Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 23 April 2014

Mumsnetters have a code and they're not alone, BTW

Look away now, all of you who thought that SMOG was an acronym for a society of geeks called the Secret Masters of Gaming. In the latest despatch from Mumsnet, it turns out that SMOG is code for Smug Mothers of Only Girls and is used by DMOBs (Defensive Mothers Of Boys) who believe that their boisterous children are being sniffed at.

Wow. As in 'gosh', not World of Warcraft. Or Wider Opportunities for Women. That said, the latter might be interested in this latest shorthand for rubbish women. What have mothers done wrong this time?

Apparently, some DMOBs believe that SMOGs openly think their girl children are far superior to boys. This is because they learn to talk sooner, are more easily potty trained, are made of sugar, spice and all things nice and look ever so dear in a Disney princess costume.

I'm going to put my hands up now and admit we're not about to have a discourse on gender and parenting, because this week we are going to talk acronyms. OK?

Most of the familiar acronyms about women tend not to be very flattering, of course. Calling someone a MILF (or Mother I'd Like to become better acquainted with, for the purposes of a family newspaper) is ostensibly a compliment, but has creepy undertones.

It also makes things very difficult for those of us who like to study acts of terrorism by the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

WAG was invented as a way of packaging all footballers' wives and girlfriends into one big Gucci handbag and dismissing them as gold-digging airheads who would sell their souls for a pink diamond and a pair of Jimmy Choos. Which many of them turned out to be.

A DUFF - or so I'm reliably informed - is the Designated Ugly Fat Friend who can be found in any group of pretty girls and the boy who goes home with her is the silly duffer.

Historically, the RAF, WRAF and military personnel have been very fond of acronyms and even more creative with them.

The Oxford English Dictionary cites 1944 as the year FUBAR was first used, meaning Fouled Up Beyond All Repair/ Recognition. SNAFU was also commonly used, meaning Situation Normal, All Fouled Up.

Since the Second World War we've encountered such historically specific acronyms as NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard), YUPPIE (Young, Upwardly-Mobile Professional), DINKY (Double Income No Kids Yet) and retired parents going on SKI-ing holidays (Spending the Kids' Inheritance).

Deliberately confusing acro-nyms have long been used by doctors who like to sneer at their patients between themselves while appearing to be caring and professional.

NFN was apparently written on GPs' notes to denote being Normal For Norfolk and now TATT is shorthand for a patient whose only symptom is being Tired All The Time.

But it is IT professionals who have been the most creative with acronyms in recent times. RTFM might be techies' advice on a really stupid IT question and directs the client to Read The Flipping Manual.

TWAIN is otherwise known as Technology Without An Interesting Name.

And many computer failures apparently receive a PEBKAC diagnosis: Problem Exists Between Keyboard And Chair.

Since acronyms are designed to create brevity and clarity in language, it is intriguing when they become words in themselves which are then expanded and conjugated for fun.

In years to come, the OED may cite Caitlin Moran's How to be a Woman as the first official use of "rofling", from the online shorthand ROFL, meaning Rolling On Floor Laughing.

Lovers of language will never settle for simple terms when playing with words can offer so much rofflement, but we must be sparing with the TLAs (Three-Letter Acronyms) and ETLAs (Extended Three-Letter Acronyms), because everything can be cheapened by overuse. As well as Smug Mothers of Only Girls and Sudden Moments Of Gayness, a SMOG also stands for a Simplified Measure of Gobbledygook, which is what some acronyms have become.

If we're not thrifty with the acronyms then we'll have to create some kind of Credited Registered Acronym Police to prevent a complete outbreak of CHAOS (Chronic Habitual Acronym Overuse Syndrome), which is a slippery slope.

Too much of that and society will be FUBAR, FYI.

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