[dfads params='groups=4969&limit=1&orderby=random']

An abbreviated life


Richard Shaw


The other night my wife was talking about work, and because of some changes in her workplace at the college, she she has to spend a good deal of time one day going from building to building on the campus.
“First I had to go to the BDAC and then we had to go over the the WIB,” she said as she sat in her chair in her office at home, looking exhausted. “Then we had to go back over to Reeves and the CIB. After that, we had a meeting in the student center. I think the only places I didn’t go on campus were to the career center, the dorms and the CWD.
Now I know what and where all those locations are that she went to, so I recognized that she had done a bit of walking that day. But it made me think about how our lives are made up of acronyms and abbreviations when we communicate with each other. Imagine if we didn’t have either of those to use to talk to each other. Here is what she would have said.
“First I had to go the the Bunnel-Dmitrich Athletic Center and then we had to go over to the Western Instructional Building. Then we had to go back over to G. J. Reeves Building and the Central Instruction Building. After that we had a meeting in the Jennifer Leavitt Student Center. I think the only places I did not go to on campus was to the Dean M. McDonald Career Center, the Claude J. Burtenshaw, Eldon Sessions, John Tucker and Aaron Jones Dorms and the Center for Workforce Development.”
Quite a mouthful to say, isn’t it. And note, besides no acronyms there were no contractions in the second statement either.
I had a chorus teacher in junior high school who was a tremendous teacher. But everyone has their quirks. She didn’t believe in acronyms nor in contractions. She had been an English teacher, but music was her real love. Her pronunciation was perfect on everything she said and she used to tell me “When you shorten things up in the English language, all your grammar goes down hill.”
Last week I saw on my Facebook page that someone had placed one of those “share if you know what this is” posts. You know the kind that shows a floor headlight dimmer switch in an older car or a dial telephone. This one was an example of shorthand. It made me think and then laugh. Who would have ever thought that we would find faster ways to summate what someone says than shorthand. It is still in use today I am sure, but so many people can keyboard so fast that I imagine that those that used to do it use electronic devices now.
And none of us can forget what has happened to the language when it comes to texting, or what texting has done to it. You know the“LOL” for laugh out loud and “2morrow” for tomorrow” kinds of expressions. It just proves that people who could never spell very well in the first place are only getting worse because of texting.
It seems we have this driving desire to save time communicating, no matter the shortcuts, no matter the effect on whether we are really getting through to someone or not. In fact this has spilled over into everything we do; the faster the better. It has been driven by the human desire to pack as much in as we can, particularly the stuff that seems mundane or unimportant. It is easier to go to McDonalds and get a sausage muffin for a buck than to fry up an egg and make some toast at home. Remember when innovation in photography was being able to take film to a one hour film processor? Now we do it at home on our printers, although the later still exists. And what about Blockbuster and going to look through all the film titles? Now we just click a button and there is Netflix, HBO Now and dozens of other television providers showing more than a Blockbuster store could ever provide. And going farther back, didn’t we used to go to the movies where we could see Technicolor and wide screen stuff instead of watching that little gray screened box at home?
I guess we have to ask ourselves what is progress and what isn’t. Was there something redeeming about going to a photo shop, talking with the proprietor and anxiously waiting for our film to be developed to see how it turned out? Maybe standing in line at the theater was a social thing, and having to stand through two showings to see a first release because it was only appearing at one theater in the state for the first 90 days it was out was not so bad. I did that for ‘Love Story’ in 1971 and the first ‘Star Wars’ movie in 1977. It seemed normal at the time and hey you got to talk to a lot of people that had the same interests you did while you stood in those lines. None of them wore storm trooper outfits either.
Yep we want everything fast these days. Quick, pronto, brisk, nimble, snappy, swift, racing and many other words describe what we want.
But maybe, just maybe, there was a redeeming quality about waiting for or trudging through something that seemed to take forever. Maybe even something like language, as my chorus teacher said, can be degraded to the point of not meaning anything if it is not done right or at least close to it?
And as for communication, are we really communicating when we speed through everything so quickly because we are in a hurry to get to the next sentence, the next email, the next text? Certainly I am not advocating we get rid of acronyms or contractions in language, because heaven knows if we didn’t have acronyms you would never get out of the doctors office or some business meetings you might attend.
But I have to ask: at what point does what we say, what we write and what we do become worthless because all we want is to get things over with?

[dfads params='groups=1745&limit=1&orderby=random']
scroll to top