From some social media’s restrictions to 140 characters to generic text speak, it’s an indictment to the way we communicate today that we use a series of letters to convey our thoughts more easily.
We all now regularly send and receive electronic messages using shortened versions of what we really want to say. From the “BR” (Best Regards) to “FYI” (For Your Information).
Of course this is nothing new; in fact acronyms were used in Rome before the Christian era. The official name for the Roman Empire, and the Republic before it, was abbreviated as SPQR (Senatus Populusque Romanus). We all use AM, PM, etc., which come from Latin as well as the French RSVP.
In the 21st century, some examples are so entrenched in our consciousness that few would be able to define what they actually mean.
For example “laser”. That’s a word right? No, it actually stands for “Light Amplification of Stimulated Emission of Radiation”.
Who remembers that 3M actually stands for the “Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing Company”?
Today, however, you really have to be “ITK” (In The Know) to be able to fully appreciate certain new meanings.
Someone very close to me, many years ago thought that LOL was “Lots of Love” and got herself into a few sticky situations before appreciating the implications of its meaning…
A real example in my business life is as follows:
“Speak to the MX GAM to see what the CRM shows and maybe a PDR is required for the SSK”.
This actually means:
“Speak to the Molex Global Account Manager to see what the Customer Relationship Management system shows and maybe a Product Development Request is required for the Strategic, Select or Key account.”
Which brings me to industry-specific acronyms – from LAN, MAN & WAN, DWDM. in the telecoms market to ECG (ElectroCardioGram) in medical and DAS (Driver Assistance) using IST (Intelligent Sensor Technology) in automotive.
Why do we do it? It saves time and references a known standard or technology, but there needs to be a minimum level of understanding to really get the point.
Let me give you an example from the defence sector: C4ISR.
In isolation, the letters mean nothing; however it actually stands for Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Intelligence, Surveillance & Reconnaissance.
As technology advances, the problem then comes if you need to add another word to the phrase. In this case, another “C” (Combat systems) is in the process of being added, so in future it will become C5ISR.
Of course it’s a great marketing tool – who now doesn’t think of the OEM when you see a product beginning with a lower case “i”? It’s not even the first letter of the company’s name, but we all know who it is…!
So take a minute the next time you want to send a quick message. Think of the person you are communicating with. Will they understand the acronyms you take as the norm?
Remember when using your QWERTY keyboard, WYSIWYG!
Easy for me to say!