Al Campbell, Field Editor

October 22nd, 2001

By Al Campbell

Do you know what an acronym is? Odds are you've heard of acronyms and even used them often in your daily life. In fact, most of us use acronyms all the time in our speech and rarely think about the fact that all acronyms aren't necessarily created equal.

An acronym is a word formed by the first (or first few) initials or letters of a group of words. A good example would be the FBI, which stands for the Federal Bureau of Investigation; or the CIA, which stands for the Central Intelligence Agency. Another example of an acronym is the word "radar," which stands for "RAdio Detection And Ranging" device. Do you watch the TV (TeleVision)?

Acronyms can be good things as long as everyone agrees with and understands what each acronym means. These short words are very useful to writers and speakers who don't want to waste space or words on long statements when a single word will do the same job. As long as everyone understands and agrees with the meaning of an acronym, life and communication will be a little easier to understand. The word doesn't even have to sound like a word to be an acronym.

Acronyms are used heavily in the military and on fly-fishing bulletin boards. In the case of the military, the meanings of the acronyms are established in advance so there is little or no confusion about the meaning of these words. That isn't the case when fly-fishing chat rooms and bulletin boards are the media. In fact, crossing over between cultures can be real confusing if you don't understand the variations each culture has in the assigned meanings for their acronyms.

A good example of the confusion that can result when acronyms have different meanings in different cultures would be the acronym LOL. In internet chat room talk, LOL is Laughing Out Loud; but to a colorblind interior decorator or a husband sent to the paint store on a mission for his wife, LOL could be Lamenting Over Lavender. In chat room talk, BRB means I'll Be Right Back; but to a farmer it could mean Big Red Barn.

Another example of acronyms that could have different meanings would be GRHE and BHHE. A GRHE is a Gold Ribbed Hare's Ear fly used in fly-fishing. On the other hand, a BHHE is a Bead Head Hare's Ear, which is simply a GRHE with a bead head. However, to a MTV (another acronym) fanatic, BH could stand for the initials of the sidekick of a cartoon character named Beavis. In that case, it could mean BH Head Extractor, but that event isn't likely.

How about PT? In the military, PT is Physical Training. Fly tiers think of PT as a Pheasant Tail nymph. Medical people think PT is Physical Therapy, while their patients are likely to call it Personal Torture. Depending on your point of view, what do you suppose PTA would mean to each of these groups?

Chat room visitors go beyond simple acronyms and use symbols to say things. If you can read it without getting a cramp in your neck, this :^) is a smile, but you need to tip your head to the left to see it. This *S* is also a smile, and this *G* is a grin and, if this wasn't a family oriented magazine, I'd tell you what ROTFLMAO means.

Yep, it seems we are a bunch of lazy people when it relates to typing and writing. If you're confused by all of this, you're not alone. In fact, if you want a good dose of acronym confusion, visit the chat room for an hour on a busy evening and try to decipher the code you see there. If you already have it figured out, visit anyway; it's a good place to spend time sharing thoughts (and acronyms) with others who enjoy fly-fishing. SYT (see you there). ~ AC

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