RTFM is an initialism for the expression "Read The Fucking Manual" (sometimes "flaming" or another metaphor or profanity is substituted for "fucking") or, in the context of the Unix computer operating system, "Read The Fucking Man page".
The RTFM comment is usually expressed when the speaker is irritated by another person's question or lack of knowledge. It refers to either that person's inability to read a technical manual, or to his perceived laziness in not doing so first, before asking the question.
In expurgated texts, substitutions such as "read the flaming manual", "read the fine manual" or "read the friendly manual" are used (or similar variants). Initialisms similar to RTFM include STFW ("Search The Fucking Web"), GIYF ("Google Is Your Friend") and LMGTFY ("Let Me Google That For You"). These indicate that the questioner could have easily found the answer to his question on the World Wide Web.
Many alternative expansions for "RTFM" exist, as do many similarly-themed alternative initialisms.
The initialism appeared in print in 1979 on the Table of Contents page of the LINPACK Users' Guide in the form "R.T.F.M." -- Anonymous, suggesting that it was already well established. Cleve Moler has since revealed that a visit to Argonne National Laboratory by Tektronix Software Manager Ned Thanhouser (grandson of Edwin Thanhouser) during the development of MATLAB led to the anonymous quote.
John Bear's 1983 book Computer Wimp! 166 Things I Wish I Had Known Before I Bought My First Computer! discusses the author hearing employees of a computer store mention RYFM ("Read Your F---- Manual").
The phrase RTFM was in common use in the early 1950s by radio and radar technicians in the US Armed Forces. Operators frequently did not check for simple faults before asking questions; for example, checking whether a power switch was on, a fuse had blown or a power cord had become disconnected. A common response would be, "Did you check the oh en oh ef ef switch (On/Off)."
List of similar initialisms
Encouraging the reading of the manual or other background information
- RTBM ("read the bloody manual") (In some countries, e.g., the UK and Australia, this is a fractionally more polite alternative with identical meaning)
- RTFA ("read the fucking/featured article"—common on news forums such as Fark.com and Slashdot, where using "TFA" instead of "the article" has become a meme)
Retorts for the initialisms above
- WABM ("write a better manual" – an answer complaining that the manual is not written well)
- Howard, Michael, David LeBlanc, and John Viega. 19 Deadly Sins of Software Security: Programming Flaws and How to Fix Them. New York: McGraw-Hill/Osborne, 2005. ISBN 0-07-226085-8.
- Dongarra, J. J., C. B. Moler, J. R. Bunch, and G. W. Stewart. LINPACK User's Guide. Philadelphia: SIAM, 1979. ISBN 0-89871-172-X.
- Moler, Cleve. "The Tektronix 4081". Cleve's Corner. MathWorks Blogs. Retrieved 2014-02-17.
- Sperberg, Luther (1984-04-03). "Don't Be a Computer Wimp". PC Magazine. p. 261. Retrieved 24 October 2013.
- "RTBM definition". foldoc.com. Retrieved 2009-12-08.
- "Routine traffic stop has man up in arms. Er, caught red-handed. Er, never mind, just RTFA". Fark.com. 2008-11-28. Retrieved 2009-01-27.
- "RTFM is a four-letter word". Software Sustainability Institute. Retrieved 2 December 2013.
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