s an odd thing to say on a work call, and especially odd to *keep* saying it – it’s like those people who always respond to ‘How are you?’ with ‘Is it 5pm yet??’ or ‘Just hanging on for Friday!’. One comment like that, yeah, laugh it off, but if that’s the way they respond every single time you ask them, it does get a bit wearing.

      2. hbc*

        I agree, and the context would very much affect what I would do. If this is just his verbal tic for “I’m stressed,” then treat it as if he said “I’m stressed” and say whatever you would in response to that. “Yeah, that project is a bear” or “Anything I can take on that would help?” Whereas if he’s just continuously marveling at how being at home is different than the office or has latched , treat it as the boring small talk that it is.

        I wouldn’t raise it as an issue to management unless he seems impaired or intoxicated, though. A drink a day, even during work hours, is only really problematic from our messed-up teetotal/binge relation with alcohol.

    5. Stitching Away*

      I was surprised too, given the LW wrote that there is a clearly written policy of no drinking during work hours, and the boss saying they did that very much violates that.

        1. Myrin*

          Talking about it doesn’t, but doing it does, and the boss did so, by their own words: “they told me they had “a drink during working hours last week””.

    6. Glomarization, Esq.*

      I think the question of whether Boss “is a drinker” or has a drinking problem is irrelevant. LW is caught in a bad position here where they know that their Boss is violating company policies and isn’t sure whether they should report them. I think they should. LW is apt to be caught knowing about a workplace policy violation but not doing anything about it. Boss’s habits aren’t the problem. LW’s risk of losing their employment (or experiencing some other adverse employment action) is.

      1. mreasy*

        Unless this workplace is wildly punitive and outside of the norm, LW will not be in any sort of trouble for not reporting this. (Also I am betting that most workplaces – including mine, in which a glass of wine during a 5 pm Zoom meeting is common – have a policy against alcohol consumption during work hours.)

        1. Glomarization, Esq.*

          Or the workplace could be regulated, or they could just be deadly serious about the rule because of the risks at the industrial/construction worksite or in the engineering drawings that could be affected or whatever. We don’t know how lax it is based on the letter we have, but I wouldn’t jump to “wildly punitive” or “outside the norm.” Personally I’ve worked in more than one absolutely zero-tolerance workplace where someone could face adverse consequences for failure to report.

          1. Bagpuss*

            but uif that were the case in OPs workplace they would probably have said so in the letter, since it would be highly relevant to the question they are asking.

            I’d agree that not drinking in the workplace is a pretty common rule, but a requirement to report if someone else does so is far less common

            1. mreasy*

              It’s not about the drinking, it’s about the idea that you’d be punished for not reporting your boss. Yes, if boss were a pilot or you worked in a dangerous factory that would be one thing – but OP would have probably mentioned that.

          2. Despachito*

            I wouldn’t worry about adverse consequences for failure to report.

            – LW is not the only one participating in the online sessions; if they indeed wanted to punish people for not reporting the Boss they would have to punish every participant of the meeting, wouldn’t they?

            – LW does not positively know the Boss is actually drinking; she does talk about it, sure but is not seen drinking and her work does not seem affected.

            If the Boss were a pilot or a bus driver, I’d be much more worried because lives of people could be at stake. But if she is in an administrative position, I’d consider it weird to report her, and as her subordinate, I do not think it is my place to discipline her. The most I’d possibly do would be what was already said – to tell her “you talk a lot about drinking lately – are you O.K.?” but it would very much depend on the situation, and possibly I’d say nothing at all.

      2. Sloan Kittering*

        This one seems like a tough one to me. The strict rule-followers are definitely going to be opposed Because Policy, and drinking culture has passionate supporters and passionate opponents anyway – witness the ‘wine mommy’ wars. There will be folks on both sides. But ultimately I agree with Alison that in this circumstance, with OP as the subordinate whose preference isn’t to make this a Whole Thing, ignoring it is the best advice. If they were friends it’d be a different answer, and if I was the bosses supervisor I’d probably at least tell them these jokes aren’t funny and they should stop making them.

      3. somanyquestions*

        Why would she possibly be punished for not reporting this? It’s not her business to monitor her supervisor’s work.

        Everyone also admits this could also very possibly be joking, and going to HR with accusations that are just a theory is really creating potential huge drama. Following your plan could actually hurt the LW much more than just leaving this be. It’s not like she’s seen her boss drunk at work.

    7. MissDisplaced*

      I work with a group of people who frequently joke about drinking on the job, and even occasionally do have a drink in had on our Friday team Zoom calls.
      It’s no biggie.

      However, tone is everything and a lot depends on how this person made that comment. None of us can determine that here. Possibly it was a depreciating joke, or possibly it’s a sign of depression and stress or substance abuse. Hard to say.

      Op is not obligated to get involved or reply, but if this is a good relationship, you could simply ask if everything is ok.

    8. Petty Editor*

      Oh, Letter Writer #2, we have a worse acronym, one that’s client facing….


  3. Jovigirl*

    LW2 I think FFS is fine. Not everyone will pick up on it and those who do won’t easily forget the email address!

  4. restingbutchface*

    OP1 – “oh, I’d love a beer right now, right??” and “I had a drink during working hours” are really different statements, in tone and meaning, I’m raising a potential red flag right next to you. However, this person could just be… not very funny. Honestly, I would say something next time it comes up.

    Boss: I had a drink in working hours yesterday.
    You: (with a look of concern, not judgement) Seriously?

    If this is a cry for help all they have to do is say yes. If it isn’t and lol, it’s just jokes, I’d be irritated enough to say something, but I wouldn’t advise anyone else to.

    I get why you thought about an email but that can also read as “this person is creating a paper trail about me” when I get the sense you are just worried about your boss. HOWEVER, as Alison says, you can also do nothing. Way above your pay grade. But this really sounds like it’s digging at you – if you have experience with active addiction in your friends/family, that little voice in your head probably knows what it’s talking about.

    OP2- I say this entirely without judgement and with a lot of sympathy. Could these feelings of discomfort be down to the fact you’re a high level contributor who is basically being ignored over a very valid problem? I say this because that’s what I would be feeling. You guys pay me to be an expert and weigh in on these things, then ignore me and belittle me?? Like, I *wrote that song*. Is not being listened to something that happens regularly? The reaction from the business is kind of odd – teasing a senior member of staff over a brand and image concerns seems… off to me.

    For the record, if any of your customers or employees are in the UK, you are 100% correct and this is a very bad, no good acronym and it’s bizarre that nobody else sees this but you.

    1. Virginia Plain*

      Yup, if you have any U.K. reach it’s definitely as unwise as stfu or wtf. Or cba (can’t be arsed). And nobody would be accused of being foul-mouthed if they pointed it out.

      1. MsSolo (UK)*

        Yes, I was wondering if there’s a regional element, because it’s pretty common over here, and because it’s an expression of strong frustration it has a more negative feel than other F acronyms. I agree about the teasing as well – it’s not just not taking the concern seriously, it’s implying that they don’t take OP seriously. if it’s part of a pattern it might be time to look at your office culture in general.

        (but on the other hand, FCUK did very well, and Brewdog’s alcohol free range being AF work, because it suits the branding and a sly ‘looks rude but isn’t’ often goes down well – we like swearing! Just not angry swearing)

      2. Iota*

        My friend actually works for the CBA (Council for British Archaeology)! They have CBA Groups, CBA events… Per their website, “The CBA constitution was last amended in 2019”.

    2. misspiggy*

      This is also what I feel about LW1. It would be a kindness to signal that this isn’t normal, that you are concerned about your boss, but that you still like them. What they do with that information is up to them, but it could help someone recognise in time that they have a problem.

    3. amoeba*

      I think it’s interesting how that seems to differ by country (and industry?) as well – as a German working in Switzerland, it would definitely be completely unacceptable to have a drink during work hours, unless it’s at some kind of company-related social event. Or, you know, lunch at a conference or something. I’d be quite worried if one of my colleagues or my boss told me something like that.
      (On the other hand, jokes about beer in coffee mugs etc. would probably just be considered jokes, because nobody would assume people there’s actually any truth to it…)

      1. EPLawyer*

        With court going to zoom, we’ve all made jokes about what is in our coffee mugs now. Lawyers have a reputation for heavy drinking. Also one of the highest rates of substance abuse of any profession in the US. But that said, we joke in private. I don’t think anyone has actually made the comment, in court, even off the record. It just wouldn’t be professional.

        the fact the boss is making these comments fairly frequently on a work call is worrying. At best, he doesn’t realize how unprofessional it sounds. At worst, he is drinking on the job and he shouldn’t be. Work from home or not, you are still AT WORK and should not be drinking while working. A beer at lunch is different than a beer while working. The occassional joke about it sure? But regularly, just no.

        OP, its up to your comfort level. You are free to ignore it. It’s not your job to make sure your boss behaves professionally. But if it really bothers you, you can try to tell your grandboss about it in a kind of worried about your boss’ stress level way.

        1. Jlynn*

          Right! I work in law too – we joke about drinking all the time. heck – it seems like for half the bdays in our office we swap bottles of wine! LOL – But NEVER would I ever say that on a zoom call with the court, maybe if it was just our team and a joke about ‘needing a drink’ – which after today Yep – I feel that way. Or even a haha “you’ll never know what is in my cup!” But my court team is literally 4 people and we all are pretty close – including the Judge, so it’s knowing what we can get away with. NEVER would I say that to someone I didn’t think would get the joke. And yes working at home one day last spring when the remote thing was new – I was severely stressed, enough that my older teen noticed and at 4:30 the minute the day ended – my son walked over with a glass of wine and said Mom, I think you need this. LOL

    4. LetterWriter#2*

      Letter Writer #2 here, and thank you for your comment. It helped me to question why this silly little thing is bothering me so much. For sure, having my concerns dismissed is irritating, but it isn’t a pattern at my work, so it’s surprising too. I guess my struggle is that I can’t imagine *why* they’re going ahead with it – when I disagree with other decisions, I can respect people have different opinions and reasons for doing things. But with this? There are easy options that are better than the questionable acronym, so why not use those? That’s why I’m a bit stuck. I will laugh and get over it :)

      1. mreasy*

        If it were the only option, I’d be like eh, it is what it is. But I work in branding and if you have another acronym you can choose, you should! They shouldn’t be discounting your concerns.

  5. Disabled trans lesbian*

    LW #2: I mostly know FFS as Facial Feminization Surgery, so your letter was unexpected, to say the least. Which goes to prove that acronyms can be highly contextual.

    1. LetterWriter#2*

      Thanks – a couple of other commenters said that too, and it’s good to know! I don’t think our program would be confused with that surgery (ours isn’t medical, and is for young children) but if there were a chance of confusion, I’d have no trouble convincing people to avoid the confusion and not use it.

    2. Skittles*

      I once had to explain to my therapist what the other meaning of ‘CBT’ is because she was suggesting it as a treatment and I kept giggling.
      So yeah, context hahaha.

    3. Data Analyst*

      Right?! I still struggle with parenting message boards to read FTM as “first time mom” and not “female to male”

      1. Fashionable Pumpkin*

        Me too! Between my queer-friendly sewing groups, weight loss groups ( also with trans folks with specific body goals), and local mom groups (which seems to be full of affluent stay at home moms), I’m always having to look for context, because it’s mostly the mom groups who use it for “full time mom”. Everyone else would call them SAHMs.

        (Besides, aren’t all parents “full time”? I may work, but I’m also the chauffeur to school and appointments, and texts about how to make popcorn. But I digress.)

  6. Virginia Plain*

    Re #3 I am not familiar with the term “coastal elitist” but I refuse to google because that would spoil my mental image of someone quaffing champagne on a yacht moored off St Tropez, and insisting the crew all previously worked for the British aristocracy. :-D

    1. Delta Delta*

      Pretty sure that phrase is uttered only by people who have never visited an actual coast.

        1. NotAnotherManager!*

          Not worthless but not useful either. If you’ve never been to the place/met the people you’re denigrating, it’s a fairly uninformed opinion and opinions are generally of limited value in the first place.

          1. matcha123*

            Usually I would agree, but as an American living abroad I can say that close to 100% of people I’ve met from a certain US state have all left me with a bad impression with that state. These are people from different racial backgrounds, so the only unifying factor is that state. I don’t doubt there are kind people from that state, I did befriend some in my home state. But, wow, overseas the citizens of that state are in competition to ruin any positive image that state holds.

            1. HelenofWhat*

              One state isn’t an entire 50% of the country, though. (For anyone not from the US: The US is basically split population-wise with half on the dense coasts and half spread out over the land in suburban and rural areas.)
              The most common thing friends and family members of friends have said about NYC after first visiting is “Wow people are actually really nice!” I mean, sure there are people in their Bentleys being driven around the city to avoid the hoi polloi who may fit the “elites” stereotype, but they’re still a small # of people in a massive city. There’s a reason all these “luxury” glass towers sit mostly empty.
              And as someone from the city, I’ve visited rural midwestern and southern areas and people were generally nice enough (with the exception of occasional bigots, but I’ve encountered that in coastal areas as well.)
              That said, without knowing what state you’re referencing, it’s very possible that you’re meeting people from that state in a certain context that brings you in contact with the worst of those people (for example, in hospitality/tourism, or certain business environments, you just get more self-centered people overall).

            2. Toaster*

              I see what you’re saying, and I would be tempted to say the same about a handful of states (as a Canadian who spent half my childhood in the States and now lives in Canada again). That said, it could be just as likely that being those who travelled abroad or even those who are most likely to encounter you are the unifying factors, so it’s hard to draw any conclusions there.

          2. SuperDiva*

            Even if you have been there, these generalizations are usually used to dismiss some huge segment of people you happen to disagree with (ie, “liberals”) and thus are pretty worthless.

        2. J.B.*

          It’s a very odd turn of phrase, and seems not to be used against those in Florida, Alabama, Texas etc that are coastal.

          Conversation with those who use that phrase tend to be heavy going.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        I think it’s used quite often by people who were born and raised on a coast to elite parents, but those details don’t matter because they are Persons Of The Soil. (Even if their entire professional life has taken place in board rooms, for political purposes this week they are basically potato farmers.) Even if their political opponents are literally non-elites not-on-a-coast, for purposes of branding they are labeled that way.

        On this note, I recommend googling Alexandra Petri’s piece on the potato guardians.

        1. Lora*

          I just looked this up and it is awesome. Thank you!

          Always wondered why people complaining about Coastal Elitists never seem to include the oil barons of the Gulf Coast. They too have dragon hoards’ worth of money and do not worry about things like “health insurance deductibles” or “healthy food to eat” like the rest of us, they send their kids to Yale with Gentlemen’s C grades and a big donation to the university, yet never seem to be considered Coastal or Elite.

          1. turquoisecow*

            It’s politics. “Coastal elite” = liberals, while Texan oil barons are anything but. (Or at least that’s the perception. I don’t know if they all are.)

            1. Lora*

              Weirdly the very rich coastal people I have met are not as a rule particularly liberal either and can be quite reactionary when it comes to who is allowed in their golf clubs / yacht racing team / board of directors. Picking on some examples: Larry Summers is definitely not known for his kindly feelings towards the working class OR to women and minorities, the Koch Brothers were notoriously conservative/liberatrian, Carl Icahn is most definitely NOT liberal in any sense of the word and neither is Rupert Murdoch who technically lives in NYC.

              I mean, sure, I have only met the very wealthy people who are senior management or Board of Directors where I work, plus some who donate heavily to charities I’ve been involved with, but for the most part as near as I can tell, they perceive politics in general as a sort of game to play (or a game other people play), knowing that the outcome won’t affect them very much. They definitely have a generally crap attitude about why working class people are working class and why they are rich though, regardless – there’s definitely the attitude across the board that if working class people have (better work ethic, less stupidity, “make better choices” etc) they too will be rich or at least middle class, so at their most liberal their efforts tend to be pointed in the direction of “how to make poor people less stupid / better worker bees” and support for things like fine arts or health care are in the context of tax writeoffs and keeping up appearances. Note, the Kochs only established their cancer research institute when one of them got cancer and was enraged that doctors couldn’t just whip up a cure for him.

        2. NotAnotherManager!*

          Alexandra Petri is fantastic – highly recommend her column!

          And most of the conservative media folks and politicians that throw around the various “elite” insults went to the same schools, live in the same places, and have the same net worth as the people they’re pillorying for the same things.

      2. Olive Hornby*

        I’ve also heard it uttered by the actual coastal elite in order to dismiss the social justice-oriented opinions of their 20s-30s underlings (“we have to remember that we are coastal elites and our product has to cater to the Heartland.”) Between them and certain politicians and national commentators (who have absolutely visited the coasts and very probably live there), I bet it’s a pretty coastal phrase, actually.

      3. Chinook*

        You wouldn’t be referring to those in “flyover country,” would you?

        BTW, it often takes hours in those places to get to an airport where you then take hours to fly to a coast, which is why many can’t do it. I am from the Canadian equivalent and lived in “the centre of Canada (whih is technically not geographically, just politically) and I understand exactly what is meant by “coastal elites” (not an accurate name in Canada as our coastal dwellers are very much not elites, we usually refer to the city most of them are centered around) and some of them do really think of us as uneducated, untravelled, backwater hicks even though most of them have never bothered to interact with us and woul never dream of visiting (thus losing the irony of those of us from those backwaters having probably traveled more than them).

    2. MusicWithRocksIn*

      With a sweater tied around their shoulders, you can’t forget the shoulder sweater.

    3. Richard Hershberger*

      It is used by people who believe that all Real Americans live in the Bible Belt. Also by politicians pandering to those people.

      1. NotAnotherManager!*

        And to denigrate education and experience – the implication being that “common sense” or the spurious news article posted by the friend of a neighbor on Facebook is better informed and less “uppity” than all those smarty pants people who live near an ocean.

    4. turquoisecow*

      It’s usually a political thing. Those living in middle America think the people on the coasts are elite and out of touch with the real world, that’s why they vote liberal Democrat and want to enact policies that (supposedly) harm middle America.

      Sometimes it also has an anti-Semitic tinge. “Too New York” often means “Jewish.”

      1. we say Ope here*

        Not always – speaking as a member of “flyover country” sometimes it’s just a way of pushing back at the fact that people from the coasts don’t know we midwesterners exist. (by the way, I’m a liberal Democrat — there are ABSOLUTELY liberal Democrats in the midwest).

        I once went to a meeting on the east coast that was supposedly full of very bright, well educated people who clearly had no idea where Wisconsin was even located. And don’t get me started on how people respond to the mention of Iowa. BTW – not all corn, not all flat and, also, not by Montana and not famous for potatoes (that’s Idaho).

        1. Chinook*

          My experience in Ottawa as an Albertan was very similar to yours. Being insulated has nothing to with being isolated.

        2. sb51*

          I’d just say to remember that while you’re using it that way, there are some people who really do mean “Jewish” by it and are using the (very real) reason you use it as an excuse if they’re caught dog-whistling.

          (I was raised in the Midwest and left for the coast, myself; I’ve been in both places.)

      2. SuperDiva*

        +1 to your last line. There’s a joke in 30 Rock that references this (which takes on a different tenor in light of the very scary rise in violent anti-Semitism we’re living through):

        Jack: “The television audience doesn’t want your elitist, east coast, alternative, intellectual, left wing…”
        Liz: “Just say Jewish, Jack, this is taking forever.”

        1. mlem*

          First episode of “The West Wing” has a similar exchange as well, though in that case it’s specifically “New York” rather than “coastal”.

  7. Bookworm*

    #3: Agree with Alison and talk to the hiring manager. I have been in somewhat similar positions (it wasn’t hiring but rather retaining temp workers). The person wasn’t bad but they also weren’t great at the job and was not someone I’d fight for. I had backup on this since my immediate supervisor was already unhappy with him but it just so happened that Not So Great employee was mentioned in a convo with senior manager about staffing needs and I was able to bring up some dings in their work.

    #4: I wouldn’t volunteer unless asked or you need to decide. I was in this situation recently (had an offer, they needed to know, it was also my first preference) but also had an active application (multiple interviews and close to the decision based on the the timeline they gave me) ongoing. I asked Second Job and informed them I had an offer elsewhere and they let me know I wasn’t it. Orgs should assume (especially now!) that people are likely considering/fielding different options but as Alison says, you risk them saying “Good luck in your search/new job!”

  8. Glomarization, Esq.*

    LW writes: we do have a clear substance abuse policy that allows for alcohol at company events but does not allow for alcohol to be consumed during the normal work day

    In my view, Boss has put LW into an uncomfortable position. Boss has admitted violating company policy, and now what is LW supposed to do with that? Would LW also be violating company policy by not alerting HR? Will LW bear some kind of liability if something happens, someone is hurt or the company loses money, and LW knew but never reported that Boss has drunk alcohol during work hours in the past? I think this is a more complex question than just “Do I ignore this?” and LW bears more risk than might be immediately obvious.

    1. Scatterling*

      That’s a huge stretch. LW is not responsible for enforcing the no alcohol rule. Plus, if they report it, they have zero proof. The boss can claim it was a joke. Can’t see that being a good relationship going forward. Unless the boss is endangering others, there’s no reason to report and every reason to ignore it as best as possible.

      1. Glomarization, Esq.*

        Unless the boss is endangering others

        I don’t think that’s up to LW to determine. The policy is the policy, so LW is perfectly within their rights — and may have an affirmative duty, depending on what the policy says — to report.

        I feel like there are a number of people commenting on this letter who have never worked in an office or company with a policy banning alcohol. We don’t know what industry LW is writing from, but there are plenty of offices where this is perfectly normal and there are extremely good reasons to ban work-hour alcohol use and encourage or require reporting.

        1. hbc*

          I think lots and lots of us work in places that have bans on alcohol–it’s pretty standard. But most of us know that no one is getting fired for having a celebratory bottle of champagne in their bottom drawer for when they close the big sale.

          I mean, I work in manufacturing. The guys on the forklift or the woman running the welder are out of here at the first hint of alcohol. But no one cares if the accounting team had a glass of wine with lunch.

          1. LW #1*

            The difference in desk work vs. physical work is a good point. Even if Boss was a bit tipsy, no one is getting injured as a result. And, again, I have no reason to believe any of Boss’s work is being impacted.

            1. Glomarization, Esq.*

              desk work vs. physical work

              This’ll really depend on the industry. In engineering, procurement, and construction, for example, you’ll often see a company-wide ban that includes the construction worksites and also the offices where the engineering and procurement are done. Obviously the worksites have to be dry, but also the engineers can’t be working afternoons three sheets to the wind because they may produce dangerously flawed drawings and reports. I take it your workplace is not in EPC but I wanted to flag that some totally white-collar offices do have blanket alcohol prohibitions even though the office workers aren’t at risk of alcohol-related injuries.

              1. hbc*

                Yes, but the point is that blanket bans are often openly violated because not wanting someone drunkenly designing bridges has nothing to do with whether an engineer was sipping a 6oz beer with their sandwich. The legal team puts together a policy that keeps insurance companies happy and lets you fire the drunk guy without having to parse exactly how inebriated he was, and then people generally use discretion and good judgment in occasionally following the spirit but not the letter of the law.

                I mean, my company has a blanket ban on any marijuana use on or off site, despite it being legal in our state. No one actually wants it reported that you saw a colleague getting baked on the weekend.

        2. Angelinha*

          Every office probably technically has a policy against drinking on the job, just like every office has a policy against using your device for personal use. If OP wouldn’t report their boss for having a gmail tab open when they shared their screen, they should not report them for mentioning having had a drink during the workday.

          1. JM60*

            just like every office has a policy against using your device for personal use.

            That’s a good analogy. The suggestion that the OP must report this merely because it violates a written policy seems like rules-lawyering to an extreme degree. It would be different if in certain types of jobs, such as jobs where safety is a factor, but the OP probably would’ve mentioned the type of job if it was relevant.

            My software company had a written policy against drinking outside of events where the company supplied the alcohol, and they would keep any leftover alcohol free to grab on later days in the company’s refrigerators. I don’t think anyone ever cared when someone took one drink and consumed it at their desk during the workday, even though it was technically violating company policy in full view of others. Now if someone got drunk at work, that would be different.

    2. Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain*

      Most of the company policies involving alcohol that I’ve ever come across are about drinking on the property because of the insurance liability — because that used to be the default assumption of “at work”. Since the LW said, “If we were in the office…” I’m assuming they are all WFH right now (or permanently) and if employers are going to be trespassing in people’s homes, they have to get good real quick with people doing home things while at home that wouldn’t be okay in the office, including having a drink. As long as the work isn’t being impacted, no slurred words on a client call, no missing meetings because of being asleep, etc. … then what the employee does at home, isn’t their problem.

  9. Erika22*

    #1 – Like so many workplace norms, I feel like the seriousness of this situation can vary wildly between individual people, companies, industries, and countries. When I was reading your letter, my first thought was “…and?” – not as a judgment of your reaction, but because though I’m from the US, I currently live in the UK, which has a much more casual drinking culture than the US (which is from where I assume you’re writing), and a pint at lunch wouldn’t be blinked at. Yes, if we were all in the office and someone had a beer or glass of wine sitting at their desk with their sandwich, that would be strange and likely frowned upon, but going to a pub and having a drink there would be totally fine. And while many people are working from home, I think drinking is really similar to dress codes in both practice and policy – what’s not acceptable in the office is acceptable at home. Some people can wear sweats or pajamas all day and it’s totally fine, whereas other people meet with clients and still need to wear business casual – likewise, some people will be comfortable having a glass of wine during the day (and their coworkers knowing about it), and others wouldn’t. As long as it’s not affecting their work, or unless you have a good reason to suspect it’s becoming a serious problem, I wouldn’t say anything. I agree with Alison that one comment just to flag that they mention drinking a lot is the most you should do.

    1. LW #1*

      I love this line: “I think drinking is really similar to dress codes in both practice and policy – what’s not acceptable in the office is acceptable at home” and think it’s spot on. It’s given me a new framing for this and I appreciate your comment.

      And yes, you’re right, I’m in the US.

    2. Marika*

      I couldn’t agree more! It’s very much about culture and location, and also about how teams deal.

      I once worked with an Engineering team who had a running inside ‘joke’ – when you walked into the lab space, the lab/tech manager would ask what you’d like to drink. Tea/coffee meant you were having a good day. Beer meant you were kinda stressed. Tequila meant things were right off the rails, and sledgehammer (which I only heard once) meant “Oh Sh!t – batten down the hatches”.

      If you said tea/coffee, Kent would point to the pots and say ‘Help yourself’. If you said beer, he would say “Pull up a chair, let’s talk”. If you said “tequila”, he’d say “Not around the equipment – need a few minutes? I’ll cover”. And, the one and only time someone walked in and said ‘sledgehammer’, he cleared the lab, pushed back the benches, put a 2ft square metal and rubber plate on the floor and handed the person a box of busted components he kept in reserve, and a 10lb sledgehammer and said “Have at it”. Bits EVERYWHERE – we were sweeping for two days – but I think he prevented a total meltdown.

      11 years after I left that job, my husband and I still use the shorthand of “I need tea/a beer/tequila/a sledgehammer” as a fast way of checking in on how the other person is doing – and it’s spread to a lot of friends with kids, because it’s a ‘covert’ way of checking in. The funniest thing for me is when our Muslim friends – who don’t drink – started using it!

  10. 100 percent that BEC*

    So, if LW1 actually did want to report their boss or talk to someone about this, who should they approach? Just wondering.

    1. Glomarization, Esq.*

      They should look at their employee handbook for guidance. If the handbook doesn’t say, then they should to to HR or their union rep.

    2. Malarkey01*

      The boss- if they were really concerned about the talking about this they should say “hey, I wanted to bring up that you joke about drinking on the job a lot lately and it makes me uncomfortable. Could we stop those jokes”.

      Other than that reaching out to HR or a union rep would be seen as wildly overreacting and would harm LW unless this was a job with safety issues like doctors, pilots, machine operators (which wouldn’t be the case over zoom) or unless someone was literally drinking on camera or acting inebriated.

    3. I❤Spreadsheets*

      I had a manager at one point that we knew was drinking at lunchtime, we raised it as an issue to his boss who said that she would speak to him. One of our team spoke to him to raise our concerns directly with him but he just dismissed it as something some people do and it’s not an issue. After this we raised it as a concern with his manager and I’m pretty sure she said something to him based on a few pointed comments that he made about people not knowing what they were talking about, but nothing changed. At this point I think we should have made our concerns known to HR but didn’t as they weren’t known to be helpful or supportive.

    4. turquoisecow*

      I think you’d have to take it higher up the chain – to either boss’s boss or maybe a trusted peer of boss’s he’s close to. If you don’t feel comfortable talking with them (like I have had grandbosses who barely knew my name and I would feel supremely awkward going to them) or that’s not possible, I guess HR would be the next step.

  11. Wintermute*

    @2– I work in IT, which is highly prone to conversations that make you want to ask, “uh, can I buy a vowel please?” and we run into this fairly often.

    Generally it’s just a matter of “we’re all adults here” and the fact that as long as it isn’t a highly offensive word or something that is distracting, or causes potential for misunderstanding we just pretend. The only one I can ever think of us changing is at one workplace customer interaction records which could potentially be public record in event of a complaint or regulatory action were changed so that rather than “FU” for “follow up” we used “F/o” for “followup on”, just because we didn’t want the potential misunderstanding. Other places use this without any second thought though if it’s internal-use only.

    I think that, in my opinion, the line where it would be different is it was a word, not an acronym, spelled out (which also has practical impacts on things like profanity filters, risking a case of the “Scunthorpe Problem”) or if the acronym implicated something that dipped into “I’m uncomfortable even being reminded that word exists” territory like racial slurs.
    “Fuck” certainly isn’t in that list, “FU” is such a common letter pairing it shows up in a lot of acronyms. Lets be honest, the internet are creative people, almost every acronym possible probably has an unsavory definition in some context.

    In my own work I’ve run into some that I just have to put out of mind, some of which are mildly amusing (UPdaily, and a folder with sequentially lettered jobs has a “BBQ” and a “BBW”) and some of which are widely known NSFW acronyms. In fact NSFW is one of them (National Sales Financial something or other).

  12. Roscoe*

    #1. Let it go. Look, I’ve worked a few places in my time. Probably all of them said alcohol wasn’t allowed during work hours as a rule. At many of them, it also wouldnt’ be shocking to know people got drinks during lunch. Hell, at one job, a few of us would go to a bar for their friday lunch special and always have a drink or 2. Management knew this and didn’t really care because we were adults. As long as we didn’t come back drunk, they didn’t mind. Hell, some of those companies it wasn’t uncommon that people had a bottle of whisky in a drawer in their desk for rough days or celebrations of a big deal. All of that is to say that sometimes there are “official” rules that are put in the handbook for liability sake, that people don’t really care about. Especially now with him working from home , who cares. You may be shocked how many people have had a beer or glass of wine while at working from home. Just because you wait until 5:05, doesn’t mean if someone doesn’t that they have an alcohol problem.

    #3. I fully believe everything you are saying. That said, something about proactively going to the hiring committee to give you “input” about a promotion seems not great to me. If they ask for it, I feel like you should be honest. But otherwise it just seems like sabatoge to me. But I’m sure others will disagree there.

  13. dealing with dragons*

    “coastal elitists” is a phrase that turns my head as much as globalist or cosmopolitan elite would – not everyone uses it this way but it’s a dog whistle for anti-semites. it’s at minimum a dog whistle for the MAGA crowd who are “real” Americans.

    1. Susie Q*

      I disagree. I think Coastal Elites (Silicon Valley, Manhattan, etc.) is describing white upper middle class/upper class individuals who are out of touch with poverty especially rural poverty and whose activism is often surface level and for appearances only.

        1. Dust Bunny*

          Same. But the people I know who might say it don’t differentiate very much between the two.

      1. deesse877*

        Agree with Sola Lingua, and I’d add further that what makes it an effective dog whistle in many online contexts is the plausible deniability that this double use provides.

        1. Reba*

          Yep, either way it is a kind of in-group language that says more about the person using the phrase than the group supposedly being described.

      2. NotAnotherManager!*

        This is how the phrase originated but it has morphed, much like the word “liberal” itself, into a pejorative that generally means anyone with more than a HS diploma who doesn’t live in a red state/county.

        I’ve been called a “coastal elite” many times despite the fact I’ve been to New England three times in my entire life and California only once, went to a public university, and grew up in a blue-collar, small-business owning family. Because I live outside of DC now, have a master’s degree, and think the GOP went down the toilet the moment they joined forces with the religious right. And I have assured the people who’ve called me that that the true “coastal elites” certainly do not count me as one of them.

    2. WFHHalloweenCat*

      Yes, this is how I feel about it too. If you’re familiar with The West Wing, it gives me the same vibe as when the woman in the Pilot episode talks about Josh’s “New York sense of humor”

    3. Fake Old Converse Shoes (not in the US)*

      I’m not from the US, but whenever I heard someone define themselves as “patriot”, my fight or flight response kicks in. Immediately.
      (Also, phrases that involve cleaning when talking about politics, but that’s more specific to the region)

    4. EmmaPoet*

      Agreed. I would be very wary of a coworker who threw around that term, because IME it’s at best a MAGA dog whistle, and at worst an Antisemitic dog whistle. Either way, it’s not a good sign.

    5. Alict*

      Yes, I came here to say this. It has become a common dogwhistle for “Jews”. Whether this guy means it in it’s more innocuous “liberals” form is something OP is in a better place than I am to determine, but it’s certainly a concern.

  14. LKW*

    LW #3 – please go speak to the hiring manager. As Alison said, you have relevant information. When your co-worker interviews he’s likely going to be on his best behavior, like the first month of dating. While it’s possible he brings up costal elites or opines that a department or process is a waste of time and money, he may not.

    Toxic workplaces form when leadership is either toxic or doesn’t tamp down quickly on toxic behaviors. We’ve all heard about toxic departments and this is how they start. This guy shouldn’t be in a leadership position.

  15. WellRed*

    Several comments on how the boss in letter 1 us violating the company’s drinking policy. But the boss is only violating policy if they drink on the job which OP has no proof of. And FWIW I am on the fence whether boss is or isn’t.

    1. LW #1*

      FWIW there was lots of additional examples supporting the idea that Boss is, at the very least, centering work activities and conversations around alcohol that I asked Alison to remove from my original letter because it would have been impossible to remain anon. Selecting locations for workday lunch meetings based on alcohol offered at the restaurant, wondering aloud 3-4 separate times if they would be allowed to order drinks at lunch meeting with Big Boss, when ordering drinks at a post-work event asking the bartender what the highest alcohol content drink was (in front of a large group of subordinates).

      That said, I have no proof other than Boss stating they had a drink during the work day and (again) don’t think their work is being impacted. It’s more the discomfort with knowing and the uncomfortable position it places me as their employee in.

      1. Reba*

        Oh! I understand why you would not want to enumerate all the examples, but this seems VERY different!

        Awkward jokes about drinking during lockdown are one thing. Demonstrating this fixation on drinks at the office and at work events, repeatedly, is something else again.

        I still don’t necessarily feel that you ought to, like, report her for a violation. But I think it wouldn’t be out of bounds to say to her boss, “I’ve asked Manager a few times* to curb her comments about drinking bc it makes me uncomfortable and I think it could create an exclusive environment on our team, but I’m not getting the sense that she hears my concern. Could you speak to her about it too?”
        It’s less about the rules and more about the team culture.

        *Maybe raise it with her one more time if you have the opportunity?

        1. Reba*

          like, less “is she drinking on the clock, against company rules” — we don’t know

          more “is she creating a terrible or at least problematic atmosphere and behaving unprofessionally” — seems a yes!

  16. Office Rat*

    OP 2. I feel you. We have a Financial Analysis Program, that is nicknamed FAP. We discuss FAP in a lot of our internal documents.
    I am fairly certain the IT-related department back in the day did this on purpose.

    1. JillianNicola*

      Oh, 100%. My bf is IT-adjacent and yeah … they’re all mentally 8 year olds lol.

    2. Slow Gin Lizz*

      I know of a law firm whose website is A MAJOR law firm. They even shorten their name to MoFo. I am 99.9% certain they do it on purpose.

      1. NotAnotherManager!*

        They do – it was a branding choice – and they wear the MoFo moniker with pride. Huge firm, started in the late 1800s, and has offices all over the globe as well as a charitable foundation.

  17. B Wayne*

    LW: 2 Acronyms. I had to Google “FFS” to see what it meant. Had zero idea. Guess all those years of avoiding social media and doing pretty basic texting (I texted “IDK” the other day for the first time ever, I like to simply write it out) are catching up with me.

    1. Nanani*

      Most acronyms don’t come from social media per se, but from gaming where getting your message out VERY fast matters. Saving a few keystrokes = saving a few seconds can make or break your match.
      Since gamers tend to be extremely online, it filters out into wider social media over time.

  18. C in the Hood*

    OP1 Basically, we don’t know if the boss is drinking during work or what. But what your immediate issue is his making these kinds of comments makes you uncomfortable. Maybe you should talk to him about that? I suspect that he has no idea of how he’s coming across.

  19. Observer*

    #1 – You can most definitely ignore the comments.

    The way to think about it is this: It is not your job to worry about or enforce “policy”.

    When trying to decide whether to mention an issue these are the questions you should ask yourself:

    1. Is this my job?
    2. Is it affecting my work?
    3. Is this breaking the law? (or breaking relevant rules, regulations or contracts?)
    4. Is this endangering anyone?

    If the answer to all of these is no, then you don’t need to do anything, and you probably don’t have any standing to say anything.

    1. Observer*

      I realized that there is on more question to ask:

      5. Is someone being unfairly hurt?

    2. some dude*

      My read on this is maybe he does have a drinking problem, but also in the U.S. we tend to have weird attitudes towards booze. Him talking about booze may be because he is a drunk or it may be that he thinks it is a funny ha ha way to show that he is chill and down with the kidz and not just an ol’ stick in the mud. Or maybe both.

      1. Observer*

        Could easily be. Still not something that the OP has no obligation to do anything about

  20. Kate S*

    My experience is that some of the people who make alcohol jokes at work are really just joking, and some are testing the waters to try to see how much everyone else drinks, and whether their own drinking is “normal.” The fact that it’s all “just a joke” gives plausible deniability, but it also makes it hard for someone to bring up a genuine concern without worrying that it will be treated like a joke.

    This probably doesn’t apply to LW#1 because the situation involves her boss, but when jokes about alcohol are a way for colleagues to bond and vent about stress, I think it’s wise to at least keep an antenna out for moments where a friend might not be joking and might be looking for an opening to talk. For example, if someone says to you, “Wow, when we go back to work in person, I’m going to have a hard time drying out, HAHA, amirite??” It’s worth the risk of seeming awkward to say something like, “Yeah, I think a lot of us have been drinking more than usual—is that something you’re worried about?” instead of just following the office script and laughing it off. Of course there are situations where you might not feel like this is the right call, and it’s really not anyone’s job. But you could be the right person at the right time.

    1. J.B.*

      I agree very much with your first paragraph. I would not recommend that the letter writer bring it up to her boss though because of the power dynamic. Alcoholics tend not to respond well to concerns about their drinking.

  21. Blue Eagle*

    LW#1 – You asked “I want to ignore it, pretend it didn’t happen, and never speak of it again. Can I do that?”

    I’ll agree with Alison’s answer of “yes” and I’ll go one step further. The fact is that you have no definite knowledge of what someone on the other end of a zoom call is drinking. So if it ever comes up or you are ever questioned about it, you can absolutely say that you have no knowledge of whether or not the person was drinking alcohol. And if the question comes up about their comments about drinking, you can absolutely say that you didn’t think anything of it because you thought they were joking – – and just talking about stress. And leave it at that.

    You have absolutely no responsibility to report your boss’s potential drinking to someone else and if you do, you run the risk that the boss will say it was just a joke or that the liquid in the glass was something else and not alcohol.

  22. Introverted Type-A Employee*

    After a decades long career in medical admin I moved out of that sector to a completely different and much more relaxed field. I work at a small business where the owner allows and provides alcohol, as long as everyone understands it’s in moderation. The majority of my work is done alone in my office at my computer with customer/vendor communication via email.

    On a stressful day last week I came back from the restroom to find a Bloody Mary on my desk at 10a and my boss noted that it was a crazy day and he thought I could use it. I could – I was more relaxed and felt like my hectic morning was recognized. We’ll have a beer at our desk at 4:00p, or with a pizza we ordered for the crew at lunch, or pour some nice scotch on a Friday afternoon after closing a huge project that week.

    I realize this is atypical, but it’s a good fit for everyone here. We do notify final candidates that we have a culture where a drink at your desk sometimes is acceptable but not expected (about a third of our staff do not drink for religious or personal reasons already), so that anyone who might be in recovery or who would not find this acceptable can self-select out and not be rudely surprised. Our Drug Policy in the manual addresses what is and isn’t acceptable.

    It isn’t for everyone, and it raises eyebrows with some of my friends, but it is a perk I really enjoy. Cheers!

  23. HLK1219HLLK*

    When I was in College, I worked for MCI Worldcom. They had a promotion called Friends Around the World Anyway. Bear in mind we were naive midWesterners in the 1990’s who knew nothing outside of a very limited view. So consequently we were astounded that nobody from the middle East or Pakistan wanted the plan and were often quick to get off the phone when we asked if they would like to be enrolled in our new FATWA plan. I quickly learned a lot about the world after one kind gentleman explained to me how our abbreviation was coming across and I was absolutely horrified. Why corporate Worldcom allowed and encouraged it was insane and probably a small part of why they are no longer in business and Ebbers is in FYUTA prison.

  24. Iota*

    My friend works for the CBA.

    Recent post on their website: “Join the CBA Yorkshire committee!”

  25. EmmaPoet*

    LW3 should definitely speak to the hiring manager. They need to know that Dan has driven you to use workarounds so you don’t have to deal with his attitude and refusal to do his job, especially since you’d have to work with him even more.

  26. Student*

    OP #1: The type of work your boss performs and manages does matter in how seriously you take this. I think there are a lot of fields where a drink when working from home is pretty harmless, but there are exceptions.

    Does your boss do things that involve big chunks of the business’s money? If so, it may be in your interested to report his conduct up the chain. I’m not worried about routine office supply purchases, but if he’s doing major account management while under the influence, small mistakes could do the business a lot of financial harm. This also depends on how strong your internal account auditing and safeguards are about catching errors.

    Does your boss do any work (or review of work) that is critical to somebody’s life? This might extend beyond immediate emergency-related work (like 911 dispatch) to the design or QC of life-critical devices, parts, or software, like design of key medical devices, architectural design reviews, etc. I don’t mind if the guy who designed my keyboard had a brew at lunch, but I’d be pretty unhappy if the guy who was supposed to inspect the building’s electrical safety or QC a pacemaker had a drink right beforehand.

    Are you working in national security? If you are, in the US, you’re probably obligated to report your concerns to your personnel security officer. In such a situation, they’ll investigate, and if he’s just joking around about stress nothing will come of it. In the national security field, you’d risk loss of your own job or jeopardize major projects if it turns out he does have a drinking problem. I had a boss in a job like this get fired for something closely related. It was bad for business and bad for everyone working with him; it would’ve had less impact on others he was working with if he’d been reported earlier, and they would’ve had more options to help him de-escalate it if it had come out sooner.

    1. Observer*

      Are you working in national security? If you are, in the US, you’re probably obligated to report your concerns to your personnel security office

      Generally speaking, people in national security (in most counties, I think) are told about what they need to report. I’d be really surprised if the OP were in such a job.

  27. My Boss is Dumber than Yours*

    On the topic of #5… You absolutely don’t need to tell employers you are looking for other jobs, and any company that would hold applying to other companies against you *when you’re not even their employee* is definitely not a company you want to work for. This is the kind of company that will have a policy to summarily fire anyone they find out is job searching. It’s the kind of company that will try to make employees sign insane (and likely illegal) non-compete agreements.

    (On a kinda humorous aside… my wife’s father was of the opinion that you really shouldn’t apply to multiple jobs simultaneously, but he took it one more even dumber step: He told my wife when she was interviewing for one company and got a rejection from another that she was obligated to tell the company she was interviewing with that some other company rejected her. According to him, she had already fouled up by applying for multiple positions at the same time, and now it was only fair that the company she was interviewing with knew everything about her rejection at the other company… because, according to him, employee’s have no right to make determinations about the companies their applying to or working for, but companies are entitled to every single piece of information about their employees and applicants.)

    1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

      I don’t like to apply to a lot of jobs at the same time because I’m concerned I’ll keep everything and my current gig straight. I’m sure telling a Pepsi VP how much I enjoy Strawberry Fanta won’t help my job prospects. Not to mention that too many Zoom calls in a short period of time could really mess up my productivity.

      But wow, that’s taking it a whole other, terrifying level…

  28. RB*

    Seattle has the S.L.U.T. or South Lake Union Trolley. There was another unfortunate acronym they used briefly before they changed it: S.L.U.T.S, or Seattle Land Use and Transportation Sector. I may be quoting that wrong — I’m not actually in Seattle but it did make the news in Oregon.

  29. RB*

    What a great collection of letters: drinking at work boss, calling colleagues “coastal elites,” unfortunate acronyms. Thanks, I needed that today.

    As a “coastal elite” myself (coastal blue state, college degree, decent job), I’m not sure that’s the derogatory term that he thinks it is.

  30. former grad student*

    um, regarding #2:

    i went to a graduate school where on the official grade sheets each semester, here’s how the school abbreviated the name of the department that each class was in:

    – the first letter of the first word of the department’s name
    – the first three letters of the second word of the department’s name

    they placed a dot between those two, but not a space. my classes were all in Children’s Lit. my grade sheets all said C.LIT.

    OH DEAR.

  31. Jennifer Juniper*

    OP2, if you have the standing to do so and company policy permits it, have a meeting with the people who come up with acronyms. Pull up Urban Dictionary. Show them what FFS stands for.

    That should convince them to change the acronym!

  32. Dennis Feinstein*

    As a lady of a certain age, when I hear HRT I automatically think Hormone Replacement Therapy, so I find it amusing on American cop shows when the HRT shows up!
    Also, I’m Gen X and I immediately knew what FFS meant!

  33. CAM*

    I know what FFS meant (elder millenial), however I worked at a firm whose initials were FML and routinely went by “FML”, at a time when I’d say that term was at peak use and no one ever blinked an eye. It was fun to discuss with my peer group though.

  34. The Other Liz*

    At an old job, there was a Diversity Task Force. DTF. My boss, who was a pastor, asked me why it was funny. It was an awkward check in.

  35. Sarah*

    My husband once had to abbreviate “Peanuts, Nut in Shell” for work… needless to say, he kept the first two letters of the first word, then the first letters of the remaining words, as per protocol… and didn’t even realize until later what that acronym became. He was mortified. Now, it’s HILARIOUS, and I love telling that story about the horrors of acronyming everything.

  36. Beast from the East*

    Regarding #2. Fun little story I am going to share. For those of you who do not live in Seattle, in 2007 a streetcar line opened in an area of downtown Seattle called South Lake Union. This on the south end of Lake Union.

    The name of the transit system is, South Lake Union Streetcar but for quite a while was known as South Lake Union Trolley AKA SLUT. For a while there was a T-shirt sold by one of the local business’s that said, “Ride the S.L.U.T.”
    So….yea. lol

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