Acronyms

08/01/2010

3 Comments

 
Most of the people I know speak in shorthand.  We use inside jokes with our close friends or turn a person's name into an act, like pulling a Brenda, whatever that means.  In our texting, something I haven't mastered yet, writing emails or on social networks we use computerese shorthand.

Often we use acronyms without even knowing it.  An acronym is a word formed with the first letters of the phrase it stands for.

Thus,
AIDS is Acquired Immunity Deficiency Syndrome, radar stands for RAdio Detection And Ranging, scuba stands for Self Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus and snafu, originally a military term, stands for Situation Normal, All Fucked Up.  Pardon my crudity, but them's the facts, ma'am.

Lately, we have been inundated with a "new" language that I'm dubbing computerese shorthand.  Groups of letters like
OMG (oh, my God!), C U (see you),  and lol (laughing out loud; this comes with many variations like rotflmao) are merely groups of letters and don't create words - at least not words generally pronounceable in English.

I hear from employers and teachers that computerese shorthand is ruining the language, that because of it no one can spell any more and that the art of writing is lost.

What tripe they spout!  I taught high school English for thirty-three years beginning in 1968, and found that writing and spelling have never been easy disciplines, especially in English, since printing began in England in 1476.  (The first Western movable type was used by Guttenberg in 1450, but the Koreans used it in the Thirteenth Century.)  In English to use George Bernard Shaw's famous spelling example,
ghoti spells fish.  GH as in enouGH, O as in wOmen, and TI as in acTIon.

Computerese shorthand is nothing new.  I used to teach my students what we called notehand back when I taught, and earlier I used it when I was in college in the middle Sixties.  I'm sure I was not the first.  It was a pretty simple alternative to Gregg shorthand, which requires specialized training.  In fact, I can remember when I was in high school and riding the city bus seeing ads for business schools that used notehand to attract riders' attention.  
F U cn rd ths, U cn gt * jb S * secrtry.  These days we don't have secretaries; instead we have executive assistants.  These days, notehand abounds on license plates.  Seven letters maximum send a message like my friend Wanda's plate:  WNDAFUL.

Simple abbreviations like using an
x instead of writing times, or B4 instead of before, or a v instead of of were part of the lessons.  At one point I could take practically verbatim notes of meetings or lectures.  My notehand is really rusty at this point, and there's little I need to take notes of. 

But back to acronyms.  We seem to be inundated with them lately.  One of my favorites is BUDWEISER:  Because You Deserve What Every Individual Should Ever Receive.  Karma rules and this could be a blessing as well as a curse.  I suspect it's used as a curse most frequently.


PETA seems to govern everything we do, although pet ownership in the United States is at an all time high.  AIDS ended the first phase of the sexual revolution.  And a whole lot of people I know have BLOGS.  MADD helps SADD in its anti-drinking and driving mission.

I'm sure you can think of many of them, and here's an assignment, should you choose to take it:  In the
comment box at the top of this blog, please tell me your favorite acronym, what it stands for, and where you found it.  If you made it up, so much the better.