Recently I have been browsing Amazon in an effort to figure out what Christmas gifts would be the most desirable for my family and I saw an intriguingly looking T-shirt like this:
Five capital A’s… An absurdly wit abbreviation that meant American Association Against Acronym Abuse. I wish such an association existed in reality. I would definitely become its member. Well, I cannot deny that I have a weak spot for T-shirts with witty ironic wordings but this one was truly brilliant!
Perhaps, I won’t exaggerate if I say there are no other people in the world who use abbreviations, initials and acronyms as often as Americans do. Probably, there is nothing to wonder, given the fact that the country’s name itself—USA—is an acronym. Being curious by nature, I asked my American born and raised husband:
—Why do you people here have constant need for shortening everything they say? Names, diseases, common words in text messages, you name it?
—Simply because nowadays people are too lazy to pronounce words or even phrases completely, he replied philosophically.
In fact, I did notice that for an average American there is nothing more important in the world than comfort.
“Why do you prefer walking to the playground if you can drive there!”
“Spending more than 20 minutes on the commute ? It’s too much for me. ”
“We will buy vegetables and fruits in the supermarket, I don’t feel like making an extra trip to the farmers market,” etc.
It was my first Philadelphian winter. Five months have passed since I came to the United States of America. I took a medical interpretation course in Center City. Our teacher used to constantly point out some “chop” …
“He originates from Peru, so it’s quite unlikely that he knows the name of the extreme point of Western Ukraine, a town called Chop”, overloaded with medical terminology, my head was spinning around. “Neither does he resemble a cook, so why is he always trying to “cut something in chunks”?” Soon enough the mystery of a strange word was solved! It turned out that our lecturer referred to the acronym CHOP or the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. Even then such a verbal shortening seemed weirdly inappropriate to me. It gives any English-speaking and English-thinking brain wrong connotations. In a million years I couldn’t have guessed that CHOP had something to do with medicine. However, everyone else was accustomed with the term and had no mental barrier using it. Everyone but me.
Two years have passed. I work as an interpreter for the NSC ( Nationalities Service Center—surely another acronym 😊). I am at the session and the social worker asks me to interpret: “Could you, please, ask the client if she has COPD or STD?” “Well, COPD stands for Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, but the second acronym… I couldn’t place it… Later, I found its meaning in the medical terminology book. A young social worker named Jack asked a 85-year-old lady, whether or not she suffers from STD-Sexually Transmitted Diseases. Protocol…there is no getting around it…
Even my daughter’s teacher often writes me text messages full of “np” or “ty”, possibly, she has no time to type “no problem” and “thank you”. But thanks for keeping me updated anyway…
And finally, when I started getting acquainted with the fact that KFC has to do with chickens fried in Kentucky😊, DOT is not a period but the Department of Transportation and the largest airport in New York has become just a JFK for me as well, I discovered the next unexpected acronym disguised as a short word.
—By the way, do you know how people used to call IHOP and now nobody remembers that the breakfast diner is actually called the International House of Pancakes?, asks my husband.
—No, I had no idea that IHOP is an abbreviation, I thought it meant “I hop”! Apperantly, its full name went out of use because of the invincible American desire for speech comfort as well as simple laziness to pronounce long and twisted lexical constructions.
I think, I know what kind of a gift I personally want from Santa this year…will go write my letter to the North Pole.
P.S. OMG, IHA stands for Oh, my God, I hate acronyms ( in case you are not an acronym abuser).