The first time soldiers went AWOL en masse was in WWI. But it isn’t that the condition of being “Absent without leave,” took place for the first time. Rather, it was during the first world war that the acronym went viral, though “viral” meant something entirely different in those days. From there to here, we’ve now entered the era of BFFs, OMG, PoS and LOL! And this trend is likely to grow by leaps and bounds – L & B’s? So says Robert Lane Green who is authoring a book on the politics of language.
Some say we should blame it on the scientists. They are the ones who brought us H2O, Au and everything in the Periodic Table. Thanks to the Phi Beta Kappa people for giving us Greek letters in fraternities and sororities. But it was the geeks who would later name their computers with acronyms such as ENIAC and UNIVAC. IBM would stop doing business with machines while getting us on “board” with the PC. But the world of business would launch a plethora of the C’s, as in CEO, CFO and COO. Not to mention the VPs and SVPs.
Green points out that the French equivalent of LOL is MDR for mort de rire which means “dead from laughing.” In German, SMS for short message system is pronounced “zims” and is even a verb, zimsen. And way back when, the Greek word ichthos for fish turned out to be an acronym for “Jesus Christ, Son of God, Saviour” which launched the fish as a Christian symbol. Such Anglicization of the world through acronyms has prompted the Chinese government to squelch usage of shortened forms such as NBA and F1 for Formula 1 racing. All of which could some day lead to a major SNAFU – we won’t expand it here.
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