YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

The ABCs of '03

October 16, 2003

FYI, have you noticed how many three-letter acronyms have crept into everyday communications in the USA? Written, spoken, e-mailed; they're everywhere -- GWB, NBA, RBI, CIA, HBO, URL, JLo.

Today we officially delete one from our national lexicon; AOL Time Warner is erasing AOL from its corporate moniker in honor of that disastrous merger some years back and to save money on ink. CNN survives, however, as does CBS, NBC, PBS, NPR, BBC, TNT, VH1, MTV and Fox.

Early last century all this could perhaps have been blamed on headline writers' inability to fit Theodore Roosevelt or World War I into one column. So they became TR and WWI. Later, came FDR and HST and who could squeeze in Dwight D. Eisenhower? So he became Ike. No initials for Nixon (RN means nurse anyway). But we had JFK and LBJ.

Since Ike, Americans have wisely allowed only presidents with no more than seven-letter names. Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush, Clinton, Bush. Dean, Kerry, Clark and Nader could work next year, but good luck, Lieberman. (Obviously, the seven-letter limit doesn't apply to governors, so watch for Arnie or AAS in some places.)

Somewhere along the way, our harried, hurried society took over the shortening of common words into a motley assemblage of letters in an earnest effort to get more meaningless info into our idle conversations.

So we use shorthand to save on tongue work and thinking. Did you watch the NFL on ABC's MNF? How about those MLB playoffs? Too bad TV games aren't broadcast at good PDT times. Are you watching the PGA and NHL too? Too busy with PTA? Or maybe just waiting for UPS with the flu or PMS? Do HMOs cover that?

So fax someone via ATT, MCI or SBC if you don't have DSL for your IBM. Government is into shorter with HHS, DOE, DOD, EPA, IRS and the FBI (still investigating the KKK?). The CDC studies American health; we're all carrying too many lbs and too much LDL, so watch your RDA and your SPF against UVL.

OAC you can borrow to buy a new SUV with DVD, good RPMs and MPH but poor MPG. The dot-com era and 9/11 have come and gone, but we still have 911, www, .org and .gov. (LOL at that one.) Sports playoffs with ERAs and AVGs are SRO. To get into USC you need good SATs and ACTs, not ESP, and a good GPA and GRE to earn an MBA or PhD and start your IRA.

BTW, some four-letter acronyms still survive -- ASAP, TGIF, ESPN, MSRP. Seven of 12 months have three-letter names or abbreviations. Have you noticed now occasional references to Mar, Jul and Jun? So what do you suppose is the ETA on the next shorthand? Pretty soon we'll use just two letters. OK. Meanwhile, bye-bye AOL.

Los Angeles Times Articles