Opinion Web Exclusive

Acronyms become the norm in an abbreviated society


Francis Emelogu // The Daily Cougar

“Totes Ridictionary” was recently added to the stack of funny books in Urban Outfitters. This book offers a scope of the modern English language and where it seems to be heading. While the book  intended to be humorous, it is shockingly accurate.

UH students often refer to themselves not as Cougars but  “Coogs.” The shortening of words has risen in popularity. Adorable is now a deplorable “adorbs,” totally is now “totes”  and even atrocious has its own “atrosh.”

This shortening of words derives from the increasing use of social media and character limits, such as the well-noted 140 character limit of Twitter. What also seems to be changing the landscape of the English language is the way we speak.

There are numerous times a day that one can hear a person casually drop a “LOL,” “BRB” or “OMG” mid-conversation — probably enough to go beyond a character limit on Twitter.

We administer acronyms to things and places all the time. Nobody ever actually calls the UC the University Center. UC rolls off the tongue and saves time, if only a split-second.

In addition, it was only almost a year ago when the definition of ‘literally’ was  changed to no longer exclusively mean a literal definition of literally. According to CNN, it wasn’t only Google’s dictionary that adapted to this change, but the Merriam-Webster and Cambridge dictionaries as well.

When abbreviated words and new definitions work their way into popular media  such as Twitter, books and television shows — their usage becomes widespread.

“If enough people use a word in a particular way and it becomes widespread, it will find its way into the dictionary,” said Fiona MacPherson, the senior Oxford English Dictionary editor.

There are numerous times a day that one can hear a person casually drop a “LOL,” “BRB” or “OMG” mid-conversation — probably enough to go beyond a character limit on Twitter.

According to Time Magazine, “selfie,” “hashtag” and “catfish” are among the 150 additional words that have been added to the Merriam-Webster dictionary as well. With Facebook so heavily immersed in everyday English, the word “friend” is no longer limited to being a noun, it’s now a verb. Just like the word “unfriend” is now a verb in the dictionary.

Now that “tweeps”  also a new addition to the dictionary — can tweet more freely without feeling too foolish, “these new words show the impact of online connectivity to our lives and livelihoods,” according to Peter Sokolowski, the editor-at-large for Merriam-Webster.

In contrast, the Oxford English Dictionary has a rule that a new word needs to be current for ten years before consideration for inclusion, said John Simpson.

If the Oxford English Dictionary wants to stay current, it will have to move faster than that. The Internet and our relationship with it gives language the ability to be flexible and more specific at the same time. As the use of technology continues to grow and change, so does the English used along with it.

There’s no doubt that people will disagree with current trends becoming more mainstream, but because of the globalization of technology and social trends, new words will come into play as the public sees fit.

Before 2008, no one would have uttered the word “tweet” without a confused look being thrown towards them. Today, people say “tweet” without so much blinking an eye and everybody understands what they’re talking about. Before 2012, one wouldn’t describe the photo they took of themselves as a “selfie.” Instead, they would have described it as their “new profile pic” or latest “default.”

I believe we’re the frontrunners of a new wave of words that will become the latest addition to the English language. It’s remarkable how something that seems small can turn into a movement requiring the acceptance of a new word or phrase. English is just another example of how quickly and viral what people say and feel can be globalized and reach audiences across the world.

Opinion columnist Gemrick Curtom is a public relations junior and may be reached at [email protected]

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