I think it probably all started with "Jeep," the army's shortened nickname for the "general purpose" vehicle. And when it comes to the military, I get it: time is money, lives are at stake. If you can shorten things, make language quicker, communications easier, it just makes sense.
But something's happened since then. I'm not talking about the "TTYL," "LOL," "LMAO" or "L8TR" language of the text-set online and in the mobile world. I'm talking about the disintegration of language, brands, colorful, descriptive, informed dialogue. And with texting and the ever-accelerated pace of life, we run the risk of losing our language identity. Call it the acronym, or abbreviation invasion.
I've noticed it a lot lately. Sure, FedEx has long since replaced Federal Express. United Parcel Service went to UPS, then just "Brown," and now back to UPS again. KFC hasn't been Kentucky Fried Chicken for some time. Micky-D's is the same number of syllables as its namesake McDonald's, but it just sounds faster. Burger King offers the BK Broiler; Dairy Queen has morphed into DQ's But fast food is by definition "fast," and therefore nicknames make sense.
But what's up with H&S replacing Head & Shoulders on the shampoo's label? Hewlett-Packard is officially HP. Northern Telecom is Nortel Networks. Washington Mutual has become "WaMu." Nabisco erased its original National Biscuit Company long ago. The ubiquitous Geico? Government Employees Insurance Company.
High Definition went from "high-def" to simply HD. Wall Street has ETFs, SPiDeRs, the NYSE, NASDAQ, the Merc and NYMEX. Citigroup is just "Citi." The Federal Reserve? Just "The Fed." Give out a web site address and it's "dub dub dub" instead of the "w-w-w" it really is. It's happening even here at CNBC: one of our top shows, "Morning Call," has been re-branded as just "The Call." Macintosh is just a Mac; every DVR is a Tivo, or is it vice versa?
Sony's "PlayStation" has been replaced by PS2, PS3, even the portable version is the PSP Lotteries nationwide are "lottos" instead. Y2K was a good one. Go to "Bucky's" and order up a "decaf, double-whip, half-soy, double-shot, light-sweet, wet, cap." Huh? The Tampa Bay Devil Rays officially dropped "Devil" to become The Rays. Motorola's cell phones include the RAZR, the ROKR, the KRZR, the PEBL; syllables remain the same whether those pesky, "extra" consonants and vowels are in there or not. WMD's got us into war; IEDs kill our troops daily.
And the information overload thanks to broadband, wireless devices and satellite TV has created a kind of false familiarity: Shows like "The OC," "The Hills" give us a sense of being on the inside, even though we're not. Cher was an anomaly in the '70s. Then Madonna. Now we have Lindsay, Britney, Paris, hybrids like Brangelina, JLo, and K-Fed. All single named stars, shortened to save time. The scary thing? You know all those people.
We talked recently with the guy who named the broom "Swiffer," a play on "swift," he said. As if a "fast" sounding name could speed up your sweeping. Tech (nology) is moving so fast that even some nicknames themselves are becoming outdated. With flat-panels owning the TV market, will today's kids ever understand when Mom and Dad want to watch the "tube," which was infinitely shorter than "television," but not as good as "TV."
We're all in such a rush. The long-term investor holds stock for a full week nowadays. Generation "T," the texting generation, communicates in a kind of short-hand code that's seeping its way into everyday language, eliminating brands and words in the process.
I feel like I'm channeling Andy Rooney, but I'm in the language business. I'm also in cable news where every second of air time is incredibly valuable; where I'm forced to be parsimonious with my words, yet informative and compelling at the same time.
It's a strange dichotomy as the language I grew up with evaporates around me. It's all about quicker and faster. Or is that "quikr" and "fastr." This is a tiny list; a mere observation. Sadly, the list is growing while the words are shrinking. And not just every second, because that isn't fast enough. It's growing every nanosecond. Nano. Nanotechnology. Well, you get the idea.
And if you think you I've missed some of your favorite anacroynms, write to me and let me know: email@example.com. As the headline says, Read This Post, Then Contact Me with your thoughts!
I guess all that's left to say is have a great weekend. TGIF. C- ya!
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