As far as subway lines go, the F, M, and L trains have long trundled along their respective tracks innocuously enough. However, the recent reshuffling of the subway system which eliminated some trains and shifted the routes of others as a result of severe budgetary issues has brought an Internet meme to life.
While some may feel that F/M/L accurately describes the subway experience, there was a time when these three letters would mean nothing more than the line designations they are assigned to, but as a sign of the ways digital sociality is permeating daily life, New York City Transit has decided to redo the signage that gave rise to this particular association. This signals two things worth noting: First, that language is changing, and second, that there is recognition of a generation for whom the letters F, M, and L will always have a specific meaning when combined as such.
Surely, Reader, you will acknowledge that language has been changing for some time with the rise of Internet slang and acronyms. Perhaps you've seen LOL or IMHO in an email from a colleague or in a paper you were grading. You probably use them often in your own online activities. They're used in advertising. They represent a condensed form of thought and communication, and with the rising popularity of Twitter, we have surely only experienced the trickle of what is to follow as users construct creative abbreviations to convey meaning. And as the generation for whom these types of memes are always within reach comes into maturity, it seems we need to be cautious about associations we create—which legitimizes communication that incorporates Internet slang.
Are we being too sensitive? Or witnessing a cultural transition?
In the words of Oscar Wilde, "Life imitates Art far more than Art imitates Life."