WTF? No, TFW!

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The comments on my post "The inherent ambiguity of WTF" drifted to other possible expansions of WTF, like the World Taekwondo Federation. That reminded me of something I saw back in July on the blog Your Logo Makes Me Barf, mocking the abbreviatory logo of the Wisconsin Tourism Federation. The ridicule got some attention from local Wisconsin media, such as Kathy Flanigan of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

Folks at the Wisconsin Tourism Federation couldn't possibly have seen how the Internet would change the lingo when it was established in 1979.
But now that it's been pointed out, the lobbying coalition might want to rethink using an acronym in the logo. To anyone online, WTF has a different meaning these days. And it's not the kind of thing you want visitors thinking about when they think Wisconsin.

I decided to check out the tourism board's website, and lo and behold, they've bowed to pressure and changed their name to the Tourism Federation of Wisconsin. The old logo lives on, however, at the Internet Archive. Compare:

The transition isn't quite complete yet. The URL is still witourismfederation.org, and "WTF" survives in the menu directly below the logo on the home page!

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42 Comments »

  1. Andrew Rodland said,

    September 25, 2009 @ 1:20 am

    Sadly, the old logo is typeset much more nicely. The new one condenses "Federation" more than it can really stand. :)

  2. Bob Kennedy said,

    September 25, 2009 @ 1:41 am

    Wisconsin FTW.

  3. Lazar said,

    September 25, 2009 @ 1:48 am

    Don't forget the letters that appear at the top of the calendar: SMTWTFS

  4. Morgan said,

    September 25, 2009 @ 1:55 am

    Actually, I think it's the kind of thing that would encourage people to journey from nearby states to take pictures with signs, if they had any.

  5. Stephen Jones said,

    September 25, 2009 @ 4:19 am

    I used to work at a place called Jubail Industrial College, initials JIC; the Royal Commission then founded a University College called Jubail University College whose initials were however UCJ. The reason was that there was a sister college over on the other coast called Yanbu Industrial College (YIC) and somebody was bright enough to realize what the initials for Yanbu University College would be!

  6. jake said,

    September 25, 2009 @ 5:45 am

    rethink using an acronym in the logo? there are no acronyms in the logo

  7. Stan Carey said,

    September 25, 2009 @ 5:46 am

    What Morgan said. It's a missed opportunity. Think of the fun they could have had with a bit of progressive marketing. WTF is instantly recognisable to a substantial subsection of the population, and in incongruous contexts it's reliably lulzworthy* to many of those people. By comparison, TFW is nondescript and unexciting. But good luck to them.

    * First time I've ever used this term, or anything with lulz in it, and I don't know who to blame.

  8. Sili said,

    September 25, 2009 @ 9:32 am

    Stan and Morgan are exactly right. Missed opportunity. I happen to know what a Cheesehead is, but WTF would really make for international marketing.

    Prudery is so sad. It'd be interesting to see what the FCC had to say about the TV ads, too. After all, is "WTF" inherently sexual in nature?

  9. Allie said,

    September 25, 2009 @ 10:04 am

    Obviously they should have used "Federation of Tourism in Wisconsin".

    It avoids the effin' taboo and negative connotations of WTF but not nondescript like TFW.

  10. Tom said,

    September 25, 2009 @ 10:12 am

    Here is an intentional use of the acronym for marketing purposes, by the University of Warwick Table Football Society.

  11. Tom said,

    September 25, 2009 @ 10:13 am

    http://www.warwickfoos.co.uk/photo.php?gallery=h20090326&image=59

  12. Stan Carey said,

    September 25, 2009 @ 10:15 am

    'is "WTF" inherently sexual in nature?'

    WTF can say for sure?

  13. rpsms said,

    September 25, 2009 @ 11:31 am

    IMO anyone who knows what WTF means probably isn't particularly offended by it, and it adds levity to the organization.

    Also, they could have had a great slogan:
    Wisconsin Tourism Federation.
    For the Win in You.

  14. Antonio Cavedoni said,

    September 25, 2009 @ 11:44 am

    Apparently TFW is being used as well to mean "the fuck, what?"

  15. Joe Salmons said,

    September 25, 2009 @ 12:47 pm

    What a sad moment for our state … sticking with WTF would have been perfectly in the spirit of Wisconsin culture. (And yeah, I too like the old logo better.

  16. jem said,

    September 25, 2009 @ 2:49 pm

    RE: Sili

    It'd be interesting to see what the FCC had to say about the TV ads, too. After all, is "WTF" inherently sexual in nature?

    The FCC would not be opposed based on Gossip Girl's ads for the last two season premiere's.

  17. Faldone said,

    September 25, 2009 @ 3:19 pm

    jake: rethink using an acronym in the logo? there are no acronyms in the logo

    You've forgotten the Red Queen's advice, obviously.

  18. Emily Dunbar said,

    September 25, 2009 @ 6:11 pm

    In high school i did Future Problem Solvers, in which we were given a future scene and we had to solve the problems that were happening. Anyway, we could make up organizations that supposedly existed in the future, and whenever the world economy was involved, we posited that there was a World Trade Federation– WTF.

  19. naddy said,

    September 25, 2009 @ 6:53 pm

    They could have kept the name "Wisconsin Tourism Federation" and just changed the acronym to "TFW". After all, the "International Organization for Standardization" has the abbreviation "ISO".

  20. Sili said,

    September 25, 2009 @ 7:14 pm

    jem, but in that case the refence is explicitly to the txt WTF.

    In the case of the Wisconsin Tourism Federation, there would be no such inherent reference, but of course there'd be the connotation.

    So could the FCC claim that even when explicitly used in an ad for the Wisconsin Tourism Federation, WTF is still "inherently sexual" as a TLA?

    Stan: bravo.

  21. Neal Whitman said,

    September 25, 2009 @ 11:01 pm

    Judean People's Front? No, we're the People's Front of Judea!

  22. unekdoud said,

    September 26, 2009 @ 12:49 am

    Erm… the menu still has "about WTF" on it?

  23. Cemil said,

    September 26, 2009 @ 5:38 am

    Agree with Naddy's comments…

    Although not sure why they couldn't just "re-invent" themselves with a brand new logo and drop the acronym altogether?

  24. Allah Sulu said,

    September 26, 2009 @ 5:50 am

    Obviously they should have used "Federation of Tourism in Wisconsin".

    FTW used to stand for "F**k The World" (which is still the first thing some people think when they see it) before the new meaning of "For The Win" was adopted.

  25. jake said,

    September 26, 2009 @ 6:06 am

    Shurely shome mishtake, Faldone. Don't you mean Humpty Dumpty?

    And even on his brittle basis I still say these are not acronyms.

  26. Bob Ladd said,

    September 26, 2009 @ 6:58 am

    When I was an undergraduate (quite some time ago now) someone I knew had a road sign on his wall stolen from New Jersey state route 69. I'm pretty sure the same route is now called route 31. Who knows whether the change was motivated by some sort of misplaced sense of delicacy (as appears to have happened with WTF in Wisconsin) or whether the state highway department just got tired of having college students stealing their signs all the time.

    @Jake: Those of us who actually know the difference between an acronym and an abbreviation have lost the usage battle. Deal with it.

  27. Faldone said,

    September 26, 2009 @ 7:56 am

    @jake

    No, I meant the Red Queen. She who advised that it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place. We are all Humpty Dumpty, but it was the Red Queen who advised us to keep up with ourselves. If you'd like, I, for one, will start pronouncing it /wtf/ rather than 'dubljutief'.

  28. GWS said,

    September 26, 2009 @ 9:08 am

    When I first saw TFW, I thought The Fuck Wit, and then after reading pluralised it. Why the need to stay with Federation? Council would work.

  29. anon said,

    September 26, 2009 @ 9:58 am

    Here's a somewhat-related article; the bird called the "kestrel" was apparently once known as the "windfucker."

    http://scienceblogs.com/builtonfacts/2009/09/birds_and_bad_words.php

  30. Dan T. said,

    September 26, 2009 @ 10:22 am

    Acronyms/initialisms that don't actually stand for anything are a favorite of empty-headed marketing types these days, and a pet peeve of mine.

  31. Bryan said,

    September 26, 2009 @ 12:21 pm

    May I suggest "WTF? No, TFW FTW!" as a minor improvement to the title?

  32. Stephen Jones said,

    September 26, 2009 @ 12:25 pm

    @Jake: Those of us who actually know the difference between an acronym and an abbreviation have lost the usage battle. Deal with it.

    I think you're using 'acronym' to mean 'initialism'.

    An acronym is pronounceable as an individual word, and can come from the initial letters or syllables. On the other hand an initialism comes from the initial letters of the words, and need not be pronounceable. Thus WTF is an initialism, not an acronym, as Jake says.

    Now some acronyms are initialisms, and both acronyms and initialisms are abbreviations, but not all abbreviations are initialisms or acronyms.

  33. Sili said,

    September 26, 2009 @ 12:30 pm

    So, Dan, do you despair at ISO and UTC, too?

  34. Ray Girvan said,

    September 27, 2009 @ 7:16 am

    GWS: When I first saw TFW, I thought The Fuck Wit

    I'm afraid I thought "Total fucking waste".

  35. Tony Souter said,

    September 27, 2009 @ 11:33 am

    The undergraduate Flinders University Choral Society, one suspects, developed their name so they could proudly display the acronym on their T-shirts.

  36. Aaron Davies said,

    September 27, 2009 @ 1:40 pm

    @Tom: reminds me of shirts found at Columbia: "COLUMBIA F____ING TEAM". They are of course for our world-famous (seriously, we turn out Olympic medalists on a regular basis) team of fencers.

  37. Faldone said,

    September 27, 2009 @ 9:58 pm

    @ Red Queen

    I tried to tell them, ma'am, but they just wouldn't listen.

  38. Sally said,

    September 29, 2009 @ 12:06 pm

    In Seattle a few years back, they named a new trolley the South Lake Union Trolley, without thinking about the abbreviation and the inevitable "Ride the SLUT jokes." They have since changed to the South Lake Union Streetcar, but not before the jokes flew, t-shirts were printed, and the name stuck for some residents: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/South_Lake_Union_Streetcar

  39. Stan said,

    September 30, 2009 @ 7:54 am

    I believe TFW is commonly known to mean That's F***ing Weird so they are no better off.

  40. Joseph Schmoe said,

    September 30, 2009 @ 5:26 pm

    Tour Wisconsin works for me. Anything with the word federation in it makes me think of pro-wrestling.

  41. Wesley said,

    October 1, 2009 @ 11:36 am

    It's 'Taekwondo', not 'Taekwando'.

  42. mariner said,

    October 1, 2009 @ 4:34 pm

    WTF acquired it's well-known meaning well before the Internet was accessible to most people.

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