Published: 28th November 2020
The evolving English language: What do 20th century acronyms like LOL, FYI, TTYL mean?
Many acronyms and abbreviations have become a part of our vocabulary. The most widely used acronym now is COVID-19 (Coronavirus Disease 2019)
We hear about the emergence of new ideas, growth of scientific inventions and development of technology almost every day. Due to these advancements in various fields, our lifestyles and cultures are undergoing changes. All active languages too are constantly changing, evolving and adapting to the changing lives of people and their experiences. The English language, being a global language, is not static or fixed. It is so dynamic that it has evolved significantly. Now we have different varieties of English and each variety has some special characteristics.
‘Englishes’ is an acceptable word now. The term ‘world Englishes’ is used to refer to indigenised varieties of English which have developed in countries influenced by the United Kingdom or the United States.
Neologisms or new words are added to the English language every day. The way in which some words are used has also changed to some extent. Let’s look at some words that were coined during the past century. As necessity is the mother of invention, new words are coined based on the needs of the users of the language.
Many acronyms and abbreviations have become a part of our vocabulary. The most widely used acronym now is COVID-19 (Coronavirus Disease 2019). Here are a few examples of twentieth-century acronyms: PIN (personal identification number), scuba (self-contained underwater breathing apparatus), AIDS (acquired immune deficiency syndrome). Interestingly, many users know the meanings of these acronyms but do not know the expansions of these words.
Young people who are used to sending and receiving text messages and tweeting are familiar with these abbreviations used in text messages: LOL (laughing out loud), FYI (for your information), IMO (in my opinion), TTYL (talk to you later), TBH (to be honest), and YSK (you should know).
• I like your social media posts very much. IMO, they are good for discussion
• I don’t like to talk to her, TBH
A portmanteau is a combination of two words. For example, ‘infotainment’ is the combination of ‘information’ and ‘entertainment’. Many portmanteaus have made their way into our everyday communication. Here are some examples:
• biopic (biography + picture): a biographical movie about a real person’s life
• romedy (romance + comedy): a story that has both romantic and comedic elements
Some old words have acquired new meanings. For example, the word ‘pretty’ in Old English had these meanings: tricky, crafty, wily. Now the word means ‘attractive’ and ‘beautiful in a slight way’. The word ‘brave’ in Old English had a negative connotation. A person who was described as brave was considered boastful. Now the word means ‘showing courage’.
Many foreign language words have also entered the English language. For example, the Japanese word ‘Tsundoku’ means the practice of buying more books than one can read them. Some people have the practice of buying new books with the intention of reading them later but they will never read them.