I wanted to share a couple of anecdotes today as a brief follow-up to last week’s post about the use of acronyms, abbreviations, initialisms, and other sacred “shorthand” in our congregational communications.  While such insider, Christian code language makes perfect sense to us and can be quite a beneficial time-saver in our writing and speaking, it often serves to leave non-members in the dark and feeling like they are indeed on the outside looking in. 

The following illustrates just how easily this can happen.  It also illustrates just how dense and off-base I can be at times.

In the summer of 1988, Kim and I spent a lot of time in the evenings watching television coverage of the Olympic Games from Seoul, South Korea.  We only had a tiny, black-and-white TV, but the Games were thrilling nonetheless.  As is generally the case, marketers and merchandisers were taking full advantage of promotional gimmicks that were connected to the U.S. Olympic effort.  There was lots of red, white, and blue in advertisements and frequent references to the IOC (International Olympic Committee) and USOC (United States Olympic Committee).

However, there was a marquee sign in front of fast food restaurant that puzzled me.  I drove past it several times over the course of a couple of weeks before I finally mentioned to Kim one evening that I couldn’t figure out what this “IOPC Dinner” was.  I was working off of the IOC and USOC models and just couldn’t make sense of it.  A few days later, Kim and I were in the car together and I said, “Look!  There it is!  I don’t understand what that is.”  Kim said, “You mean 10 Piece Dinner?”  Suddenly, everything was crystal clear.  It was a “1” rather than an “I” and the number “o” instead of a capital  “o.”  And, upon closer examination, there was a slight space between those numbers and the letters “PC.”  By the way, it was a KFC (formerly Kentucky Fried Chicken)!  I should have known, right?”

I heard a radio report awhile back about a hospice care worker who was in the habit of continuing to send periodic “thinking of you” cards to families in the months following the loss of a loved one.  This thoughtful lady was quite new to the unique brand of shorthand that had arisen in the use of email, texting, Facebook, and Twitter.  She had frequently seen “LOL” but never bothered to ask anyone what it stood for.  She just assumed (nicely, but wrongly) that it meant “lots of love.”  At the end of extremely kind and compassionate hand-written notes to people still coping with the death of a family member, she would write “LOL” and sign her name.  You can imagine her shock and embarrassment when a somewhat offended (but very understanding) individual gently pointed out to her that it meant “laugh out loud.”

The one that drives me crazy is BOGO, short for Buy One, Get One.  But, that’s not even what the promotion is.  What they mean is Buy One, Get One Free.  It should be BOGOF if they’re going to abbreviate it.  BOGO makes absolutely no sense as an incentive.  If I buy one, I generally get one.  That’s the usual deal.  But, they’re wanting to tell me that if I pay for one, I’ll get another one at no additional charge.  If they’re going to drop the “Free” from the abbreviation, it should be BOGT: Buy One, Get Two!  Now, that’s an incentive! 

Okay, I’m done! 

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