Category Archives: IT

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.

Educating the masses

I read an article by David Gewirtz about cyberterrorism. He says it’s not if, but when there will be a cyberwar. Our own computers could be taken over and become bots to be used against us. Here’s a link to his article:  http://www.computingunplugged.com/issues/issue200808/00002221001.html

The reason this resonated with me, so much so that I feel I should write about it here, is because the comics page has gotten into the act.  Normally I don’t read the weekday comics in my local paper (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette) but since I’m not working yet, I have time to indulge a number of interests and vices.  The Mary Worth strip has been doing a story line on phishingschemes.  What a fantastic way to educate a ton of people, especially the demographic who reads Mary Worth – basically my parents.  People over 70.  These folks need help.  Many of them, like my dad, will get the “there’s something wrong here” vibe, and call a more knowledgeable person (me) but what if you don’t know someone who can advise you or you don’t have a natural skepticism?

So now I’m thinking about what I can do as an IT expert to reduce our exposure to the kinds of attacks David describes.  I’ve come to the conclusion that I should try to educate people about what you should do to protect your computer, and what you should never do.  I’m going to post things like that on this blog, and also pull together an article that I’ll try to post on writing sites.

David’s article mentions some things we can do on our own computers to protect them from becoming part of an attack.  Here they are:

  1. Installing anti-virus software and keeping it updated with new virus definitions
  2. Installing operating system updates
  3. Never opening e-mail attachments
  4. Educating yourself about threats

At the risk of repeating myself, the bottom line may just be having a healthy skepticism, and realizing that even if a message appears to be from someone you know, it could be faked quite easily.  So if something doesn’t feel right, send a new message to the person you think sent it, find out where they got the message and if you should open the attachment. You could save yourself a lot of grief, and prevent passing a damaging file to others.