Say What?

by | November 13, 2023 | General | 1 comment

Perhaps I’ve been doing this too long, but I recall when people spoke to each other using complete words and sentences, either verbally or written. Remember that? Now, it’s all done in a digital shorthand called acronyms. Once upon a time, we also composed notes and letters using cursive writing. Do they still teach that in school?

An acronym is a pronounceable word formed mostly (but not always) from the initial letters of a descriptive name or title. Its origin is from the Latin words “acro,” meaning “beginning,” and “onym,” meaning “word” or “name.” These are not to be confused with initials or abbreviations.

Acronyms, initials and abbreviations–oh my! From texts to in-person convos (see how I snuck one in there?) to the post-it you leave your roommate to turn off the lights, we all use shorthand. But is your truncated way of expressing a thought an acronym? It depends on how you say it. For example, “you only live once” is shortened to YOLO, which you’d say as “yoh-loh.” This is not to be confused with BOGO, the retail shorthand for “buy one, get one,” or COB, meaning “close of business.” Damn—this is confusing, and we haven’t scratched the surface!

Acronyms have been around for decades, particularly in the government and military. Think AWOL (absent without leave), C-rations (c for canned or condensed), GI (government issue), FUBAR (fouled up beyond all recognition), NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration), Navy SEALs (Navy Sea Air Land forces), POTUS, SCOTUS, and SWAT (Special Weapons and Tactics). They all entered the lexicon long before the digital age, along with ASAP, SRO and BOLO. It wasn’t until cell carriers began charging customers for their digital usage that acronyms became a necessity. The abomination formerly known as Twitter also shares some of the blame with their message character limits.

There’s been some debate about whether initialisms are acronyms, or if acronyms and initialisms are types of abbreviations. If any of that made sense to you, please raise your hand. An initialism is an abbreviation that uses the first letter of each word in the phrase it’s describing (like an acronym), but you still say each letter individually (unlike an acronym). For example, the Federal Bureau of Investigation is shortened to FBI, but you say it as “eff-bee-eye,” not “fuh-by.” Here are some common examples of acronyms you probably use or encounter.

AFK (away from keyboard); BBL or BBS (be back later or soon); BRB (be right back); DM (direct message) or PM (private message); BTW (by the way); IDK (I don’t know); DFK (don’t f***ing know); IMO/IMHO – (in my opinion/humble opinion); IRL/IRT (in real life/time); LMK (let me know); NOYB (none of your business); OMG (oh my God); SMH (shaking my head); HTS (here to stay); TTYL (talk to you later); WTH (what the hell). There’s also the ever-popular LOL (laughing out loud) and ROFL (rolling on the floor laughing), along with ROFLMAO (rolling on the floor laughing my ass off) and the shorthand version, LMAO.

Everyone has their favorite car, and many people have that car they’d never own again. For the latter, consider these acronyms.

BUICK – Big Ugly Import Car Killer; CHEVY – Cannot Have Expensive Vehicle Yet; DODGE – Drains Or Drops Grease Everywhere/Dead On Day Guarantee Expires; FORD – Fix Or Repair Daily/Found On Road Dead; HONDA – Hang On, Not Done Accelerating; JEEP – Just Expect Every Problem; PORSCHE – Proof Of Rich Spoiled Children Having Everything; TOYOTA – Too Often Yankees Overprice This Auto; VOLVO – Very Odd-Looking Vehicular Object.

(Emits big sigh). All these different forms of language, abbreviations, acronyms, slang and so forth, and we still can’t communicate with each other. It’s getting to where I’m almost afraid to say “I woke up this morning” for fear that it will be misconstrued, since “woke” seems to rile so many people. I heard a new word on a morning talk show recently—“mentation.” It refers to cognitive functioning and being mentally alert. You learn something new every day.

I’d like to propose a compromise. Let’s keep this one (which makes some degree of sense), and ban “conversate” from the lexicon. It drives me crazy when I hear that one, so let’s be clear: you have a conversation, or you converse. Those are your choices. Period. You cannot “conversate” because there is no such word.

Speaking of words that need to be retired (no pun intended), I nominate “elderly.” I know many people who have passed middle age, but they don’t huddle under a blanket in a rocking chair watching soap operas or doing crossword puzzles, they don’t nap three times a day, and they haven’t graduated to textured food. According to a survey by, 57 percent of people older than 65 object to the word. The same poll found that 70 percent also dislike “geezer.” That word is probably sexist, since no one refers to women in that age bracket as a “geezerette.”

IDK if you use acronyms to communicate, but IMHO, it’s HTS. I SMH sometimes when I try to read what someone has texted me, but I’ll have to GWI if I want to stay competitive, I guess. OMG– I’m late for an appt. and will be AFK for a while, but I’ll TTYL. IRL, IDFK WTH I just said!

Tim Smith

Tim Smith is an award-winning bestselling author. His books range from romantic mystery/thriller to contemporary erotic romance. He is also a freelance photographer. When he isn't pursuing those two careers he can often be found in The Florida Keys, indulging his passion for parasailing between research and seeking out the perfect Pina Colada.

1 Comment

  1. Lisabet Sarai

    Actually, I kind of like “geezer”. It sounds feisty!

    Excellent article, and yes, I share your perplexity. I have to look up one of these pretty much every week.

    But you missed FOMO…


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