No one enjoys toying with puzzling abbreviations and acronyms more than schoolchildren, to whom deciphering these posers is a challenge that just can’t be ignored. As boys, before we learnt what the abbreviation ‘RSVP’ in an invitation stood for, many jocular explanations were palmed off on us. “Rum, scotch, vodka and port — the liquor to be served,” grinned an uncle who liked his sundowner but didn’t know the right answer. “Rice, sambar, vadai and pongal,” piped up a classmate, naively assuming the letters stood for the menu.
Indeed a favourite pastime in school was trying to divine what exactly an abbreviation or acronym meant — and cooking up rib-tickling alternatives. An imaginative classmate frivolously interpreted SSLC as ‘School Students’ Longest Course’ and ‘Studious Students’ Logical Culmination’ while PDC was ‘Prior Dekko at College’ rather than Pre-Degree Course. Further, WWF didn’t signify the World Wildlife Fund or World Wrestling Federation but ‘Wild West Fraternity’ — a band of senior students (including yours truly) addicted to cowboy comics, novels, songs and films. The former radio programme ‘Voice of America’ (VOA) was termed ‘Very obviously American’. Boys being boys, FAO — that august institution of the UN — was put to undignified use to stand for ‘Flies Are Open’!
Trying to dispel our dislike of mathematics, our teacher once casually remarked, “Some students have a very erroneous notion of mathematics.” An alert classmate spotted the hidden acronym and popularised it: VENOM.
During an inter-school cricket tournament a batsman fainted in the scorching heat and returned to the pavilion. “That’s LBW,” commented the scorer cryptically. When someone pointed out the error in his observation, he clarified, “It actually stands for ‘Last batsman wilted!’”
Like the increasingly popular SMS, these days abbreviations and acronyms appear to be catching on in a big way. After a recent treadmill test, I was baffled by a code in the report — GET, SET and PET which I discovered stood for good, satisfactory and poor effort tolerance. A harassed shop-owner I know branded VAT as a ‘Very Annoying Tax’ that had increased his workload considerably. Perhaps PETA could be simplified to ‘Please Eschew Troubling Animals’.
In a similar vein, MACE could be an apt acronym for our politicians: ‘Make Accountability Compulsory Everywhere’. KISS could be a code word for ‘Keep Information Secret and Secure’ while BLEAT could be used to discourage lying: “Blatant Lies Erode All Trust’.
All in all, coining or unravelling such posers is an entertaining pastime that requires ingenuity to come up with odd and hilarious interpretations or alternatives. It’s quite an easy way to activate one’s mind creatively.