Britons have long used the casual “ta ta” between friends, amongst children, and in other informal settings. The addition of “for now” is believed to have been made popular by a British radio program in the late 1940s. That show, called “It’s That Man Again,” featured a character known as Mrs. Mopp who would sign off each episode by saying “TTFN! Ta-Ta for now!” The show went off the air in 1949, but not before the phrase had sunk into the common vernacular.
The popularity of using TTFN as a way to quickly or casually say goodbye crossed the Atlantic to the United States most famously in the 1966 Disney film adaptation of Winnie-the-Pooh. Winnie-the-Pooh is a teddy bear who came to life in the British author A.A. Milne’s collection of books. Walt Disney Studios purchased film rights to the Pooh Bear books and created animations replete with original dialogue and various plot adaptations.
In the animated series, one of Pooh’s friends, Tigger, characteristically says “TTFN, ta-ta for now!” while hopping out of the scene. Tigger is a tiger known for his exuberance and high energy. In the books penned by Milne, however, Tigger did not use this phrase.
TTFN is widely understood in common speech as a way of saying “see you later.” The acronym is really only said as a string of letters, however. In modern times, people rarely actually say “ta-ta for now.”
In the rise of the Internet and instant communications, TTFN has also taken hold as an Internet acronym. Chats, texts, and instant messages frequently use acronyms and abbreviations for longer phrases, and as a means of quickly conveying more complicated thoughts. “LOL,” for example, stands for “laugh out loud” and is used to convey that something is funny.
Typing “TTFN” in an Internet chat context is equivalent to writing “that’s it for now,” “gotta go,” or “catch you later.” It is used interchangeably with TTYL, meaning “talk to you later.” These and other chat acronyms are used extensively in short messages sent through texting or tweeting, but are also popular in longer web communications, including e-mail and blogs.
TTFN can also stand for other things in other contexts. The “Starfleet Wars” space battle game, made popular in the mid-1990s, featured a human-manned Terran Transolar Federation Navy, which was known as TTFN for short. TTFN can also stand for “tenure-track faculty network,” a common club or group on university campuses for professors seeking tenure.