Potentially embarrassing acronyms

In the Economist of June 30th, in a story “Shaking it all up”) on the long-standing armed insurgency in Mindinao (the southernmost region of the Philippines):

This, however, failed to satisfy the aspirations of the main separatist group, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF — the insurgency is so old that its acronym predates embarrassment).

The insurgency goes back to the early 1960s (as the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), formally established as MILF in 1984), while the initialism (for “Mother/Mom/Mum I‘d Like to Fuck”) goes back to the early 1990s.

From Wikipedia:

MILF, an acronym for “Mother/Mom/Mum I’d Like to Fuck”, is a common colloquial term generally regarded as vulgar when spelled out. It denotes a sexually attractive older female.

The term itself was first documented in Internet newsgroups during the 1990s. It was popularized by the 1999 film American Pie referring to Jennifer Coolidge’s character: ‘Stifler’s Mom’.

The concept of a MILF predates the term itself, as exemplified by Mrs. Robinson in The Graduate [1967].

MILF spawned the counterpart DILF (Dad I’d Like to Fuck), used by young women and gay men; a genre of pornography; and a 2010 movie:

MILF is a 2010 sex comedy film by The Asylum. The film borrows elements from American Pie and Revenge of the Nerds.

After failing romantically with girls their own age, a group of nerdy male college students discover the excitement of hooking up with sexy older women, often referred to as MILFs. Lifelong best friends Brandon (Jack Cullison) and Anthony (Philip Marlott) as well as their geek/gamer friends Nate (Joseph Booton) and Ross (Ramon Camacho) succeed beyond their wildest dreams as they hook up with lady after lady. However, when Brandon falls for Anthony’s sexually active mother, the guys’ whole scheme begins to fall apart. (link)

Details on MILF the word, from Jesse Sheidlower’s The F-Word(3rd edition), where it’s glossed ‘a sexually attractive woman who is a mother or (generally) in early middle age’: first attestation in 1991, as the name of the Buffalo NY rock band milf; then in 1995, on the Usenet newsgroup alt.mag.playboy; and then in 1998, in American Pie, which spread the word into general use.

On milf the band (three guys), from a music site:

Got milf? Buffalo sure did, at least throughout a good swath of the early-to-mid ’90s (before most of us actually knew what the now infamous acronym meant). One record scribe likened the trio music to a Husker Du 45 played at 33. Though not the most spot-on description of their sound, milf dispelled a sinewy, distorto guitar sprawl with jawdroppingly tuneful sensibilities

Other bands have picked up the name. For instance, there’s MILF! The Band (Albany CA: six women).


10 Responses to “Potentially embarrassing acronyms”

  1. Steve Anderson Says:

    I’m not sure how many of the inhabitants of Mindanao will see the double entendre… But as for embarrassing acronyms, within our own discipline, I have heard that the history of linguistics group centered around Konrad Koerner was originally to be called the American Society for the Study of the History Of the Language Sciences, until someone pointed out the problem to Koerner, and it was renamed the North American Association for the History of the Language Sciences. This may be just an urban legend…

    • arnold zwicky Says:

      I heard the story from LSA staff at the time, but I wasn’t convinced it was genuine. In any case, now we have NAAHoLS.

    • sacundim Says:

      I heard a similar joke at the first NASSLLI (North American Summer School of Logic, Language, and Information). I’m fairly confident it’s not genuine.

      • Steve Anderson Says:

        There’s actually nothing at all implausible about this story, so I would be interested to know if anyone could conclusively confirm or refute it.

  2. Ben Zimmer Says:

    I wrote about the origins of “MILF” on ADS-L and Language Log, tracing it back to slang used by lifeguards at Fort Niagara State Park.

    Slate’s Daniel Engber wrote a dispatch from Mindanao called “A Trip to MILF Island,” playing off a joke from 30 Rock.

  3. sissy Says:

    About ten years ago there was a big shake up in the politically conservative scene in Canada, with parties splitting and joining willy-nilly. Eventually the Alliance party, Reform party, and Progressive Conservative party joined forces into what was briefly named the Canadian Conservative Reform Alliance party.

  4. Steve Anderson Says:

    Arnold: se non è vero, è ben trovato.

  5. sacundim Says:

    I hope we’ve not forgotten the former Wisconsin Tourism Federation, today named the Tourism Federation of Wisconsin…

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