Acron-NOT! or Bad Words for ESL

Acronym: an abbreviation formed from the initial components in a phrase or words. An initialism is a subgenre where only the initial letters are used, for example, NATO or scuba. Note that some are capitalized and some are not.  Some are pronounced as words, some are spelled out, for example, AIDS versus F.B.I.  We consider these abbreviations, but not in the normal ‘dictionary’ sense.  Verbal shorthand is a better term, in my opinion.

Originally they tended to be specific to a field, such as the military (FUBAR, scuba,) accounting (IRA, CPA, ROI,) business (FYI, CC,) medicine (CT Scan, MRI, AIDS, SAR, NIH,) or computing. The big explosion in acronyms started within information technology. Think about it – RAM and ROM, MS-DOS, FAQ, SQL, CD-ROM, WWW, etc.

Then internet access exploded, and even the non-technical got personal e-mail accounts (as opposed to work e-mail that was initially only internal to the company.) Shortly thereafter, people got chat tools (think AOL.) This led to an entirely new group of shortcuts like IMO, BTW, IDK, IDC, JK, L8R, CU, XOXO, and the much hated THX and NP.  These quickly spread from chat to e-mail and back, in an endless loop.

Now that everyone under 60 has a smart phone (just kidding) the next wave of acronym explosion came from texting shortcuts. You know many of them, some are polite and others not so, and some have versions that fit either category. Things like LOL which either resulted from or morphed into LMFAO, the ‘young’ ones like OMG, BFF, BRB, TTYL, TTFN, and too many more to name.

So, what happens when you take acronyms and mix them together with a little ESL?  Hysterical funny-ness, of course.  Let’s take a look at what happens when you mix speakers of English as a second language with the youth texting culture, and try to come up with business acronyms….

This month at work has been an explosion of so-called acronyms that appear to have been made up by our friends in Pune.  It started out shocking and ended up pretty funny.  I was on a mailing list (probably 50 or more people) in which the acronym F-U was used repeatedly.  The dash did take a bit of the sting out of being addressed as such, but the repetitive nature did tend to grate on the nerves.  It was finally discovered that it stood for, are you ready, follow-up.

A co-worker got a similar message via mailing list, and this one used F-Up.  I suppose someone thought this might be marginally less offensive, but all it did was move from the imperative to the accusative.

Just today, two messages arrived with, respectively, PFB and PFA.  All I could find in an inital search was references to chemical compounds and infant diseases, until I discovered that it was Please Find Below and her brother Please Find Above.

I wonder how popular a blog about how not to use offensive acronyms would be?  Or how to avoid acronyms that your average American co-worker will not know? Could be a source of humor, at the least.  I might draw some younger people into the discussion.  Good viewpoints.

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