Friday, November 18, 2011


Watching today's teenagers communicate via on-line messaging or texting on their mobile phones is like being dropped behind enemy lines in a country where you don't speak the native tongue. You're not quite sure what they're saying, but you know they're probably discussing you, and that if you don't keep your wits about you, it could all turn quite ugly.

It can be a completely foreign language.

In teen-texting, spelling and grammar are tossed out the window, clarity is sacrificed in the quest for speed,  and some words are appropriated for uses they were never intended for. Acronyms reign supreme.

It's almost a form of code.  But is this a new phenomenon?

During World War II, before our time, defence personnel and their sweethearts used acronyms in correspondence.

According to an entry at everything2, the World War II acronyms developed as a way of expressing endearments with extreme brevity (e.g. for use in telegrams) or as a 'secret' language between the lovers. The words could be concealed in sentences, or written across the back of the envelope.

Although some of these examples are well-known now, I wonder if the parents of that generation (and the correspondence censors) were as much in the dark about the meaning of BURMA, SIAM and ENGLAND as today's parents are about PSOS or ROFLMAO?

Some of the less saucy World War II examples are:
  • ITALY: I trust and love you
  • HOLLAND: Hope our love lasts and never dies
  • SWALK: Sealed with a loving kiss
 And my favourite (although a little racier):
  • NORWICH: 'Nickers off ready when I come home   
The now widely used acronyms SNAFU and FUBAR are also thought to have had their origins among American military personnel in the Second World War.

But the fun didn't stop with the Silent Generation. The Baby Boomers and their Generation X children have (among a multitude of other language tweaking practices) created a treasure-trove of acronyms to describe demographics and lifestyle choices:
  • DINKS: Double income, no kids
  • YUPPIES: Young upwardly-mobile professionals 
  • LOMBARD: Lots of money but a real dickhead 
And the one which always makes me LOL (laugh out loud):
  • SITCOM: Single income, two children, outrageous mortgage 
The corporate world has also weighed in with examples such as:
  • SMART goals: Specific, measurable, agreed, realistic, time-bound goals 
  • SWOT analysis: Strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats analysis 
Imagine these in context:

Q: Where's Bruce?
A: He's in the stationery cupboard, doing a SWOT on the supplies situation. He plans to set some SMARTS regarding paperclips, envelopes and fluoro marker pens.

Most acronyms seem to have originated with the Brits or the Americans, however I did come across one which the good people at BBC' s h2g2 attributed to Australian origins. We Aussies have the dubious honour of coming up with the following acronym to describe someone with an elevated opinion of him/herself:
  • FIGJAM: F*** I'm good, just ask me
Is coded language used in your world?


Gigi Ann said...

I'm not up on the texting. I do text to my children and grandchildren, but I write out the words. Some times I use the short-cut, such as 'n' '2' 'u' 'r' but that's about my limit. TTFN...

Brenda said...

Well, that was pretty interesting. I think I did a post one day about my first experience with texting. I thought it was pretty funny, but my son didn't. My daughter clued me in on 2 web sites called damn you auto correct and damn you siri. (sp) It is just a bunch of funny messages that got messed up by auto correct on smart phones and now with the iphone having the spoken siri lady texting is pretty funny. I enjoyed this post!

Mary said...

I love figjam. I was listening to the fellow who does the cryptic crosswords for the SMH and The Age .. He loves what the teenagers are doing with texting .. Watching a whole new language unfold before his eyes.

Aunty Evil said...

You forgot to mention CRAFT "Can't remember a F****** thing!" :)