THE AOS BLUES
By Ruth Minshull
Help! I’m suffering from the AOS (Acronym Overload Syndrome) Blues.
I thought I was doing OK. I’ve been able to absorb AOL, CEO, COO, NAACP, PIN, VIN, REM, ROM and countless others.
Strictly speaking, some of the popular abbreviations are not true acronyms. An acronym is actually a word formed from the initial letters of each word in a series. So, unless you pronounce the abbreviation as a word (such as NASA) it isn’t a true acronym. Still, whether they are true or just lazy shortcuts, we’re stuck with them—and they’re increasing faster than an ordinary human can learn them.
How many people remember that radar stands for radio detecting and ranging? And how about its cousin, sonar (sound navigation and ranging)?
Probably nobody but a hardcore computer geek knows that a modem stands for modulator + demodulator and is defined as “A device for transmitting usually digital data over telephone wires by modulating the data into an audio signal to send it and demodulating an audio signal into data to receive it.” Whew! My definition serves me better: “That thingy by my computer that gets me online.”
Long ago we all adjusted to abbreviated company names such as IBM, RCA, AT&T, and various agencies and groups: FBI, CIO, AFL, AMA, FCC. Then there’s NATO, Unesco and Unicef.
Radio and television have required us to absorb ABC, CBS, NBC, PBS, NPR, CNN, HBO, TBS, TNT, BBC to name just a few. If necessary, most of us could probably recall the words that the letters represent (although there’s a good chance that our children and grandchildren won’t be able to do so).
I won’t get into A.D. and B.C. or a.m. and p.m. (which we usually don’t even dignify by putting in uppercase). Or the old army term AWOL. These have been around so long we don’t have to think about them.
But the problem is that more and more abbreviations and acronyms are popping up every day. And we may find ourselves having to translate the odd letters back into meaningful words in order to understand the context.
The letters std used to be an abbreviation for the word standard. But now, when written in caps, STD means sexually transmitted disease. Salt used to be just something to sprinkle on your potatoes. Now, in caps, SALT, means Strategic Arms Limitation Talks.
Just in the A’s, we absorbed AA, and AAA along with A & P and AARP. More confusing, ABA can stand for American Banking Association, American Bar Association or American Booksellers Association.
The now familiar word AIDS comes from Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome and the virus that causes it is called HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus).
By now everyone is familiar with the popular ATMs. But we’re also expected to know that ABMs are antiballistic missiles.
Entertainment-wise I thought I was doing all right with today’s shortcut language. When VCR’s (videocassette recorders) came along. I took them in stride. And I managed to make the transition from vinyl records—that is, from 78s (which means 78 revolutions per minute, because in those ancient times records actually went round and round) through 45s through 33 1/3s—to tapes and on to CDs without too much trauma. But my brain started to ossify when my new VCR had a disc slot for a movie. We picked up a movie to play on it. But I was confused. It looked like a CD. It quacked like a CD, but it was not a CD. It was a DVD (digital video disk).
I no sooner managed to cope with that when my son bought me a new HD (high definition) TV and insisted that I get a TiVo. I didn’t know if those letters stood for anything, but I did learn that TiVo is the name of the manufacturing company that makes them. Anyway, the devise is a digital video recorder. And, quite mysteriously, it records movies and television shows without going round and round and with no visible disk at all. It will “suspend time” if I want to take a break in the middle of a live program. Although I still don’t know exactly how it works, it is amazing—and now I couldn’t live without it.
Along with our abbreviated language, I’ve noticed that the younger people are talking faster these days. It’s like putting a recording on double speed. Are people living at a quicker pace? Do they think more rapidly? Now and then I have to tell my grandson, “Slow down! I can’t hear that fast.”
The kids not only speak at lightning velocity, but they write in a new condensed language when they communicate with each other in Twitter, Facebook, instant messages, e-mails, chat rooms and discussion forums.
I found a site that listed 1,300 of these abbreviations. Here are a few: @TEOTD (at the end of the day), 2M2H (too much to handle), AAK (asleep at keyboard), AAS (alive and smiling), AFZ (acronym free zone), BION (believe it or not), BM&Y (between me and you), CLAB (crying like a baby), CMIIW (correct me if I’m wrong), CSG (chuckle, snicker, grin), G2G (got to go), GB (good bye), GBTW (get back to work), GFN (gone for now), GGOH (gotta get outa here), GNE1 (good night everyone), HFAC (holy flipping animal crackers), HRU (how are you?), IDBI (I don’t believe it), IDC (I don’t care), IOMH (in over my head) KPC (keeping parents clueless), LHO (laughing head off), MEGO (my eyes glaze over), MOO (my own opinion), and, finally, RL (real life).
Well, HFAC, this is 2M2H. I’m IOMH and CLAB. As of now, I’m going back to RL and establishing an AFZ.
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© 2011 by Ruth Minshull