FIFO, TEOTWAWKI, and zombies: the lexicon of preppers
While environmental, nuclear, political, and/or economic doom is on more people’s minds than ever, some folks have always been ready for the worst. For a certain type of person, the doomsday clock is always a nanosecond from midnight. Consider the prepper.
The Boy Scouts say, ‘Be prepared.’ The preppers say, ‘Be prepared for imminent doom every day.’
My idea of disaster planning is buying an extra box of pancake mix, but preppers go much further, readying themselves for the imminent collapse of society. Along with plenty of stuff, preppers – who share a disreputable suffix with flat earthers, hollow earthers, truthers, and birthers – coin and hoard acronyms. Like teenagers hoping to hide their shenanigans from Ma and Pa, preppers cloak their activities lexically, presumably so you and I don’t go looking for valuable bunker space (see zombies at the end of this article and also of civilization).
Here are some of the most popular prepper acronyms. Warning: do not use these terms on Tinder, no matter how bleak your dating prospects.
As current Wall Street Journal language columnist Ben Zimmer wrote in the Boston Globe a few years ago, ‘No, TEOTWAWKI isn’t some fearsome Maya deity. It’s actually an acronym (pronounced “tee-ought-walk-ee”) that stands for “The end of the world as we know it.”’
As the Skilled Survival website puts it, ‘TEOTWAWKI is not a small time emergency. It’s an event that throws all humans back into a prolonged mode of brutal survival.’ This term seems a bit unwieldy to be of much use, but it would be a stellar name for an R.E.M. cover band.
Though this term sounds like the name of a three-pound poodle mix, ‘first in, first out’ is a sound plan for rotating the food in your shelter or wherever you are when Doomsday falls on today. I should consider applying this basic logic to my refrigerator.
Sorry, National Broadcasting Company. Preppers are more worried about basic survival, not the latest episode of SNL. An NBC (nuclear, biological, chemical) gas mask will protect you from all three, though you’ll still be helpless against terrible comedy sketches.
A PERK (personal emergency relocation kit) would indeed be a perk in a doomsday scenario. This is one of many luggage-related terms in the prepper lexicon, such as…
Depending on whether you’re planning to hoof it or hunker down, there are different prepper bags, and both involve an underused sense of the verb bug. If you’re splitting, you need a BOB (bug out bag). If you’re staying, you need a BIB (bug in bag). Bugging has had a meaning related to fleeing for decades. The first known use is from Life magazine in 1950: ‘When we bug out of here I don’t want to have to run in nothing but pajamas.’
Geek Prepper describes WROL (without rule of law) as ‘a situation in which the police and every institutional body that functions to uphold the law have lost control… These situations mostly occur after intense catastrophic happenings.’ I don’t think I would fare well in this situation, unless roving bands of marauders have a strong need for freelance writers with high knowledge of lexicography and comic books.
This term plays on a common and perennially cool bit of slang. The idea of GOOD (getting out of Dodge) dates from the mid-sixties and seems to have been inspired by Kansas’ Dodge City, which was prominent in Western drama series Gunsmoke. GOOD is a close relative of INCH (I’m Never Coming Home) and indicates a situation that’s about as non-good as it gets.
One of the most startling prepper words isn’t an acronym, but I’d be remiss in not mentioning it, and my therapist says being remiss is bad for me. Preppers talk about zombies.
Not literally, usually. Only the wackiest preppers think actual undead hordes will be the cause of an apocalypse, but in any of the more realistic options, there will be zombies in another sense: non-preppers, roaming without a BOB, INCH kit, or clue. Like the beasts on The Walking Dead, these zombies will be hungry.
As Happy Prepper unhappily puts it, ‘Zombies are the unfortunate people who did not plan or prepare for a sideways world when WTSHTF [When The Shit Hits The Fan]. They are a direct threat to the security of Preppers because they will be desperate and will attack for food, water and supplies. They will look much like the zombies portrayed in movies. For example, they will appear famished as they not have eaten, and they will appear with scabs and wounds of infection because they have not had proper medical care. Zombies are the ‘undead’ and a very real concern.’
Can’t say I would blame the preppers. If Ragnarok comes, and it isn’t all bright colors and Jack Kirby art like the recent Thor movie, I’ll understand if the bunker crowd turns away my shambling, desperate, will-write-columns-for-food self. In event of TEOTWAWKI, I’d be fubar.