I’m a gamer; there, I admit it. I play MMORPGs (massively multiplayer online role playing games), single player RPGs, and RTS (real time strategy) games. More about that later. Maybe. Anway, one day, I was lurking on the customer service forum of an MMO I play when I saw a post by someone complaining that the game masters had forced him to change his character’s name from Fubar to something less offensive. Well, the customer service regulars (players who post in that particular forum all the time) chimed in, stating that masked profanity wasn’t allowed. Which is true. This particular MMO is very strict about their naming policy, and do their best to insure that the players’ online experience match the ESRB teen rating on the game box. Anyway— so this goes on for several posts, until someone else points out that while fubar is indeed against policy, snafu isn’t, even though the “f” in both means exactly the same thing. At which point another player posted, highly upset. Apparently she was very conscientious about not using profanity, yet she just discovered that she’d been using a word that was really an acronym that contained the most basic of all Anglo-Saxon cuss words.
(By the way, I’m not making light of those who don't use profanity—I also try not to swear, and am mostly successful. I figure there are more intelligent and creative ways of getting a point across. However, if I get up in the middle of the night and stub my toe, all bets are off.)
Which reinforces the need to understand the idioms we're using. For the longest time I thought the Wazoo was a river in China—and why not? My mom told me that and I believed her. Then for some odd reason I looked up the phrase "up the wazoo" and discovered that my mom had a wicked sense of humor. And that’s not the only phrase I didn’t quite know the origins of, especially those I’ve come across while playing online. The internet is a dark and dangerous place, full of apocryphal and outright false information, but sometimes—just sometimes—it’s a lifesaver. Or at least a face-saver. I know that it’s saved mine when I use it look up a meaning of a phrase. (Oh, golly. That means that?)
Say what you mean and mean what you say, and always know the true meaning of the words you use. That way you’ll never get in an argument on the internet that the “f” in snafu really means “fudge.”