WYSIWYG is the acronym for “what you see is what you get” and comes from the world of information technology. It involves a user interface that allows you to view a document on your computer screen with essentially the same editing and graphics with which it will appear when printed. Wouldn’t it be nice if people had such an interface? That is, some way for you to be assured that the pleasant gentleman you just met at a cocktail party is as he appears and is not secretly a pedophile or a serial killer or something.
We find acronyms used throughout our daily communications. Here are some you see every day, in case you were wondering what they stood for: “URL” (a Uniform Resource Locator, otherwise known as a web address); “Scuba” gear (Self-Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus); “Laser” (Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation); and “Jpeg” (Joint Photographic Experts Group).
Acronyms can also be pronounced in the form of a word that doesn’t exclusively use those first initials. Here are a couple, the definitions of which you may not know: “Radar” (Radio Detection and Ranging); and “Gestapo,” from WWII (that’s “World War II”)—this was from the German “Geheime Staatspolizei” (secret state police).
Acronyms can be fun and reduce the wear and tear on thumbs when texting. Here’s a few you may want to add to your texting vocab if you haven’t already done so: Acorn = “A completely Obsessive Really Nutty person”; ADIH = “Another Day In Hell” and ADIP = “Another Day In Paradise”; TMI = “Too Much Information,” as in “Man, I really didn’t need to know that;” and CRTTLA = “Can’t Remember The Three-Letter Acronym.” Here’s an interesting one: AB = “Ass-Backward.” My dad used to call this “Bass-Ackward.” “CD9” means parents are around—good one to know if you have young kids.
Acronyms have been with us for a long time. I have read that they were used in pre-Christian Rome with the likes of SPQR (“Senatus Populusque Romanus,” whatever that means). Acronymy is found in ancient Greek biblical manuscripts and the Hebrew language as well. Okay – TMI.
And then there is this variation on theme: “retronyms.” These are terms that distinguish a sub-class from a super-class, where the distinction was previously unnecessary. Try “snail mail” vs. “Email” (which, of course, is the term for “Electronic Mail”), or “whole milk” vs. “two-percent milk,” or an “acoustic guitar” vs. an “electric guitar.” Back to the world of technology we have retronyms in the form of “impact printer” vs. “laser printer” and “plaintex,” which is ordinary, readable text before being encrypted into “cyphertext.” Cyphertext? Never mind.
If you find this proliferation of acronyms and retronyms undesirable, I might suggest using the following in all your text messages: “AFZ,” (“Acronym-Free Zone”—wait, I guess that won’t work) or, if you wish to become more proactive in getting rid of these things, I might recommend that you look into the following: “AAAAA” (American Association Against Acronym Abuse). Oh, and HTH? “Hope this helps.”