When it comes to labeling things, we’ve given up even trying to be creative. Now we communicate using initials.
Texting and social networking has brought its own jargon–LOL, SMH, ICYMI.
LOL. Even casual internet users know that means “laughing out loud.” It’s so common, it’s become a word, as in “lots of LOLz.” Can we expect to see LOL initialized into just “L?”
This condensation of language, intended to facilitate communications, often stymies it. Early in my Twitter days someone posted “SMH” on one of my posts. A follower willing to reveal their lack of hipness finally asked what it stood for. The answer was “shaking my head.” Even when you know the words, the meaning still seems ambiguous. Were they nodding up and down or side to side? Palsy? Don’t know. SMH.
One popping up now is IC. To me, it means the place I grew up–Iowa City.
Or maybe pronounced “ick?”
Wrong. It means Intelligence Community. Two things I lack.
Just last week I began seeing SJW in my feed and couldn’t decipher it, even using contextual clues. Shaking Jack’s World? Southern Jumping Worm? Sin Just Weekly?
Turns out it means Social Justice Warrior. And I’m still not sure what that means. Although the web denizens deem it worthy of its own acronym, I stopped trying to figure it out. I lose interest when I have to dig more than one level deep.
In a related rant, it has always puzzled me why business names are initials. Drive through any town and you’ll see 10 businesses that are named with initials:
- G&S Worms
- T.O.’s Storage
- CFI Sales
- DP Plumbing
- M&M Sales
- S&L Equipment
At best, letters are meaningless when it comes to describing what a business actually does. I think I understand both G and S are selling worms, but what is T.O. storing, what are M and M selling, and exactly what type of equipment are S and L putting on the market?
At worst, it can be embarrassing. If your names are Bill and Mary, and you want to start a moving company, don’t call it BM Movers.
This brings us to acronyms. The military, government, finance, and education are swamps of capitalized initials. Not sure why. Sometimes it’s just handy for educators to refer to an ARD, rather than calling it the Admission, Review, and Dismissal process. But a quick search reveals there are 63 meanings for that acronym. Including Arizona Road Dust, Audible Recall Device, and Atmospheric Re-entry Demonstrator. Wouldn’t want to go to the principal’s office for Acid Reflux Disease.
We fall into using acronyms and jargon to streamline communications. Paradoxically, it does just the opposite, becoming a code separating professionals from the uninitiated that ends up hindering communications.
In select cases, shortening names creates positive branding. Federal Express labored mightily to keep its name from being compressed, but finally caved and officially became FEDEX. Kentucky Fried Chicken morphed to KFC, not only because everyone called it that, but also to bury the “fried” part of the name when it became an unhealthy association.
A local example is the Hotel Occupancy Tax, doled out to nonprofits. It sounds much more dashing to compete for “HOT” funds.
In Texas, a public school is an ISD–Independent School District. When I first arrived, I regarded them as words, which led to:
And then there was Plano ISD.