Friday, December 19, 2008

Acronym City

Ever have a conversation with someone, in English, and then all of a sudden feel like you've stepped into a foreign land without moving from where you are? My friend, Kelly, has the wonderful quality of being friendly to EVERYONE. On occasion this will get her into trouble, like one recent night at Joshua Tree. 

She was speaking to a guy at the bar (she dubbed him "Jersey Johnny" as his two favorite subjects of conversation were himself and New Jersey) who was there with his friends, though seemed much more interested in Kelly than in his friends. To be honest, she thought he was a bit of a jerk, but given her inability to be anything but friendly, she kept talking to him. He was going on and on about another party he was supposed to go to. "So then why are you staying?" Kelly asked. He leaned over to her and quietly said, "Well, I have some IOI here and I want to see what happens." Huh? 

Kelly though that my constantly-connected life would leave me well-versed in this type of acronym speak. Nope - this is a new one for me. Jersey Johnny went on to say that he felt some of the other girls in the bar were checking him out so he wanted to see if any of them might make a move - he had Indications of Interest (IOI) from them. 

Now this story left me ROTFLOL (Rolling On The Floor, Laughing Out Loud - one of the favorite sayings of my friend, Lon) though prompted me to consider all of the ways we develop and re-develop language, and how confusion could arise by not saying exactly the words we intend. For example, Kelly could have thought Johnny meant "Internal Operating Income" or "Index of Irritation". You see how easily this whole speaking-in-acronym thing could backfire?

So how wide spread is this possible acronym confusion, and how are we supposed to sort it all out if these handy little time-savers are creeping in to pick-up lines at bars? Fear not - there is an on-line acronym dictionary with thousands of common and not-so-common acronyms. (What we might really need is an iPhone app to whip out at a moment's notice, as evidenced by Kelly's situation with Jersey Johnny.) NFW, you say? LNKO, folks. This could be MC for your social life, particularly those of you who are into OLD. I am N/J - you really cannot take these suckers out of context, lest you could end up with a BFM on your hands. 

Here are a few common acronyms whose confusion could have dire consequences:
WTF - Welcome to Finland!, Wild Turkey Federation, What The Frick (polite version)
HOTD - Hottie of the Day, Hair Of The Dog, Head Of Train Device
BFF - Best Friends Forever, Black Footed Ferret, Buffered Flip-Flop 
STD - Sexually Transmitted Disease, Save The Date, Safely Tolerated Dose 
BFD - Big Frickin' Deal (polite version), Big Fat Disclaimer, Burger Fries Drink
And if you're wondering "AYS?" with all these acronyms, the answer is "YBBI"! 

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