Subdisciplines of Linguistics.

You don’t have to be a Dungeons & Dragons player to enjoy the Alignment Chart featured in this Mark Liberman post at the Log! (I know so little about D&D that I didn’t realize it was involved before clicking the Alignment Chart Wikipedia link.) Mark called it “unfair but funny”; as I said in my first comment, “The only unfair part is that it omits historical linguistics (the Best Kind of Linguistics™).”

An interesting linguistic sidelight: in another comment, I used the common (I thought) abbreviation FTW. In response, ardj said:

I have consulted two dictionaries of abbreviations / acronyms, and, even after rejecting, e.g. Faith Through Worship and Free the Wales, I am none the wiser as to LH’s use of the ‘term’ (or possibly simply ‘quale’) FTW. Should I be reading it backwards ?

I responded: “Goodness, we live in such fragmented speech communities. In this context, FTW = for the win.”


  1. neutrally evil bulbul says

    Yeah, like Mark said, where is dialectology? Don’t make me sick my robots on you!

  2. Ugh, I’ve been laughing at these since about the glorious sandwiches one and only now do I know it’s a D&D reference.

    Also, FTW is completely cromulent. Don’t apologize.


  3. Bathrobe says

    I really loved the definition of syntax:

    “Organising linguistic units into structures needlessly filled with abstractions and gaps.”

    That is SO Chomskyan.

  4. Bathrobe says

    What? No correction period?

    FWIW, I didn’t know what FTW meant, either. You can usually guess what acronyms mean but I don’t say “for the win” so I would not have guessed it in a million years. I do find the proliferation of acronyms annoying because it’s so in-group in its way, despite the ubiquity of the Internet. FB, WP, BF, you could go on forever.

  5. George Grady says

    Heh, usually the best dictionary for things like FTW is urbandictionary.

  6. J.W. Brewer says

    I will simply cross-reference my own contrary views on “FTW” as stated in the LL thread rather than repeat them here. (On the other hand, I understood the alignment chart immediately.)

    Perhaps unlike Bathrobe I have gained in recent years a passive understanding of the “for the win” idiom because of exposure to the usage of others, but I have not assimilated it into my own usage, nor have I done so with the complex of related idioms (“full of win” etc.) that are all stereotypically (and perhaps unfairly) associated in my mind with a social type that makes us Carter-Administration-era D&D-playing adolescent boys seem in hindsight positively suave and socially adept by comparison.

  7. What? No correction period?

    Huh. I’ll have to send up the Songdog Signal.

  8. It’s hard to guess the expansion of an initialism if it is a US-specific phrase. YMMV is another example. Is “for the win” from a sports broadcast or a quiz show? I know I could Google, but I’d rather make myself a teachable moment.

  9. Apparently it originates in Internet game-playing, though I have not found a source to say so explicitly. Wiktionary equates it roughly with long live semantically, though syntactically the noun comes first — essentially some form of be has been elided.

    Wikt also says that the antonym FTL expands to for the loss, whereas I had interpreted its semantics correctly but expanded it to for the lose; the examples given are synthetic rather than citations. Any feedback from actual users of this acronym? (To me it means primarily faster than light, of course.)

  10. George Grady says


    “For the win” was frequently used on Hollywood Squares. When a player chose a celebrity’s square when they’d win if they got the question right, they’d usually say something like “Paul Lynde for the win!” Here’s a two-part video of a very long round where Gilbert Godfried gets called “for the win” repeatedly, but the players keep guessing wrong: Part One Part Two

  11. Ha, I knew it had to predate internet games! Thanks, that’s why it seemed familiar to me.

  12. I remember loving Hollywood Squares (I had the board game for a while), which may explain why “FTW” was pretty clear to me early on. (I probably looked it up the first time I saw it, but it stuck without any problem).

    But I spent my career as a teacher (middle school through grad school), so I’ve been accustomed to keeping up with the changes in language. It’s not just “kids today,” either; the engineers and scientists and inventors of all stripes have added a whole bunch of words–and acronyms–in my lifetime. It’s been a fun ride so far!

  13. January First-of-May says

    I basically know what FTW means (a congratulation along the lines of “long live”, but normally used after the noun it applies to), and I’m aware that it’s supposed to stand for “for the win”, but those two pieces of knowledge are mostly unrelated.

    That is to say, f I had to explain to someone else what “FTW” meant (assuming I managed to find someone so unfamiliar with common online abbreviations in the first place), I very possibly would not have used the phrase “for the win” at all, except maybe at the end to say what it’s technically supposed to stand for.
    [Or, if spoken, perhaps as a convenient way to pronounce it, because “for the win” has less syllables than “FTW” does, but it would still be a fixed phrase I would be explaining with little relation to the words it consists of.]

  14. Around the first or second time I ran into it, I think I parsed “FTW” as “Fat The Wuck” before my actual thinking circuits kicked in.

    (Next we will need a political compass version of the chart, of course. Or perhaps loss.jpg?)

  15. David Marjanović says

    “Fat The Wuck”


  16. Jonathan D says

    I think of things like “this question/shot [is] for the win” as something separate from “Person/thing for the win!”. The latter seems to have more in common with “So and so for president”.

  17. Lars (the original one) says

    I think the contexts where I’ve met <thing> FTW were more consistent with ‘<thing> will let me/us win’ in either a gaming or discussion context.

    Crossbows FTW!
    Hitler FTW!

    (The latter is a bad example).

  18. FTW has always meant “fuck the world” for me, a usage which, I believe, predates “for the win.”

Speak Your Mind