Saturday, August 30, 2008

Let's Get To The PUB Via The PIE

I saw this in the newspapers today - Aims.

Ahha! Another acronym added to our already countless list of ERP, COE, PIE, NTUC blah blah blah. This new addition stands for Advisory Council on the Impact of New Media on Society. I must say that I have no idea how this can be abbreviated to Aims. Why not ACOTIONMOS? Okay, I admit that it sounds more like a long word than an abbreviation.

I checked its website to find out more.

The home page informs that it is set up to study the far-reaching social, ethical, legal and regulatory implications of a rapidly growing Interactive Digital Media (IDM) sector. Oh man, another acronym !

Why are we so obsessed with acronyms??

Visitors are usually blasted with acronyms right from the moment of arrival till the time of departure. The online street directory is aware of their predicament and publishes a list of commonly used acronyms in their website.

Singaporeans are quite clever with acronyms. Consistency is maintained for highway names where the first two consonants are used, eg. Pan Island Expressway, BuKit Timah Expressway and SeLetar Expressway. Consistency is also avoided when necessary. When the National University of Singapore became NUS, they were careful not to rename the former Nantah to National University of Technology for NUT is obviously not a good name for any institution.
We love to use acronyms and we are also fairly creative in giving them playful alternative meanings. Hear this:

To help ease the traffic, motorist have to pay Cash On Expressway (COE). If that doesn't help, they can always Eternally Raise Prices (ERP) on the roads. If you don't own a car, you can always make a Mad Rush to Train (MRT) or get squashed in a bus, Side By Side (SBS).

The list of unofficial acronym meaning goes on.. SGH: Sure Give Up Hope, POSB: Purposely Owe Some Banks, CPF: Cash Prior to Funeral and HDB: Highly Dangerous Buildings. Even a proper name is not spared. SENTOSA has become So Expensive and Nothing To See Actually. These creative alternatives are not entirely flattering but amusing. If only such creativity is put to productive use :)

Now let's take a more serious look at what's abbreviation. Braodly, there are three types: Clippings, Acronyms and Initialism.

Clippings refer to a shortened form of word such as Condo from Condominium. Acronyms are forming of words using the initials. For example, SANA is read as SA-NA, not S.A.N.A. (Singapore Anti-Narcotics Association). Initialism is what we see around us most of the time where we would read each individual initials, eg. PUB is Pee Yew Bee and not pub. Other examples are URA, KKH and PAP.

When Singapore attained independence in 1965, most Singaporeans were not educated in English. Understandably, government departments had found abbreviation to be helpful when it came to bringing messages across in the public services. Even though we are now all educated in English, abbreviation has become very much our way of life. The younger generation has nothing to complain for they have helped to flourish and expand the use of shortened languages on SMS and online chat.

Looks like abbreviations are here to stay. TTYL.

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