Where does fml come from?
The first known instance of fml being used as an acronym for “fuck my life” is from May 13, 2005, when the user Diesel_ submitted it as a definition to Urban Dictionary. At the time, there was no regular usage of the term, so it’s unclear if Diesel_ made it up or had encountered it elsewhere.
Within a couple years the full phrase “fuck my life” began to gain mainstream popularity. It was used in Judd Apatow’s 2007 comedy Superbad by a cashier who is forced to clean up the protagonist’s mess.
The point where fml really took off was in 2008 with the birth of the website FMyLife.com. This site was originally simply a translation of a French equivalent named VDM (Vie de merde, which literally means “life of shit”), and it gained remarkable traction in the United States soon after its creation. FMylife.com is a user-submitted database of terrible, tragic, unlucky, and generally humorous stories. Users send in their latest tale of despair, always starting with the word “Today,” and ending with “fml.” Users then up-vote or down-vote each entry. At its heyday, fml posts could get up to tens of thousands of votes. Today, the phrase fml is generally still used in the same style as the classic FMyLife posts, usually as the final word on the storyteller’s tale of misfortune. The website was popular enough to secure a book deal, become an app, and the expression fml is now featured on everything from coffee mugs to t-shirts.
A strange side note, however, is the prevalence of another acronym: “Fix my lighthouse.” Though this is the #1 upvoted definition of fml on UrbanDictionary, it’s a prank. The alternate phrase and fictitious historical account of its usage are completely made up. This fake alternative meaning for fml demonstrates how easily such hoaxes can spread across the internet.
Who uses fml?
Fml is often said at the end of a personal story that ends in a downer, often one of an extreme variety. It acts as a punchline to the “joke” that is the story’s tragedy. This is a key component, as even though fml’s meaning is negative, it is usually used in a humorous context.
When spoken out loud, fml is usually said in full, rather than the shortened acronym version. When used on social media sites like Twitter and Instagram, it tends to be hashtagged (#FML).
While no one ever really says “Fix my lighthouse,” there is at least one actual alternate definition for fml, though its usage is rare. Some Christian groups have tried to reinvent the phrase as “Forgive me, Lord.” So far, this attempt has not replaced the more popular vulgar version.
“Today, I discovered FMyLife.com. I got zero work done. FML”
Mark Milian, “FMyLife lets you sound off on everyday problems,” Los Angeles Times (February 10, 2009)
“Believe it or not, some people have faced the worst and even managed to share on a website called fmylife.com. The website not only allows you submit your FML moments but also to read and vote on others’ whether you agree with them or you think they deserved it.”
Kusum Manral, “30 Worst FML Moments Shared By People That’ll Make You Glad About Your Life!” Sarcasm (September, 2016)
“The Aussie probably won't quit his day job anytime soon, but each took turns putting the better-you-than-me stories to song, and after four rounds they landed on a true gem of deadpanned country comedy: "Today, my ex stole my car keys," it began. “Good news is she can’t drive stick. Bad news is she set my car on fire. FML.'”
Chris Parton, “See Keith Urban Say 'FML' With Jimmy Fallon,” Rolling Stone (May 7, 2016)