My mom was an expert at writing shorthand. Before marrying my father, she worked as a clerk of court—took letters from her boss and recorded testimonies of court witnesses in the abbreviated symbolic method. After marriage, she no longer worked outside the home. She was too busy raising eight children. But she practiced her shorthand often by recording my father’s sermons (he was a preacher) in the brief form. I sat in awe watching her swiftly scribble symbols for words.
Word abbreviations and acronyms are not a modern invention. In ancient times, to reduce the time-consuming workload of the scribe, they were used to engrave coins, etch Greek vases, and mark religious icons. The Jesus Fish or Ichthys (Greek word for fish, shown above) was a secret symbol of early Christianity.
Thanks to the spread of literacy in our modern world, spoken and written acronyms based on slang sayings have become the popular form of shorthand.
I remember witnessing the birth of the acronym “TGIF!” The phrase “Thank God It’s Friday” was first introduced in my corporate days in LA, in the mid 60s, and quickly became the abbreviated version. The first “TGI Fridays” restaurant opened in New York City in December of 1965 and now boasts a worldwide chain of popular restaurants where workers meet to celebrate the end of the workweek. Great name!
And now with the advent of texting, another wave of bizarre jargon is changing our spoken English language into a more abbreviated form. People from CA now write and say, “COO” for cool. “WUT” means “what” for people in a hurry, who can’t find the “h” and “a” keys fast enough. OMG expresses alarm. Four becomes 4. Too becomes 2. “IDK” should be used even more frequently because most people really don’t know.
Young people wanting to confuse parents have created their own form of language using a combination of shortened words with creative spelling and punctuation. Reads like babble to me, but it’s fun to try and decipher the meanings, while trying to learn this new lingo.
DWBH means “Don’t worry, be happy.” EOW means “End Of Watch.” LHM is “Lord Have Mercy” or “Lord Help Me.” YCALWB means “You’ve Come A Long Way Baby.” And I have. I’m learning a new language. WDUT? TX for listening.