FAFO Has Taken the Internet by Storm, but It's Meaning Is Familiar to Many

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Dec. 18 2023, Updated 11:40 a.m. ET

The Gist:

  • FAFO is an increasingly common acronym, and its meaning will be familiar to many.
  • The phrase has become increasingly common on both the left and the right, as people seek karmic justice for those they believe have done wrong.
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In addition to developing new slang and creating words out of wholecloth, the internet is also filled with people creating acronyms to abbreviate short phrases or ideas. FAFO is one such acronym that has been circulating on the internet for a few years.

As the acronym becomes increasingly common, though, more and more people are finding themselves utterly complexed by its use, and by what it might be referring to. Thankfully, we've got everything you need to know about FAFO, including what it means and where it may have come from.

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Rioters at the Capitol on January 6, 2021.
Source: Getty Images

What does FAFO mean?

FAFO is short for "f--k around and find out," a phrase that has become an increasingly common part of internet vocabulary in recent years. FAFO and the phrase it stands for are really just the latest iteration of a very old idea, which is that if you play with fire, you're going to get burnt. In other words, don't do something that you know to be wrong or stupid and expect there to be no consequences.

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In its broad popularity, FAFO recalls a phrase like YOLO, which stands for you only live once and was popular in the early 2010s. That phrase was meant to remind those who heard it to seize the day or take risks, whereas FAFO is a little more punitive. It's a phrase designed to exert confidence, but one that is also there to remind those who hear it that doing something risky may come with consequences.

The phrase also has a political tinge, but it's been embraced at various points by people across the political spectrum. The Proud Boys, a white supremacist organization, use the phrase as a kind of threat to those who oppose them. "Don't mess with us, or there will be violent consequences," seems to be the message they are trying to convey. Ilhan Omar, one of the most progressive members of the House, has also used the phrase to refer to Donald Trump.

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Source: YouTube

FAFO has been circulating in part because it's simply easier to type than the words it stands for, but it also speaks to certain ideas about revenge and karma that resonate with many. FAFO seems to promise that those who perpetrate evil or do bad things will eventually have to pay for the crimes they commit.

Unfortunately, we know from experience that the world doesn't always work that way. Sometimes, people "f--k around" but they never find out. In a world with more justice, perhaps, there would be a perfect relationship between the two. Alas, reality can often be disappointing in that regard.

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