I used an acronym in this morning’s post which I think could use a little disambiguation. That term was ‘FTW‘. In the lexicon I learned as a youth it has only ever meant one thing.
Now hands up those who thought FTW means, ‘For the win’? Really? No. I’m sorry, that is so weak it isn’t true. That is geek speak, and as such ephemeral (Not to mention teeth grindingly, embarrassingly awful).
Hands up those who think it means ‘Forever two wheels‘? Work in marketing do you? It most definitely does not carry this meaning. Never has. Knowing Biker society as I used to, if it was meant to carry that meaning it would be ‘TWF’. Karol Griffin’s quotation from ‘Skin deep’ is bullshit, crap, total bollocks, and just goes to show you shouldn’t believe all you read. ‘Real’ bikers, or at least the ones I used to know, would laugh themselves senseless if they heard anyone espouse this view. Probably uttering that expression of Interweb amused incomprehension; “WTF?”
Hands up those who think it means ‘For those wondering‘? Okay, this acronym has a little more credibility as the syntax makes reasonable grammatical sense if you’re a nerdish researcher on one of the more studied and polite Internet forums. However, it is not correct.
Hands up those who think it means ‘Fuck the world‘? Correct! Go to the top of the class, give yourself a slightly tarnished gold star. This is the meaning it had prior to the 1980’s, and the one I always use it for.
“FTW” expresses the desire for the rest of the world to stop interfering, for solitude, for surcease from the falseness and the doublespeak that perverts the course of human relationships. It means ‘I don’t care, leave me in peace’s. A meaning of honest brutality. It is the last snarl against the world on a suicide note. It means; “I am going my own way and damn the rest of you.” Usually expressed in a tattoo or graffiti. It is the frustrated roar of the underdog who has slipped his leash. It is sound and fury made flesh. It is an angry phrase made from gasoline, alloy, spilled SAE 10w40 oil, scarred fists and steel toed motorcycle boots.
I can see where the other, and much later invented meanings came from. They are the lies you tell your Mum when she finds you in hospital after a nasty crack up, undressed for the first time since you were three and sees your motley collection of skin art. The lies you tell the cute Nurse or the pretty young thing with doe eyes you’re having serious lustful thoughts about. The lies you tell your beloved on your wedding night when she asks you to tell her why you got that strange tattoo and what it means. The lies you tell your parole board or crusading prison visitor (Never done time, never want to, but some of my old close friends have). The lies you tell teacher when he / she finds the hastily written expostulation in your homework and you don’t want to fail the course. The lies you tell an employer / employee who sees you with your sleeves rolled up and doesn’t know about your previous unsavory history. The lies you tell an Officer who has the presence of mind (or not) to read squaddie tattoos. The lies told to a curious child who Daddy does most definitely not want to follow in his footsteps. A clumsy but well meaning attempt to ‘gentrify’ motorcycling from its less than respectful late 20th century outlaw roots.
All the aforementioned are reasonable excuses to dilute this most pejorative of phrases. They were invented and promoted by the kind of middle class meddlers who ‘preserve’ old folk songs but deliberately exclude the mucky (and some would say the best) bits.
“FTW” is, and to the best of my knowledge has been outlaw biker / con / squaddie speak since the 1950’s for ‘Fuck the World’. The ultimate expression of frustrated liberty. Everything else is a pallid falsehood.
It is also worth noting that Vietnam era GI’s sometimes meant it to mean “Fuck the war”, but this is probably a perversion of its original meaning.