Test Your Digital Literacy with ‘The FBI Guide to Internet Slang’

Posted inGraphic Design

The number of acronyms that have materialized since the birth of the internet is substantial, and somehow still growing. It seems the accumulation of shorthand like “LOL” and “OMG” will never stop circling throughout the depths of cyberspace. For decades, we’ve been living in a world where quite literally any chain of corresponding common words can be shortened.

There’s BRB, RFP, TL;DR, and many, many more. In fact, there are so many examples of shortened internet jargon that Pentagram created an 83-page glossary called The FBI Guide to Internet Slang. This clever collection features over 2,800 acronyms, a quiz on 14 especially absurd ones, and two primary typefaces by Pentagram partner Matt Willey. The two fonts are appropriately named Edgar Sans and Clyde Slab, inspired by notorious FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover and his deputy and rumored lover, Clyde Tolson.

Pentagram’s latest annual greeting challenges readers to decipher the cryptic acronyms found on social media.

Internet lingo is constantly evolving, especially on social media, where it can seem impenetrable to anyone who doesn’t spend most of their lives on the platforms. In 2014, the FBI’s Intelligence Research Support Unit commissioned a comprehensive study of the jargon, noting that “with the advent of Twitter and other social media venues on the internet, the use of acronyms and shorthand has exploded.” The result was a somewhat preposterous 83-page glossary consisting of over 2,800 entries that range from obvious examples like LOL and OMG, to ones that are more obscure and amusing, such as PWP (plot? what plot?) and NTTAWWT (not that there’s anything wrong with that), and even the design-minded RFP (request for proposal).

This exhaustive list inspired Pentagram’s latest annual greeting, “The FBI Guide to Internet Slang.” The booklet challenges readers to identify 14 abbreviations of varying difficulty and absurdity, with answers at the back. The acronyms are set in two custom typefaces designed by Pentagram partner Matt Willey, based on the markings that appear on the agency’s uniforms, particularly in popular media. The two fonts are fittingly named Edgar Sans and Clyde Slab in honor of longtime FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover and his deputy and alleged lover Clyde Tolson. Additional examples appear as a typographic pattern in the gatefold cover, printed in black-on-black foil stamping.

A limited number of copies of the booklet are available while supplies last. To receive one, simply provide proof of a donation of any size to the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), the non-profit organization working to defend civil liberties in the digital sphere. Make your donation here, then forward a copy or screenshot of your donation receipt to info@pentagram.com.

Project Credits