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Tom Wrigglesworth - the confusion caused by acronyms

PUBLISHED: 17:00 22 November 2016

Tom Wrigglesworth

Tom Wrigglesworth


"Although the tape measure that never leaves my hand and the pencil behind my ear offer the illusion of a very enthusiastic amateur, I'm invariably stumped by an acronym that smashes my cover like a BS876 approved sledgehammer meeting a rusty RSJ lintel"


It’s a well known fact that approximately 68 per cent of the internet is made up of half truths, opinion dressed up as fact, misdirected anger manifesting as libellous slurs, or plain old downright lies. This must be true because I saw it online.

That leaves the remaining 32 per cent which, as far as I can tell, are acronyms. And while this clever compacting of words and phrases might well save valuable seconds when being written, any such gains are then cancelled out by the reader having to Google what the acronym actually means in order to establish what on earth the original author was on about.

Invariably, once the acronym has been transcribed, we realise that most of the time, the original author was in fact lying, annoyed about something else, or spouting off in a manner that could be deemed criminally derogatory.

This month I seem to have had more than my fair share of exposure to acronyms and seen them used in an inclusive and exclusive way. Regular readers may know that I’m currently in the middle of doing up a house, and a quick trawl through DIY and home renovation websites warned me that this would mean everything I owned would be rendered unusable by dust for several months, and it might be worth living somewhere else for a few weeks especially if the bathroom was being redone. I assumed that this advice fell into the 68 per cent of the internet’s ‘nonsense’ category and dismissed it out of hand. Two months on and I’m still washing everything at the kitchen sink, living out of plastic carrier bags and turning up to gigs looking like I’ve just staggered free from a collapsed public toilet.

My days are spent at builders’ and construction trade counters bluffing my way through another purchase I didn’t know I needed to make. Because although the tape measure that never leaves my hand and the pencil tucked behind my ear offer the illusion of a very enthusiastic amateur, I’m invariably stumped by an acronym that smashes my cover like a BS876 approved sledgehammer meeting a rusty RSJ lintel.

One day, no doubt the day I hang up my cordless screwdriver and declare the house finished, I’ll be fully versed in the shorthand of the builders’ yard and rather than being the eccentric outsider, I’ll feel normal surrounded by SDS bits or DHW with a 15LPS flow.

However, I had to wonder what normal actually means as my DIY exploits were recently interrupted by a trip to Leeds to attend a speed awareness course. During the lunch break I nipped into a nearby pub and overheard someone ordering lasagne and chips.

Now I’m no food group snob or calorie counter, but even I know that the balance of carbohydrates in that meal is completely out of whack. The barman then asked the diner if she would like a vegetarian lasagne, or a ‘normal’ one. I dare say a traditional lasagne is probably made with minced beef and so you could argue that the carnivorous option should be the default one, but even so, calling it normal means that by extension the vegetarian option is somehow ‘abnormal’ which seems a bit unfair. Especially when, let’s not forget, the order of carbs plus carbs was placed and received in complete normality without anyone batting an eyelid.

Following a ‘normal’ lunch we knuckled down for the afternoon session of the speed awareness course. Here I found examples of acronyms being used as memory joggers rather than ID badges of construction credentials. We were instructed to COAST when behind the wheel of a car, which rather than meaning to just keep your foot on the clutch, is actually a reminder to Concentrate, Observe, Anticipate, with Space and Time. All well and good, but I felt myself hit acronym saturation point when I was told that the word SLOW when painted across the road in big white letters is actually an acronym which stands for Speed Low Observe Warning. I’m all for road safety, but surely the word SLOW gives the driver enough instruction without having to unpack the real meaning behind the initials.

Mind you, I think it’s fair to say that on approach to such warnings, most drivers are probably thinking ‘Fudge, A Speed Trap’ and that’s not an acronym anyone needs painting on the road. Until next time....TTFN.

Follow Tom on twitter at @tomwriggleswort

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