Acronyms trigger new crisis


Vishnu Makhijani in his column Soliloquy says acronyms are creating fresh crisis in communication. Sample just these three: IITYWTMWYBMAD (If I tell you what this means will you buy me a drink), EOTWAWKI (End of the world as we know it) and ANAWFOS (And now a word from our sponsor).


Kid helicopterHow would you react if you were asked for a report ASAP. You’d jump to it, won’t you?
Now, what would your reaction be if asked for a report as soon as possible? You’d probably say: “Aw shucks, this guy is in no hurry.” Such is the power of the acronym.
Take SNAFU. What does it bring to mind? A godawful mess? If it were spelt out (which I won’t because it contains the F word), quite a few could get confused because on one had it begins with normalcy and concludes with an unholy mess.
Over time, many an acronym makes more sense than the expansion.
Would you think me loony if I pointed you to a National Association of Software and Services Companies report. What if I pointed you to a NASSCOM report. Attaboy!
Ever heard of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research? How about CSIR? Recognition immediately dawns, doesn’t it?
Remember the horrible days of the Emergency? Doesn’t MISA have a more sinister ring to it than Maintenance of Internal Security Act?
So, what’s the big deal about Prevention of Terrorism Act? After all, terrorism ought to be prevented. But POTA? It takes on a whole new dimension about innocents being picked up in the name of preventing terror.
Preceding this was TADA. Sounds sinister doesn’t it. Does the Terrorists and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act give you the same heebie jeebies? Chances are you would have nodded off even before I finished.
What if I referred you to a report of the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation? Find it a mouthful? What if I referred you to a UNESCO report?
Ditto for the United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund. Doesn’t UNICEF make more sense, more so since its activities have expanded manifold? In fact, the expansion doesn’t even figure on the UNICEF website. One no longer needs to refer to the World Health Organisation. WHO is just fine, as is ILO for the International Labour Organisation.
Inter-Services Intelligence? It’s Pakistan’s ISI spy agency, not to be confused with the ISI certification mark on most Indian products, initially awarded by the Indian Standards Institution and now by its successor, the Bureau of Indian Standards.
When did you last hear someone say Greenwich Mean Time? GMT is GMT.
Or, for that matter, when did you last hear the Board of Control for Cricket in India or the Indian Premier League in conversation when there’s BCCI and IPL?
Talking about cricket, it’s a toss up between KKR and Kolkata Knight Riders, CSK and Chennai Super Kings, RCB and Royal Challengers Bangalore.
Why go to the extent of saying Federal Bureau of Investigation when FBI would be more appropriate?
Must you say University of California Los Angeles when UCLA is pithier?
Then, isn’t MIT easier on the tongue than the ponderous Massachusetts Institute of Technology?
Talking about the tongue, names have for long been acronymised – if I may be allowed to strangulate the English language. There’s been JFK (John F. Kennnedy), LBJ (Lyndon B. Johnson) and BB (Bridget Bardot) to name just three. At home there have been MGR (M.G. Ramachandran) and NTR (N.T. Rama Rao) to name just two. And, not to forget SRK – Shah Rukh Khan. But then, acronyms can at times be utter gibberish.
What’s GWOT? Global War on Terror. It’s been adopted by a major player in the US military-industrial combine to send out a clear message that there’s going to be no quick end to this conflict.
We in India seem to revel in these convoluted acronyms.
What’s COFEPOSA? Conservation of Foreign Exchange and Prevention of Smuggling Activities Act.
PMLA? Prevention of Money Laundering Act. Just how effective it is can be gauged from the fact that some $500 billion – some say three times the figure – is believed to have been illegally parked by Indians in foreign tax havens.
Given the times we live in, it would be inevitable that Twitter and other social media should jump into the muddle.
Would you believe that the FBI has even compiled a directory of some 2,800 terms the social media has spawned?
Sample just these three: IITYWTMWYBMAD (If I tell you what this means will you buy me a drink), EOTWAWKI (End of the world as we know it) and ANAWFOS (And now a word from our sponsor).
After that overdose, all I can say is SYT – See You Tomorrow.