Why is FOB often capitalized when referring to key fobs?
June 28, 2012 7:25 AM   Subscribe

I regularly see people use the uppercase FOB when referring to a key fob, such as a car door lock remote, SecureID, etc. But, why? The only reason I can come up with is that, with the advent of key fobs for computer uses, they were presumed to be advanced enough that they must be some manner of acronym.
posted by c0nsumer to Society & Culture (20 answers total)
I suppose it's possible that people see the acronym FOB which is regularly used for father of the bride in a wedding context and mistakenly use it in a different context.
posted by monkeymadness at 7:31 AM on June 28, 2012

I think it's the same reason many people refer to a Macintosh computer as a MAC. As you said, they think it's supposed to be an acronym.
posted by The Deej at 7:31 AM on June 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

Yeah, people think it's an acronym.
posted by rmd1023 at 7:33 AM on June 28, 2012

Acronym for Fresh Off the Boat (like me,) Friend Of Bill (Clinton) but it's just fob in reference to keys.
posted by Yellow at 7:41 AM on June 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

FOB is most often used as an acronym in shipping, where it means "free on board" or "freight on board."

I think it's the same reason many people refer to a Macintosh computer as a MAC.

I've asked a couple of people who do this and they said they didn't think it was an acronym, but thought it was supposed to be all caps because that's how they've seen it in the past. So it might be a self-perpetuating thing.

For what it's worth, I've never seen FOB in all caps used to describe a key fob.
posted by grouse at 7:41 AM on June 28, 2012 [2 favorites]

I'd bet on it being an autocorrect error. My phone tries to cap it. And FOB is common in shipping terms, especially for large items where the end customer may be responsible for the last leg of delivery. Example; you order a couch from a manufacturer, the freight slip may say FOB, which often implies that the truck will roll to your dock (driveway), but you have to get it off the truck and in to the final destination.
posted by dejah420 at 7:46 AM on June 28, 2012 [3 favorites]

I also blame autocorrect.

And, FOB in shipping is surprisingly complicated. I have had to endure several disturbingly long conversations about it when drafting purchase orders.
posted by SMPA at 7:53 AM on June 28, 2012

Autocorrect error. My iPad wants to do it right now.
posted by Sidhedevil at 7:58 AM on June 28, 2012

I used to work in a place that required fob-style building & machine access, and the extremely tech-savvy folks there had the habit of writing "FOB", and I do think it was because they thought it was some kind of acronym.
posted by batmonkey at 8:00 AM on June 28, 2012

In Asian-Canadian culture, FOB (meaning "Fresh Off the Boat") is so common that the reverse has happened at it has become a non-acronym word with variants like "fobby" and "fobbish."
posted by 256 at 8:11 AM on June 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

Friend Of Bill (Clinton)

Er, what? No, Friend of Bill usually refers to Bill Wilson, AA founder. But I've seldom see it as an acronym -- to me, FOB is primarily Fresh Off Boat or the more politically correct FOreign Born.

And count me among those not seeing the car-key fob capitalized.
posted by Rash at 8:13 AM on June 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

I'm used to FOB meaning Freight On Board but I worked for an import company. I assumed FOB was autocorrect. However, from reading O Henry stories, I know it's a bit that goes on your watch or keys, and the digital fobs are made for such keeping.

Looked it up in my desk dictionary to be sure and got:

1. [noun] (in full, fob chain) a chain of a pocket watch, a small pocket, tab on a key ring.

2. [verb, transitive] cheat, deceive, fob off - deceive into accepting something inferior.

I've seen fob off, with that meaning intended, now that I've thought about, probably Dickens or something. Then again, I've got kids running around who are in the "oldye tyme talking" phase using "varmint" "nigh" as much as possible.
posted by tilde at 8:15 AM on June 28, 2012

FOB is a military acronym for Forward Operating Base, usually followed by the name of the FOB. I'm not positive, but I suspect this term evolved in Korean or Vietnam-- I've never seen it referenced in WWII histories. I do see it mentioned in re: Iraq/Afghanistan all the time. At any rate, it's common to see something like "FOB Smith" "FOB Al Durka Durka" etc.

Also, the AA codephrase is usually "Friend of Bill W."
posted by Sunburnt at 8:17 AM on June 28, 2012

My first bookmark in any browser, EtymOnline, the Online Etymology Dictionary, says that fob has different histories as a noun versus a verb, which is interesting.

fob (n.)
1650s, "small pocket for valuables," probably related to Low Ger. fobke "pocket," High Ger. fuppe "pocket," "a dialectal word used in Livonia" [Klein]. Meaning "chain attached to a watch carried in the fob" is from 1885.
fob (v.)
"to cheat," late 14c., from obsolete noun fobbe "cheat, trickster" (late 14c.), perhaps from O.Fr. forbe "cheat" [OED]. Alternative etymology holds that the word is perhaps related to Ger. foppen "to jeer at, make a fool of" (see fop); or from Ger. fuppen, einfuppen "to pocket stealthily," which would connect it to fob (n.). To fob (someone) off is first recorded 1590s.
posted by Sunburnt at 8:21 AM on June 28, 2012

I always thought it was an acronym for Fancy* Opener Bobble, and capitalized it accordingly.

*May not actually have thought it stood for 'fancy'.
posted by iamkimiam at 9:24 AM on June 28, 2012

Front of Board. That's what came to me first. It refers to where a mike stand was for taping concerts (Front of [sound]Board)
posted by zombieApoc at 9:41 AM on June 28, 2012

I've never seen FOB in all caps used to describe a key fob.

Er, what? No, Friend of Bill usually refers to Bill Wilson, AA founder.

No, you're conflating different things there. The phrase you're thinking of is actually "friend of Bill W.", not just Bill, and I have never heard of it being shortened to an acronym in common parlance.

However, FOB as an acronym for "Friend of Bill [Clinton]" was common shorthand throughout Bill Clinton's campaign and presidency.

I think grouse has it: people see "FOB" somewhere and assume it's an acronym, and mistakenly migrate it from one context where it IS an acronym to another context where it isn't.
posted by Miko at 11:04 AM on June 28, 2012

I'd be more likely to write FOB than fob, but that's because in my circle I'd be more like to be saying Fresh Off the Boat. I do recognize a watch fob is lowercase, though... how odd! I guess you're just exposed to a group of people who do that - like people who ax questions?
posted by Lt. Bunny Wigglesworth at 2:04 PM on June 28, 2012

Wikipedia says no one really knows. And, you know, if Wikipedia doesn't know...
posted by allkindsoftime at 4:30 PM on June 28, 2012

Wikipedia says no one really knows the origin of the word "fob." That's not the same as saying they don't know whether it should be capitalized when used as a word referring to a weight on a chain. And it shouldn't. "Fob" is a word all its own, not in all-caps, and we don't need to know the origin to point to at least 1.5 centuries of uncapitalized usage.
posted by Miko at 8:31 PM on June 28, 2012 [2 favorites]

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