I regularly receive text messages with sayings that I do not understand. I suspect that some of you find yourselves in similar situations.
This is particularly true when the text is from a Millennial. You have seen text messages with characters such as LMK by COB, IDC, BFF, BTW, IDK, OOTD or LOL which, in case you are not familiar with them, respectively mean, Let Me Know by Close of Business, I Don’t Care. Best Friend Forever, By the Way, I Don’t Know, Outfit of The Day and Laughing Out Loud.
When I am stuck and cannot figure out a particular meaning, I seek out a young person for help with the interpretation.
My generation had a similar experience; we resorted to slang to communicate with our peers. These slang terms were terms that our elders did not necessarily understand. I was thinking about text messages and slang terms last week when I passed by an ACME supermarket and I started thinking about acronyms that were prevalent during my era. Boy was I surprised to learn that ACME is not an acronym and stands for absolutely nothing. Thus, for this column, I decided to focus on acronyms. So, what acronyms do you recall from, back in the day?
Some of the sayings used today were also used in the past. Did you use “crib” which referred to one’s house? What about “gig;” another way to say job? Was “greenbacks” part of your vocabulary? Most of you know that this referred to paper money.
These are examples of slang and not acronyms. Slang is very informal language or a specific word that is used by a particular group of people; words that are more often spoken than written. The website, www.yourdictionary.com defines acronyms as similar to abbreviations in that they are a shorthand way of expressing an idea. An acronym is typically formed by using the first letter of each word in a phrase to form a new word.
According to yourdictionary.com website, acronyms are usually spelled with capital letters and pronounced as a new word. Some acronyms are pronounced by saying each letter of the work individually and separately. In such cases, the term encompasses initialisms.
A clear example of this is the IRS. While it stands for the Internal Revenue Service, most people pronounce it by saying each letter of the word individually.
For many of us, one of the first acronyms that we knew was RSVP which is a French word that means “please respond.” If you received an invitation that had its true French meaning which is répondez s’il vous plait, in all probability, you might have no idea what it meant. Thus, it is strongly recommended that you take advantage of the acronym if you are interested in having responses from individuals invited to your event or affair.
Take a look at some other acronyms that many of us used, back in the day and still use today. Do you recall the acronym ASAP? If you are seeking a response from someone in a timely manner, then you ask that they respond ASAP or as you probably know, “as soon as possible.”
Another acronym from the past that continues its utility today is FYI. Many of you must know that this means, “For Your Information.” This acronym is still widely used in verbal and written communications.
So, you have reached the end of the week and TGIF easily flows from your lips. How many of you still say “Thank God It’s Friday?”
Is the acronym KISS part of your vocabulary? This does not refer to the infamous rock and roll group nor does it describe something that two lovers do. It references something that you may have heard in the past in various political circles. Does, “Keep It Simple, Stupid” ring a bell?
One of my co-workers remembers her aunt telling her to TTYL. I was not familiar with this as it means, “Talk To You Later.”
OT is an acronym that most of us have heard over the years. It is not unusual to hear a worker indicate that he or she will work “overtime” which is in the acronym world, OT. Does OMG mean anything to any of you? I bet it does as it’s al too is a commonly used acronym. It simply means, “Oh My God.”
Then there is TCB! Some of you know that this means “Taking Care of Business.” When I was a young child, we had two-digit numbers associated with our addresses that were postal zones. If you were around in 1963, you may recall being introduced to ZIP codes. So, here is your challenge; what is the meaning of ZIP codes. Were you able to answer that question? It means “Zone Improvement Plan.” Do not feel badly, if you were unable to answer that question, as most people who I asked, did not know.
I know that you have heard and probably used the acronyms EST, MST and PST. They respectively refer to “Eastern Standard Time,” “Mountain Standard Time” and “Pacific Standard Time.”
Then there is PHAT. Now, The Tribune is a family-oriented newspaper and I must be careful with regard to things that I say or write. Most standard descriptions of this acronym refer to it as, “Pretty, Hot And Tempting.” But, go to an urban dictionary or hang out with some of the “boys” in your old neighborhood and what you will find is a definition that I dare not repeat here.
You may recall acronyms that were used in the past, many of which are still used today, that reflected organizations, businesses or services. As a young child, you undoubtedly heard PTA as it was associated with your school-related activities. Most of you know that this stands for “Parent-Teacher Association.”
As senior high school students, many of us took the SAT test. Also, many of us did well with the SATs. Interestingly, many with whom I spoke had to pause and think twice when I asked the meaning of this acronym. Most eventually stated that it originally stood for the “Scholastic Aptitude Test,” and later “Scholastic Assessment Test.”
Also, when identifying one’s intelligence we often hear the term “IQ” but many do not know what it means. Well, when you use it again, just remember that it is an acronym for “Intelligence Quotient.”
While it could have been related to school, it could have been during your employment or military career, but AWOL is something that hopefully none of you were guilty. But, if you were, you were “Absent Without Leave” which was a serious offense, you were subject to some type of disciplinary action.
Just the mention of military service brings to mind another acronym that was often heard during wartime. POW has meaning to some of you as you had relatives or may yourself have been a “Prisoner Of War.”
Also, In a work situation or as a member of an athletic team, were any of you ever accused of not carrying your weight in completing a task or an event? If so, you may have been identified as MIA or “Missing In Action.” So, if you traveled around the city of Philadelphia on public transportation from 1940 to 1968, you traveled by way of the PTC. PTC stood for “Philadelphia Transportation Company” which is now SEPTA or the “Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority.”
In our everyday affairs, acronyms are everywhere. In the medical field we will find ER or “Emergency Room;” D/C or “Discharge is also found. Rx or “prescription” and ECG or “Electrocardiogram” and IV or “Intravenous” are also found. DOB or “Date of Birth,” DOA or “Dead On Arrival,” PT or “Physical Therapy;” and DNR or “Do Not Resuscitate” are also commonly found in the medical profession.
Most professions or fields have acronyms that are peculiar to them. Her are a few used in government and the military: CIA is “Central Intelligence Agency;” FBI is “Federal Bureau of Investigation;” OSHA stands for “Occupational Safety and Health Administration;” and POTUS stands for “President of the United States.” While many of us have heard of SWAT, I suspect that its meaning is not well known; it stands for “Special Weapons And Tactics.”
Clearly, acronyms are not indigenous to life in the past. Each day, new acronyms are created. I think about those that drive around in their luxury “Bimmers,” as they are known by their colloquial name. Even though I happen to be one of them, I did not know, after some 25 years of owning one, the meaning of BMW. I wonder how many of you recognize that BMW is an acronym; an acronym that stands for Bayerische Motoren Werke or the English translation of Bavarian Motor Works which was established in 1916.
As you reflect on this acronym, you must know that there are many other acronyms that we regularly use today; ADP or “Automatic Data Processing” or ADT or “American District Telegraph” are just a few that quickly come to mind.
There are indications that the acronyms that I have cited in this column, some with modifications, have been finding their way into slang and text messages today as they had great utility, back in the day.