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The long and short of it

When we were kids (yes, I remember way back then), my brother taught me to elicit a few giggles by asking my friend to point to her head and say the abbreviation for “mountain.”

The look on her face as she uttered “em tee” made me feel like the accomplished comedian. Though that was undoubtedly the end of my comedic career, it was likely the beginning of my dealing with abbreviations, their challenges and worth.

Two common abbreviations are i.e. and e.g. The first means "in other words (think i)"; the second is "for example (recall e)". One should use i.e. for specific clarification: "I like fish dishes, i.e. salmon soufflé and seared trout." This shows these are the only ones on my list. If I wish to give examples, this same sentence would not be a finite list.

An acronym is a special type of abbreviation made usually from initial letters of other words and pronounced as a word. If you were ever military, you know KISS — "keep it simple, stupid." It originated in the 1960s in the Navy and has always had a variety of words.

Most have seen or used ASAP — "as soon as possible" — and have you ever used PAM — product of Arthur Meyerhoff — in your skillet? I bet you never asked why those round, wooden-nickel-like candies were called NECCO. It stands for New England Confectionery Company!

Our modern technology has spawned an incredible number of abbreviations; they are often called acronyms although the letters do not always provide an actual word. If you enjoy internet chats, you may use, e.g.: CU, "see you;" AD, "awesome dude;" IQ, "ignorance quotient (not quite the original);" or NP, "no problem." Succinct messaging on the internet might call for AFAIK, "as far as I know;" FYEO, "for your eyes only;" or FWIW, "for what it’s worth."

Some people have difficulty spelling “abbreviations,” but they can certainly text them, e.g.: EM?, "excuse me?;" CWOT, "complete waste of time;" B4YKI, "before you know it;" B3, "blah, blah, blah;" JTLYK, "just to let you know;" or L8R, "later." If any of these is new to you, surprise someone with your updated text.

Before signing off, I must excuse myself with "PEBKAC." If any of my words is unclear, I will claim that a problem exists between chair and keyboard.

And in my final sentence I should use EOT, "end of thread/text/transmission."

— Sandi Ekberg taught high school English in Medford for 30 years, with a special interest in vocabulary, grammar and usage. If you have grammar questions you would like answered, email her at ifixgrammar@charter.net