You Don’t Say – Vol 20


By Ray Hudson

Ray Hudson
Ray Hudson

Last week I was interested in words that were simply jammed together to form a new word – I wonder if that’s where ne_rd came from?

This time, I want to look at acronyms – originally the products of those impatient people (mostly military or techie or both) who developed a shorthand method of communicating, because it was too much bother to teletype or speak whole titles and phrases. Perhaps it was because nobody had time to form complete sentences when the bullets and the bombs were whizzing by and falling all around.

From then on our fetish for abbreviating and acronyming (is that even a word?) has rocketed into every aspect of life propelled by the internet, social media, and no time to talk with one another.

The practice of creating and using acronyms goes back to the dawn of written language but didn’t really get going until large portions of the population became literate. They appear at least as far back as the Greek civilization when acronyms appeared on early Greek coins, most likely due to space limitations.

One early acronym for certain was referred to in the bible was the sign on the cross which read INRI:  I for IESVS (Jesus), N for Nazarene, R for Rex (latin) or King, and I for IVDAEORVM, of the Jews, obviously done as an acronym because the sign was not very large. (reference

When I researched the military for acronyms, I found reams (mega-reams) of material.  It seemed if you had two words or more, someone would make them into an acronym.  A couple that became famous for military mess-ups were SNAFU: Situation Normal All Fouled* Up and FUBAR: Fouled* Up beyond Recognition  (*fouled often replaced with stronger epithet a word, phrase, or expression used invectively as a term of abuse or contempt, to express hostility ) I’ll leave it to you to look up the other billion from that era.

Those who lived through the cold war era learned many acronyms.  Only a few really counted though: ICBM inter-continental ballistic Missile, ABM anti-ballistic missile, DEW line: distant early warning line (of radar stations).  The DEW line was there to tell us if the ABMs missed the ICBMs, then, within minutes, we’d all be TOAST or Totally Obliterated, Annihilated and Severely Tanned (I made that up).  All you could really do was send an SOS (save our souls) and BYOB (bring your own bottle) to the farewell party.

Today, having survived the times of MAD (mutual assured destruction), we find ourselves overwhelmed with time pressures to the point where we can’t even afford the nano-seconds to speak whole words anymore.

My advice? KISS (keep it simple sweetie) go by the ATM (automatic teller machine) and get enough $$ to hire a 9 year old interpreter who can text, tweet, instagram, snapchat and MeetMe 4 coffee so we can find a way to communicate with each other.

OMG!(oh my goodness) Look at the time! Gotta Go! BFN (bye for now)