Monday, January 16, 2012


Do you know what an initialism is? Sure you do. I bet you use them every day. I try to avoid using them, mainly because I find them irritating, but mostly because I don't know what half of them mean!

A lot of people think initialisms are acronyms, but they aren't. Not really. There is a difference between the two. According to the dictionary:

Acronyms are words formed from the initial letters or group of letters in a set phrase or series of words, as scuba (self-contained underwater breathing apparatus), radar (radio detection and ranging), and laser (light amplification by stimulated emission of radiation).

Initialisms are a set of initials representing a name, organization, or the like, with each letter pronounced separately, as FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation), LOL (laughing out loud) and ASAP (as soon as possible).

So if you use it as a word, it's an acronym. If you pronounce each letter, it's an initialism. Of course, a series of initials can probably mean more than one thing, i.e. LOL. Most people use it as laughing out loud, but it can also be used as lots of love. Guess you really need to pay attention to HOW the initials are used.

And that comes to my story (and why I don't necessarily use initialisms).

At work, one of the project managers sent an e-mail to the group, a request for a subcontractor purchase order. And I knew this because of the subject and the attachment, not from the e-mail, itself. All the message said was:


Now, maybe someone who tweets or sends text messages a lot would automatically know what this means. I, however, had to think (poor brain) before I realized that the message said:

Let Me Know If You Have Any Questions.

I jokingly said to my co-worker that the guy probably tweeted too much. In which she came up with her own decipher:

Land My Kick In Your Hairy Ass Quickly.

So, beware of the initialisms you use. They can be misinterpreted other than what you intended!


Avadonja said...

FTW, I understand as "For the win!" and used in gaming. A group of teenagers I ran into (wanted me to buy them beer - I didn't) use it as their anti-establishment motto meaning "F*** the world." Big difference.

LD Masterson said...

I've picked up a few of these from texting with the grandkids. But the one I hear on cop shows all the time that makes no sense to me is "GSW". It means gun shot wound. But it takes more time to say the letters G-S-W than it does to say "gun shot wound". So why in the world would you say the initials?

The Happy Whisk said...

I'm not a big fan of them. Mostly, I find them lazy talk.

PS: I laughed when you told me that making the picture bigger didn't help. I laughed out loud. It really wasn't that helpful, but I liked the size of the image so that's why I went with it that way.

Also, it's funny.

Cheers & Happy New Work Week.

Stacy McKitrick said...

Whisk - I think you must be evil!

Don't worry - I say that to all the people who make me laugh. Or is that who I make laugh?

Stacy McKitrick said...

Linda - They probably say GSW because that's what's written on the report - so it's shortened for writing. Still, even I don't usually SAY the initials for things like that. ASAP is still as soon as possible. Mainly because the last time I told someone to call me asap (used as a word) he said, "Okay, you're a sap." Cured me from doing it again!

Stacy McKitrick said...

Avadonja - I never would have known what FTW was unless you said (or I would have known after I looked it up). Even when I text, I spell out the words. I'm sure I'd end up using them wrong anyway!

Bose said...

I never knew exactly what they were called, now its Initialisms, thanks so much for the subject.Purchase Order Request Form

Stacy McKitrick said...

You're welcome, Bose. Thanks for stopping by!