Student listservs are never for the faint of heart. Merely reading them sometimes requires a strong constitution and an itchy delete-key finger. Contributing to your law school listserv can be an even more harrowing experience, especially if you attempt to admonish or change your peers’ behaviors.

So, on one level, we admire this contributor to the NYU Law School listserv, for a brave attempt to clean up the language used in public emails. On the other hand, if you want people to stop using the phrase “WTF,” you should probably learn what it means first….

Sending an email to your peers essentially criticizing them for having potty mouths is a daunting task. For better or worse, it’s probably a recipe for disaster, or at least major ridicule, no matter how you slice it. But the dual drafters (the email was cosigned) of this missive deserve some credit. Many people would probably respond to their note by saying they are takin’ all the fun outta the job. But at first, the request is decently clever and lighthearted:

Day after day, semester after semester, this list-serve is indnuated with subject lines bearing the lead-in: WTF.

Supposedly, it means that one is seeking something, searching for something, looking to find something. But we all know what it really means. Don’t get us wrong, it’s a good phrase, a great phrase, a phrase that has a distinct and useful purpose. That purpose has nothing to do with finding a short-term sublet or a supplement to your law school coursebooks. Here’s a selection of what we’ve seen cross our inboxes:

WTF Feminist Haggadah (Not even touching this one)
WTF Tenant for West Village (There’s plenty of Bridge and Tunnel folk at Off the Wagon who would be more than happy to help)
WTF Really Good Tailor in Brooklyn or Manhattan (The barter market is alive and well)
WTF (legal) German Tutor (Thank God it’s legal)
WTF a Roomate (Like you need the internet for that)
WTF Personal Injury Lawyer in DC (Come now, you go to NYU, have some class)

And then at a certain point, you realize something is off here:

Read these without giggling. We dare you.

Why would those lines make me giggle? They aren’t that funny or off-the-wall, I don’t think…

It’d be like attempting to reclaim the phrase DTF and pretending it means “Docking the Ferry.” It does not mean docking the ferry. Check the urban-dictionary. It had it’s chance. People could have chosen any three words to string together. But they chose a very specific three, and those three have very little to do with nautical vessels. So let’s just accept the meaning and move on from it. It’s like trying to re-land on the Moon. We’ve done it, move on, head to the oceans, the Amazon. Go West Young Man!

So can we just agree as a family that unless you’re looking for a little late night library lovin’, let’s go ahead and stay away from WTF.

Whoa, whoa, whoa, Ms. Lippy! It appears someone is misinformed. I hate to be the one breaking this news, but WTF merely means “what the f**k?” I cannot believe we have to explain this, but there’s no sexual connotation to WTF.

DTF (“down to f**k” for all the Boomers out there) is a tooootally different thing. The pair behind this email should probably have read “the urban-dictionary” before linking to it. That said, if anyone at NYU is actually looking for library loving, the blissfully naïve writers are probably correct.

That’s what Craigslist is for.

We have the whole email reprinted on the following page. The full note includes some silly suggestions for less offensive replacement acronyms.…


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