Suresh Menon

Acronyms are no lol mat­ter, ac­cord­ing to our colum­nist.

Friday - - Friday Contents -

DYTIWRT? Now, what do I make of that? Af­ter months of ca­jol­ing, trick­ery, and bribery I fi­nally got on to Twit­ter last year. I haven’t checked re­cently, but I be­lieve the num­ber of my fol­low­ers has crossed dou­ble dig­its. This is not great cause for cel­e­bra­tion, I am told. Even Justin Bieber has at least 11 fol­low­ers. Or some­thing.

But this idea of pack­ing as much as pos­si­ble into as few letters as pos­si­ble is caus­ing mayhem. In my mind at least.

I know what LOL is and at a pinch can re­call what COW is (an an­i­mal that eats grass and gives us milk – or is it the other way around?). But just as a sec­ond grader gets ner­vous when the dis­cus­sion in his maths class in­volves fig­ures be­yond three dig­its, I be­gin to sweat when acronyms – es­pe­cially on Twit­ter – get into and be­yond three­let­ter ter­ri­tory.

I am tempted to put to­gether a set of un­con­nected letters – some­thing like GFCDRR – in re­ply. But as any tweater will tell you, tweaters are clever at de­cod­ing, their lives ded­i­cated to find­ing mean­ing where none ex­ists – much like the crit­i­cism of the poet TS Eliot.

I mean, that set of letters could eas­ily mean Great Food, Cen­tral Din­ing, Rest Rooms, which those un­der the age of 10 will no doubt take to be a plug for a lo­cal restau­rant.

Rather like a ma­gi­cian who asks you to think of a num­ber, mul­ti­ply it by some­thing, add the age of your most re­cently de­ceased grand­mother, su­per­im­pose it on your first salary and so on and then mirac­u­lously tell you what the orig­i­nal num­ber was (long af­ter you have for­got­ten it), young tweaters can make sense of the weird­est com­ing to­gether of letters of the al­pha­bet.

Which is why I be­lieve that the next big con­fronta­tion in the world will erupt not on fi­nan­cial or re­li­gious grounds, but be­cause some­one has in­ter­preted an acro­nym wrongly.

You might write CHFD (“come home for din­ner”, as any­one knows), but it might be in­ter­preted as “Charge Heav­ily for De­fence” or “Catch Hot Food Di­rectly”, the well-known provo­ca­tions that light a fire un­der the nor­mally calm and peace­ful.

Of course, acronyms have their uses, too. You can imag­ine a ques­tion paper at an exam, for in­stance, com­pris­ing only acronyms. This is like food from a cen­tral kitchen. Then, depend­ing on whether you are qual­i­fy­ing to be­come a lawyer or a philoso­pher or an en­gi­neer, you in­ter­pret these. Saves on time, ef­fort and money (since money is both time and ef­fort).

Still, I re­main con­fused, un­able to break the code I be­gan this col­umn with. DYTIWRT? AHFAWGARD would be ap­pre­ci­ated. Any help from any­one who gives a ro­dent’s don­key, that is…

Suresh Menon

is a writer based in In­dia. In his youth he set out to change the world but later de­cided to leave it as it is

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