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RTFM is internet slang which stands for “Read The Fucking Manual,” typically used in response to a question from a newbie that may be deemed unnecessary or redundant, had that individual done some basic research on the subject beforehand. The antithesis of RTFM is TL;DR, which stands for “too long; didn’t read.”
Although largely unsubstantiated, usage of RTFM may have begun as a military lingo during World War II, when the phrase “Read The Field Manual” became a staple expression among American soldiers in response to basic questions asked by new enlistees. First introduced in 1939, US Army Field Manuals instructed all the vital, necessary skills for a soldier, from how to fold your clothes properly to how to toss a grenade inside the enemy’s tank.
The earliest confirmed instance of RTFM was printed in 1979 LINPACK Users’ Guide, the manual for using the LINPACK linear algebra software library written for Fortran programming language. In the table of contents section, the text appears as a quote attributed to Anonymous:
Table of Contents
Read The Fucking Manual
Skilless15: what’s rtfm
Skilless15: i forgot
@avaxx: read the fucking manual.
Skilless15: you could just tell me
Beyond its early adoption by military personnel, electronic engineers and technicians, the principle of “helping oneself to knowledge” became more commonplace in other occupation fields, most notably in programming and customer support.
The popularity of “RTFM” eventually gave way to image macros featuring various political posters with thematic emphasis on a particular book or a script, re-contextualized to symbolize the effin’ manual.
RTFM is commonly used in online communities to advise people to try to help themselves before seeking assistance from others. For instance, in massive multi-player online games:
Newbie Player: How do I shoot flame throwers?
Experienced Player: RTFM dude.
However, some critics assert that frequent users of the term are simply expressing elitism against the newcomers, thus driving them away without providing any tips or helpful suggestions. This is especially true when RTFM is used without even specifying which manual their correspondent should be reading. In the absence of a manual, one may be advised to Lurk Moar.
There are also derivative terms used in different types of online forums and communities:
RTFA: Read the F*cking Article
WTFV: Watch the F*cking Video
GIYF: Google is Your Friend
STFW: Search The Fucking Web
RTFSC: Read Your Fucking Source Code
LMGTFY: Let Me Google That For You
RTFA (“Read the Fuckin’ Article”) and TFA (“The Fuckin’ Article”) have been commonly used on Slashdot, Fark, Digg, and other social news aggregators. One of the earliest mentions of RTFA can be found in a comment posted by user Obi-Juan on August 20th, 2003:
Damn that’s a good headline!
LMGTFY, or “Let Me Google That For You,” is a sarcastic variant of RTFM, which seemingly offers a helping hand for the confused user, but also pokes fun at him/her by demonstrating how easily one can find self-help through comprehensive search engines like Google. LMGTFY.com was registered in November of 2008, providing newbies with an idiot-proof tutorial tool for Google search.
User A: How do we know that Fox News isn’t fair and balanced?
User B: LMGTFY.
Fark – FDA drops warnings from products containing olestra, saying they don’t give a crap / August 20th, 2003
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