YOLO, suggests Robert Drewe, could easily be the acronym for You Obviously Lack Originality. Acronyms and clichés are amongst Drewe’s PP’s (Pet Peeves – we made that up LOL.) And he’s not the only one who’s HUC (Hot Under the Collar) about our abuse of the English language.
Stephen King, who has written a truckload of highly imaginative and thrilling words and phrases in his day, has just revealed the ones that make his skin crawl, and I’m delighted to see “At this point in time” and “At the end of the day” at the top of his list.
I’d add to his catalogue some personal cliché peeves, like ‘It’s all good’, ‘Everything happens for a reason’, ‘Here’s the thing’, ‘It is what it is’, ‘Total annihilation’, ‘Hard-working families’, ‘chill out’, ‘No worries/problem/troubles/trubs’ and ‘Giving 110 per cent’.
And not forgetting the now-compulsory Coles and Woolies checkout farewell, ‘Have a nice day/afternoon/evening/night/weekend/life.’ And surely isn’t it time ‘passed away’ faced up to reality and became ‘died’? As for ‘he’s in a better place’, how do you know that? Maybe Grandpa would’ve thought otherwise if given the choice.
King also hates ‘Some people say’, ‘Many believe’, and ‘The consensus is’. As he says, “That kind of lazy attribution makes me want to kick something.” But what really makes him cringe in an old-fashioned way is seeing text message abbreviations and internet acronyms, like LOL, YOLO and IMHO, used in ordinary speech and writing.
Any parent of teenagers has known of these acronyms for centuries (especially OMG, WTF, TGIF and BFF). A decade ago some of us innocently and sentimentally presumed that LOL stood for ‘Lots of Love’, causing further outbursts of adolescent LOLs and the delighted correction that it really meant ‘Laughing Out Loud’. (If you were lucky, your teenager then texted BISLY (‘But I Still Love You’).
There are hundreds of these acronyms, some of them funny, astute or weird (IANAL: ‘I am not a lawyer’ and PEBCAK: ‘Problem Exists Between Chair and Keyboard’), and many too risqué to write in full in a family magazine, my favourite being FUBAR, derived from military slang and pronounced ‘Foobar’. The military (AWOL and SNAFU, for instance) has traditionally been a rich source. These days online games, Twitter and Facebook are others.
Newspaper columnists like Ross Campbell and Ron Saw in Sydney, and Kirwan Ward in Perth, used to mention LOLs, which was their gentle abbreviation for little old ladies of the dotty variety. Little old ladies are seldom the subject of teenage messaging, but perhaps you could guilelessly ask your adolescent whether these initials actually stand for ‘Leg of Lamb’, ‘Labor of Love’, ‘Loyal Orange Lodge’, ‘Lowest of the Low’, ‘Look Out Loser’, ‘Lots of Llamas’, ‘Loss of Life’ (insurance), or ‘Lord of Lords’ (Jesus). Or, simply, ‘Lunatic On Line’.
This parent has a particular loathing for YOLO (“You Only Live Once”) because of the risk-taking mentality it indicates and its popularity among the local high-school bad boys — and even more so for the fact that the reckless YOLO attitude is regarded as TSC (“That’s So Cool”).
Teenagers, who all suffer from FOMO ‘Fear of Missing Out’), hate this sort of stuff being mocked or even used by oldsters (PAW: ‘Parents Are Watching!’ or POS: ‘Parent Over Shoulder!’), but adults could feign ignorance and cause satisfying adolescent irritation over whether YOLO actually stands for ‘You Only Live Online’. Perhaps it means ‘Your Ocelot Looks Old’ or ‘You Only Love Owls’. Or, better still, ‘You Obviously Lack Originality’.
The acronym that most annoys is probably IMHO (standing for either ‘In My Honest Opinion’ or ‘In My Humble Opinion’), for its pomposity as much as anything. Just ask the person who uses it whether that means ‘I Might Have Ostriches’ or ‘Is My Hearing-aid On?’ Or just own up and reply with real honestly, ‘Well, IMBO…’ (‘In My Biased Opinion…’), IMNSHO (‘In My Not So Humble Opinion’) or, let’s face it, IMAO (‘In My Arrogant Opinion’).
Many of these acronyms actually require a very clear head and steady hand to get right, and might take older practitioners longer to print accurately than the phrases they’re attempting to abbreviate. Like DILLIGAF (‘Does it look like I give a ****?’), PTKFGS (‘Punch the keys for God’s sake’), TTBOMK (‘To the best of my knowledge’) or TANSTAAFL (‘There Aint No Such Thing As a Free Lunch’), for example.
Or ROTFLMAOWPIMP. By the time you’ve typed out all the initials for ‘Rolling on the floor laughing my arse off while peeing in my pants’ it might be too late.
Robert Drewe’s latest book, a collection of his columns entitled Swimming to the Moon is published by Fremantle Press: fremantlepress