Being a tech guy, I run into acronyms like Pennsylvanians run into deer. They are everywhere. And I understand the need for them. Rather than saying, “I used the Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol Microsoft Management Console to change the leased Internet Protocol addresses to reservations” –wow that’s a mouthful!—you can simply say “I used the DHCP MMC to change the leased IP addresses to reservations.” OK, that still probably doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to non-networking people, but you can see why acronyms are important. Otherwise all of those “Computers for Dummies” books would be two thousand pages long rather than their average thousand!
But acronyms can fool people. I remember back in the days of WBS (WebChat Broadcasting System—think Twitter of the 90’s) when I began reading many of the acronyms that are still used today. Like ROFL. I always thought it had something to do with a dog barking. Like raaafffalll. I finally asked someone (I think that was pre-Google) and discovered it meant Roll On Floor Laughing. Now that I think about it, maybe it does have something to do with a dog. Nobody I know rolls on the floor when they laugh. Except maybe a dog. Or a baby.
And just like it, we had LMAO or LMFAO. Not the band, although that’s a clever name for a band with clever songs. But when I first saw that one, I pictured some elderly French-Asian woman (perhaps I was looking into the future at my Vietnamese mother-in-law) screaming something. Like Le Mao! I guess I never realized how much people laugh while using the Internet. They roll on the floor laughing. They laugh their a**es off. The F stands for a certain four-letter word that I will not mention, by the way, in case you are reading, Mom.
Speaking of my mom, she’s been an Internet user for quite a while, but she’s just started texting on her cell phone in the past year or so. She uses it, at least when she texts to me, the way she should. She doesn’t forward dumb pictures or bother me incessantly. Basically she sends me important info like grocery lists, doctor’s appts, breaking news, etc. I don’t really care much for texting, and I’ve made that clear, so that’s probably why. But she does text my younger sister more frequently. The other day my mom was telling my wife that she kept getting LOL in the replies from my sister. She was a bit disappointed when she discovered that it meant Laugh Out Loud. She was under the impression it meant Lots Of Love. Even when she figured out that she was initially wrong, she still thought it meant Lots of Laughs. *Picture me looking down, my forehead resting on my hand as I shake my head thinking WTF?!?*
The best one was my wife though. She’s a bit more tech-savvy than most—probably why I was drawn to her, because after all, we did meet through an Internet site (a post for another time, perhaps). But my wife kept seeing the acronym NSFW. Not Suitable for Work. Meaning don’t open this attachment or picture or whatever, because your boss might see and you might get fired. But no, my wife thought it meant something else. Because every NSFW attachment or link or whatever typically was alarming, she actually thought it meant No Such F****ing Way! Hilarious, right? No Such F***ing Way doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. Then again, neither does ROFL or LMAO when you think about it. LOL!!
My advice: if you don’t know what it means, just ask someone. Because it’d be far easier to just ask a question, get that What-Are-You?-An-Idiot? look out of the way, and then get the facts and know rather than if you were to start using it in the wrong vernacular, or even worse, using it to try to sound intelligent. I know a guy that does this, and wow does it drive me nuts. He was on a call one time with some colleagues, and these people were referencing a piece of software they had developed. Mid-way through the call, he asks, “Is it a GUI interface?” The people paused for a second—I could just picture them looking at each other with puzzled expressions—and then slowly replied, “Yes, it’s all GUI.” GUI, by the way, stands for Graphical User Interface. Windows is a GUI platform with it's pretty graphics as opposed to DOS or UNIX where you have to type in text commands at a prompt. Pretty much everything that has been sold to consumers in the past decade is GUI, and so the question was downright odd. So that was strike one against this guy. Then when the callers began to demo the software, a cloud solution we accessed through our web browser (definitely GUI), the guy asked if it was done using HTML. As in HyperText Markup Language. There are all sorts of programming languages out there like Java, PERL, PHP, ASP.NET, but one of the things they all have in common is that they work in conjunction with HTML. HTML is to a website like words are to writing. You can make simple sentences (a website) using words (HTML) like "the boy chased the dog." But all of those programming languages I just mentioned allow you to do some pretty amazing things--think compound and complex sentences, alliteration, metaphors, etc. in my example). So in other words, asking if the website was HTML was like asking if this blog is comprised of words. Maybe if you weren’t all that tech-savvy you wouldn’t know, but this guy was acquired because he was supposedly a tech-genius. Strike two. Ultimately the guy struck out in my little acronym baseball game, but I can't entirely remember what the last one was. Something about hiring a DBA (Database Administrator) to do work that my 3-year-old could do or something.
Anyway, bottom line, if you are afraid to ask, just Google it. And if you still don’t know what it means, don’t pretend that you do, because you don't want to look like that guy above. And if you are really stumped, you could always send me a tweet or a message. Because I probably know, and if I don’t, I’ll find out for you in a few seconds with my magic handheld Internet brain--aka, my phone.