We wish everyone a long life on birthdays and special occasions. A blessing we hear all the time, in every culture and language. Yet we are living in a highly abbreviated environment. We are struggling to keep up with all the acronyms and emoticons.
I think the young generation of today, if told to write an essay, would be writing and deleting and writing it yet again. Writing complete sentences with all the words, without any short forms, may be a task for them. That is not of any concern to me. What bothers me is when they think, everyone from the age of 8 to 80 plus, should know all the short forms they know.
The expectation that acronyms should be understood by one and all is quite demanding, to say the least. “Obviously” is a word people use when they are sure of something and also sure that it’s plainly clear to others. People also use this word when they’re being mean or sarcastic. People have different background, education and cultures. How can one be so presumptuous that what is very clear to you is equally clear (obvious) to the others? If we are in the same class in school, then maybe.
I can think of a few examples of short forms that are not so obvious. It all depends on the circumstances and the people involved. I had a UTI (Urinary Tract Infection) and went to see a doctor. I made investments in UTI (Unit Trust of India) with my financial advisor. So which UTI is obvious? I would not be talking to my financial adviser about an infection, nor to my doctor about investments.
When we are bombarded with acronyms, especially in the Whatsapp age, some miscommunications happen, and it isn’t anyone’s fault, because everything is so new. A lady wrote “LOL” in a condolence message, because she thought it stood for “lots of love”. But youngsters say “LOL” all the time, at every little thing, to convey “laugh out loud”. I must say the latter is the widely accepted form of the acronym. But how does one know what a brand-new acronym stands for? It has not been in use for some time, not in newspapers or dictionaries. That is why it is important not to ridicule anyone if you were asked what a trendy new short form means, because trust me it is not obvious.
UN and WHO are the typical short forms that the world has been used to for decades. Living in the UAE, I see ECB used very often in the news in place of the Emirates Cricket Board, whereas in England, it means the English Cricket Board. So, for God’s sake, before you use the word obvious, take a moment to think is it really so?
Definitions and meaning change with Generation X, Y and Z. Technology is developing so rapidly that vocabulary cannot keep pace. What is needed is respect for each generation and what they have achieved. Knowing a few newly coined acronyms doesn’t make any smarter.
It warms my heart to see my aunts and uncles, on various social media platforms, comment and keep in touch with family and friends. They are coming from a generation of pencil and rubber, before graduating to pens. They wrote their greetings on postcards and letters. The key board and mobiles are so tech savvy for them. Hats off to their spirit of keeping pace with technology and desire to learn, being motivated to stay in touch with their close ones. It is lovely to read their comments, especially when they sign off with their name and best regards, since that’s what they were used to doing in letters.
These days we watch a lot of cricket, with the IPL and the T20 World Cup played in the UAE. One dialogue of an expert commentator I really like is that “form is temporary, but class is permanent”. Similarly, technology is temporary (in the sense of constantly changing), but values are permanent.
During my five months plus stay in India due to the travel ban, Uber, Amazon, Zomato and such apps were saviours. I could order yummy food, even send to my loved ones. Grocery shopping was never easier and so much fun. All with a few clicks. I live my life on Google too, but I know when I am sick, it’s my close ones who will take care of me and cheer me up. When you need a hug, hugging your phone or screen won’t do the trick. We are humans and not robots, so go race with technology as much as you want, but keep your values and close ones dear to your heart.
Respect your parents; they completed their education without Google. They used their brains to upload, download and process information, as well as pass it down to their children. Just FYI!!
(Shilpa Bhasin Mehra is a legal consultant based in Dubai and the founder of SBM Consultancy (formerly Legal Connect)
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