Thursday, July 19, 2007

Move along. There's nothing new to see here.

I was about to become quite petulant about Ms Ellipsis' previous post and launch into a rant something along the lines of: 'How dare those Generation Y-ners bastardize the English language as we know it? LOLcat and TXT-language indeed. How about mastering the Queen's English first?' when in a moment of pure serendipity, I stumbled across a reference to the practice of defence personnel and their sweethearts using acronyms in correspondence during World War II(Notebook:, August 2007, p. 48) . Perhaps, I paused to reflect, creating code-like language is not something new?

According to an entry at everything2, The World War II acronyms developed as a way of expressing endearments with extreme brevity (e.g. for use in telegrams) or as a 'secret' language between the lovers. The words could be concealed in sentences, or written across the back of the envelope.

Although some of these examples are well-known now, I wonder if the parents of that generation (and the correspondence censors) were as much in the dark about the meaning of BURMA, SIAM and ENGLAND as today's parents are about LOLcat?

Some of the less saucy examples are:

ITALY: I trust and love you
HOLLAND: Hope our love lasts and never dies
SWALK: Sealed with a loving kiss

And my personal favourite (although a little racier):

NORWICH: 'Nickers off ready when I come home

SNAFU (Situation normal, all f***ed up) and FUBAR (F***ed up beyond all repair) are also thought to have had their origins in the Second World War.

But the fun didn't stop with the Silent Generation. The Baby Boomers and their Generation X children have (among a multitude of other language tweaking practices) created a treasure-trove of acronyms to describe demographics and lifestyle choices:

DINKS: Double income, no kids
YUPPIES: Young upwardly-mobile professionals
LOMBARD: Lots of money but a real dickhead

And the one which always makes me LOL (laugh out loud):

SITCOM: Single income, two children, outrageous mortgage

The corporate world has also weighed in with examples such as:

SMART goals: Specific, measurable, agreed, realistic, time-bound goals
SWOT analysis: Strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats analysis

Imagine these in context:
Q: Where's Bob? A: He's in the tearoom, doing a swot on the comestible supplies situation. He plans to set some smarts regarding coffee, fresh milk and Tim Tam availability levels.

Most acronyms seem to have been adopted from BrE or AmE, however in my extensive research(!) I did come across one which the good people at BBC' s h2g2 attributed to Australian origins. We Aussies can proudly lay claim to the classic:

FIGJAM: F*** I'm good, just ask me

So now, I'd like to say I'm off to RELAX (Research Every Last Acronym eXample) but I'd be lying. Instead I think I'll do a bit of HACK-ing (Have A Coffee and Krispy-kreme)!


Ms Ellipsis said...

No wonder the generations claim they don't understand each other. None of them actually speak English! And I challenge anyone to truly decipher "corporate English"...

Team SAK said...

I love PITA ( pain in the ass) a term used to describe less than desirable work colleagues. I learnt half my uni course work for exams via acronyms. Mr Roy G Biv denotes the colours in the rainbow: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo , violet. Have fun with the research.

naridu said...

What I love about language is the way it continually evolves and develops. Although I am very particular about English, as opposed to US, spelling, general day-to-day jumbling of language can be a fun thing to play with.

When taking some classes at uni a few years ago, in our writing classes we were asked to participate in a survey being conducted by a major Dictionary (I can't remember which one) in the different and changing uses of various words. It was eye opening to realise that there could be so much division on the general accepted meaning of so many words.

phil said...

The Friday night drinks at the Canberra Yacht Club were known as Sinbad's = Single Income, No Bloke and Desperate.