NEW YORK--File this under "not particularly serious news, but hilarious."
This week, an alteration in New York City transit signs to address forthcoming route changes have placed an unfortunate Internet acronym on a heavily trafficked subway station: Displays that list the color-coded subway services running at the 14th Street-6th Avenue underground station now display a bold "FML."
The Metropolitan Transportation Authority, or MTA, may or may not have been aware that this is an acronym for "f*** my life," a profane exclamation of disgruntlement that arose in Web forums, in text messages, and on a popular blog several years ago.
The MTA's press office could not immediately be reached for comment.
The maze of New York subway lines and color-coded services is dizzying, but here's a basic explanation of the change that put the "MTA FML" into effect: two train services, the M and the V, are being merged as a result of budget woes. The merged service will run from the southern end of the borough of Queens through northern Brooklyn to Manhattan's Lower East Side, up through midtown along the 6th Avenue Line and then back into northern Queens. (Here's a map.) For most of its run in Manhattan, it will be running alongside the F, another 6th Avenue line service.
The route change begins June 28. In preparation, the signs were modified several weeks in advance. As local news stories explained, the MTA chose to name the merged service the M rather than the V because the M is an older service; the V was less than a decade old.
At the sprawling complex at 14th Street in Manhattan that lets subway passengers connect from the 6th Avenue line to the 7th Avenue line (serviced by trains with a red 1, 2, or 3) as well as to a train called the L that runs underneath 14th Street from the West Village to the East Village.
This all means that, yes, there are signs all over the 14th Street-6th Avenue station that spell out "FML." It's all the more visible because trains operated by PATH, a rapid-transit service that connects Manhattan with northern New Jersey, stop at the same complex.
Like I said, it's unclear whether transit authorities were aware of the explicit pop-culture reference. "FML"--as the name of an extremely popular "microblog" that aggregates reader tales of frustration, annoyance, and general dissatisfaction and of a book published last year--is reasonably mainstream enough for, say, a state's Department of Motor Vehicles to ban it from use on vanity license plates. The Web is littered with stories about other geeky acronyms with implied profanities getting the ax from license plates, like WTF, fubar, and snafu--yes, the "F" stands for the same thing in all of them. Even "OMG" isn't kosher everywhere. With digital culture evolving by the second, it's tough for anybody to keep up.
Regardless of whether the MTA had any idea of what FML means in digital slang, it's particularly funny because locals are constantly griping about the subway system. (To be fair, it is actually one of the best and most extensive public transportation networks in the country and permits millions of New Yorkers to live a car-free existence.)
As one blogger quipped when she noticed the sign change on Saturday morning, FML "probably describes most commuters' feelings about riding the MTA."