Words, Words, Words

If this Washington Post article is correct, modern-day Hamlets are going to have to find a new way to express their frustrations:

Acronyms have been around for years. But with the advent of text and Twitter-language, it certainly feels like we’re speaking in groups of capital letters a lot more. It’s a question that intrigues linguists and other language aficionados – even though they’ll tell you they have absolutely no concrete research on it.

“It’s fascinating,” says Scott Kiesling, a socio-linguist and professor at the University of Pittsburgh. “What’s interesting to me as a linguist is figuring out which words get picked up, and why. What is it that makes OMG and WTF and LOL so useful that they spread from the written to the spoken form?”

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The article hastens to point out that there’s nothing particularly new or earth-shattering about acronyms. They’ve been around for years. Still, the bleed-over from the world of the Internet and Text Message does seem to be particularly virulent:

People who think acronyms are new may be suffering from what linguists call a “recency illusion” — the illusion that something is new merely because one has just noticed it. They may not realize, for example, that the oft-used “snafu,” in its cruder, more popular version, contains the same “F” that “WTF” does.

But one thing that does seem genuinely new, Greene says, “is that these three-letter phrases from the Internet and twitter-speak are being spoken out loud.”

Thanks to The Deacon’s Bench, I now have another Gomorrah Slouching Phenomenon to be worried about. One can never have too many of those. (The irony of posting my concerns on an Internet website is almost as gratifying as the absolutely perfect comic I found for this piece over at Toothpastefordinner.com. In fact, the sheer “meta”-ness of this post is starting to make me feel a bit dizzy.)


  • Joseph Susanka

    Joseph Susanka has been doing development work for institutions of Catholic higher education since his graduation from Thomas Aquinas College in 1999. Currently residing in Lander, Wyoming — “where Stetsons meet Birkenstocks” — he is a columnist for Crisis Magazine and the Patheos Catholic portal.

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