(Acronyms Are Taking Over The World)
Every so often, something will set off my Women’s soccer team (plug warning: the amazing NY Smoking Aces) to have an extensively long, usually hilarious, email chain. The last one was counted at more than 80 emails. There are 18 of us on the team, so I’m sure that doesn’t help. Especially when the reply all button is so easy to use. But I digress. Towards the end of the last massive email chain, one of the girls used FTW in a sentence. This perpetuated the emails further as apparently very few knew what that stood for. For those of you reading this that don’t either, it’s For The Win. This prompted another girl to email and ask us to decipher ILYVM&WYWH, which her mother had sent her in an email. The solution to this riddle as answered by another teammate was “I Love You Very Much & Wish You Were Here.” No clue how she figured that one out!
The point of all this, besides the hilarity of the responses between my teammates, is that I’ve noticed the use of acronyms has gone beyond email and text exchanges amongst friends and is being used more widely in business correspondence. In fact, that same day I received an email from a reporter filled with acronyms. It took me a few reads to completely understand what he was saying. A couple of months ago, I received an email response from an analyst informing me he was working on a report on LBS. After checking with my co-worker, I had to write back and ask what that meant! Location Based Services it turned out, like Foursquare he politely explained. We even use acronyms in the office to shorten client’s names – LWM, IAI, MBO, TLB etc.
Acronyms have been used for a long time, but it occurred to me after the email exchange with my soccer team how the usage of acronyms has become more common when physically speaking to others and in business. This made me question why acronyms have become so prevalent. Does it have to do with the wider use of Facebook and Twitter for branding purposes. Twitter does only allow 140 characters, making acronyms the best solution. Or, have we become lazy? Or, does it make us feel cool? A special, secret code that only the cool, smart kids can figure out and are aware of?
No matter the question, the answer is an interesting one to contemplate. What effect will this have on the English language? You hear/see in the news how Gen Y is less literate than older generations. Will acronyms contribute and perpetuate to our country's illiteracy rates? O,WWASTTIC&SLR? (Or, will we all start to talk in code and sound like robots?) As someone who deals with writing and reading on a daily basis as the main part of my job, and loves it, it’s very interesting to think about the consequences.
Just consider how many phrases and slang words have become a main part of our vocabulary. “Yea” instead of “yes.” “Rad,” “That’s Hot” (my personal favorite), “props,” “lame,” “gonna,” "sweet," “yeah right.” These have definitely changed our vocabulary and flow into business and even reporters writing (depending upon the publication). While change isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it’s still change.
The ultimate question then is, will acronyms have a big impact on our vocabulary? Or, will it just be a fad that fades out, much like the hairstyles of the 80’s? It will certainly be interesting to see. If we’re not careful, pretty soon we’ll have acronym dictionaries replacing Webster’s (there are a few that already exist online). Personally, while it made for a hilarious email exchange with my teammates, I hope the acronym fad doesn’t take over the PR or media world.
OAO (Over and Out)
(Photo Credit: Random Jess' Blog)