TF happened to the W?
Oh, sorry, I need one of those screen titles used for narrative effect in movies and TV shows to clarify where and when the action is occurring when it’s not presented in a straightforward linear path. You know the sort of thing, I’m sure.
A person clearly unused to holding a gun shakily points one at an understandably nervous doctor in an operating room and then the view pans out to an aerial shot of a big-city downtown and the screen says…
Eight hours earlier.
And then the story is told from the beginning, but with us knowing where everything is headed.
A spy/thriller narrative jumps from a gritty street scene to a harbour-level view and the screen says…
Sydney, ten years ago.
And then the backstory is told–previously confusing relationships are explained, previously obscure motivations are illuminated, previously simple character assessments are complicated–and then they jump back to the part of the space-time continuum where we began.
Glasgow, present day.
So. TF happened to the W? And the screen says…
Yes, apparently the earliest documented use of WTF was in computer culture in 1985. I didn’t know that in addition to the canonical what/wut, the W had several possible expansions, presumably to be clear from context: who, when, where, whatever.
Now if we jump again …
(Isn’t this helpful?)
… we find that large, menacing characters (Characters who might not be bad as such but merely misunderstood, I mean who can really say?) are no longer saying WTF (as, cough cough, expanded). Wait what/wut? Is it an outbreak of civility? The belated recognition that there are grandmothers watching them on those cinematic mean streets and in those dingy warehouses?
I wish. No, the word they’ve dropped isn’t the F: It’s the W. Well, and the “are.” OK, OK, and the “g.”
TF you doin’, man?
Yeah, that about captures it.
Now, this seems to me to be the wrong elision of this phrase, because these things tend to catch on. If TF starts substituting for what/wut in general and we lose the auxiliary verbs–are, were, would, among others–it could lead to many strange, even unwelcome, interactions.
Server: TF you like, ma’am?
Receptionist: TF’s your name, sir?
Police officer: TF speed you goin’, buddy?
No, I think we have to put our foot/feet down and rally in support of wut (what likely being a bridge too far) and the auxiliary verbs threatened as collateral damage.
Menacer: TF you sayin’, ma’am?
Grandmother: That’s wut TF are you sayin’,
and don’t you forget it. Um, man.