Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Aberrations in Abbreviations

Just the other day we were being taught about ‘note-making’ at school. And we were instructed by  our teacher to use “at least four to five abbreviations” in our notes. It so turned out that when I finished making my notes, I realised that they did not contain a single abbreviation in them (and that is because I do not have a penchant of shortening words when I’m doing any school related work). Since it occurred to me just before submitting the copy, I found myself hurriedly scratching off words like programme, experience and positive and replacing them with prog., exp., and +ve. Then of course I had to make that little box in the footnote area listing all the abbreviations used and their full forms. Whoa!!! So much more work just for the sake of dropping 4-5 letters from a few words!!!

Technically speaking, there actually happens to be four ways in which words can be shortened; abbreviations – in which the last part of the word is dropped off, contraction – where the middle part is dropped off, initialisation – which the name itself suggests what it is, and acronyms – which is like initialisation only but the shortened word itself is pronounced like a new word.
Some examples would make it clear : -
Saint ==> St. (contraction)
Phone number ==> Ph. No. (abbreviation)
Do it yourself ==> DIY (initialisation)
As soon as possible ==> asap (acronym)  {asap is pronounced as a single word}

More recently with the advent of sms-lingo (or chat-lingo or twitter-lingo), a new type of word shortening, popularly known as de-voweling, has evolved, in which words like properly and contact are written as prprly and cntct respectively.
But all said and done, the most popular form of word shortening these days is “phonetic shortening” where the word is shortened in such a way that the pronunciation remains similar to the original word. Like, awesome becomes ‘osum’ and right happens to be ‘ryt’.

Moving away from the technical aspects, I often wonder (especially when I receive dramatically shortened SMS and emails), what good does it serve? Does it really reduce time and effort and enhance simplicity, as the advocators argue? Or does it, at the detractors put it, simply reduces the writer’s efforts at cost of doubling the readers’ troubles?
Though I rarely stick my neck out and take sides in such debates (since I myself use shortened words very generously in my mails and text messages), I must say I often find myself agreeing more with the detractors than the advocators.
Like just last Sunday, my cousin happened to go to ‘CCD’. I had to ask to expand it as I could not think of any place called CCD. Being the techno-geek that I am, the only way I could expand CCD was – Charged Coupled Device (digital camera stuff). I had no idea that he meant to say CafĂ© Coffee Day instead. Similarly if you live in Delhi you’ll know that CP is Connaught Place and DC is District Centre, initials which more commonly refer to other general things like DC = Direct Current. And did you know that students studying in St. Marks School and Mother Mary School have a craze of sending too many SMS and MMS. (pun intended).

By the way have you come across the term ‘pj’? The fact that it stands for poor joke (or pakau joke as some say it) came to my knowledge only a couple of months back. I’ve seen this term here and there many times but it never occurred to me to check out its full form. I always somehow linked ‘pj’ to pyjamas (maybe because you wear sleepover parties are called pj-parties). But when that day my friend requested me to send some teacher-student pj’s over SMS, I was compelled to search on Google what pj actually means. And lo and behold – Wikipedia said that pj might actually refer to pyjama!!!! But that was not what I was looking for. Next I came across petajoule and picojoule. But neither pyjamas nor joules can be sent over sms, so I went on sifting through some more results when I finally got it ------> pj=poor joke. {WHAM!!!} it was like Tendulkar swinging his bat right on my face. Poor joke????!!!! In the name of god, people need to initialise such words too????
[psst.... all the while I was doing this research on pj over Google I was also wondering about the other  “_J” terms, i.e. VJ=video jockey, DJ=disc jockey, RJ=radio jockey etc etc.... And I was trying to figure out if PJ might have a similar expansion. And I was also wondering why nobody mentions HJ=horse jockey]

There are many people out there (especially English teachers who check exam copies) whose worlds have been turned topsy-turvy by the sudden influx of abbreviations; a word that itself is abbreviated to abv., abrv., abrrev., or abrvn. And if you by chance write the ‘v’ as an ‘r’ then it becomes abbrn. Which I guess stands for aberration (something that happens when people shorten words too much)
Anyways I need to apologise to my readers for  being a thoroughbred hypocrite though, because even while I was busy ‘lampooning and slamming the practice of word shortening’ (read – ‘writing this article’), I received a text message “hey buddy! Hw r u?” And quite shamelessly I replied “gr8 here!! U say. Wassup? Ne plans of goin to DC 2day?”
So with all that we are again back to square one, that is to the question – whether aberration, oops sorry, abbreviation, should be used everywhere. Imo (in my opinion), it strictly depends on the context. I hardly ever write text messages without various shortened words, and I don’t expect anyone to spell out all the words properly when sending me messages, but of course while writing an examination or a blog entry, such irresponsible snipping and cutting of words is strictly prohibited.
Btw (by the way) you use abbreviations or not is solely up to you, but do take care that you do not increase hassles for the person for whom it is intended. (Now for example you tell me a joke and I reply hax3, you would remain confused until I explain that hax3 is “ha ha ha”) It’s nothing unnatural to for people to try to reduce their effort of writing a piece, but while doing that often the reader suffers, which is very unfortunate.

hav a nyc day,
c u soon...


  1. thanks, but why don't you sign in frm ur gmail account when posting comment??

  2. well u knew it was me ?
    tats coz i dont think its safe
    well bt still nw tat u hv askd me 2 sign in ....i m signing in...

  3. well u knew it was me ?
    tats coz i dont think its safe
    well bt still nw tat u hv askd me 2 sign in ....i m signing in...

  4. it's better that way coz u can know when the author has replied back to ur comment


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