Those lovable scoundrels at BuzzFeed, as they are wont to do, have kicked up a new controversy about the breakdown of our shared reality in this time of dislocation and doubt. They have asked people to settle, via internet poll, what the correct meaning of IMHO is.
If you, like me, grew up on the bulletin-board systems (BBSs) and forums that predated the web, you might be scratching your head. IMHO has only one meaning: in my humble opinion. It has always been this way. Though “in my humble opinion” is a phrase people occasionally uttered through history, its current prevalence seems to have originated online. This acronym is a part of the ironic ur-voice of internet communication, honed on Usenet forums about VHS tapes (no, seriously, that’s what the Oxford English Dictionary cites as the first usage) and other nerdy arcana.
Now, along come these clever content creators asking the question: Does IMHO mean “in my humble opinion” OR “in my honest opinion”? And to my horror, roughly one-third of The Atlantic staff thinks the answer is honest, not humble. Sit down, guys, be humble!
And luckily, we have an excellent resource to prove what the meaning of the acronym really is. During the 1990s, a whole bookshelf worth of books (and some magazines) were published as guides to this exotic place called the internet and they almost always included a glossary of slang so you wouldn’t type like a newbie (“one new to the Net”).