Flip the Script: An Intriguing New Approach to the Same Old Acronyms


At this point, it’s not hard to tell when someone is trying to shorthand a conversation. You might say “LOL” in response to something funny, or you might text your friend on the other side of the country and say “BRB,” just because they’re on call while you are not. What does dywmtcoaeyptycomf mean?

1. The “S” in “LOL” stands for straight-faced, yet completely apathetic.

But the question still remains: why are we so quick to dismiss those well-known acronyms and initialisms? Why do we have so many of them? And is there a chance they will ever disappear?

2. I think they’re cool, and I like using them whenever possible. 

Well, at least that’s what Glynne O’Neill (pronounced like “Dennis”) strongly believes.

3. This guy knows what’s up.

O’Neill is a professor at the Queensland University of Technology in Brisbane, Australia. And his views on the commonly used abbreviations are being discussed widely, especially by those who agree with him. In fact, O’Neill recently co-authored an article titled “Flip the Script: An Intriguing New Approach to the Same Old Acronyms,” which was published in the Journal of English for Academic Purposes.

4.  I don’t know what that means, but I’m not going to Google it.

According to O’Neill and his co-author Jason Pratten: “There is nothing wrong with acronyms or initialisms,” they wrote .”…However, the ubiquity of their use in modern discourse is not healthy.”

5. O’Neill and Pratten. See? That was easy to remember.

Of course, “LOL” is just one of many commonly used acronyms that O’Neill claims are actually harmful to society’s attempts at communication. “BRB” is probably the next most commonly used one – though it’s pretty awkward because you have to ask someone what it means before you can use it in a text message or on Twitter.

6. Some people even choose to forgo them for fear of the aforementioned awkwardness.

But of course, there are many other acronyms beyond the ones that O’Neill discussed in his journal. In fact, the acronym “DWI” is commonly used to refer to driving while intoxicated. The “T” in “TMI” can stand for two, three or even four things, depending on who you ask. The letter “N” in “LOL” usually stands for nothing at all – and depending on who you ask, neither does the letter “O.”

7. The “O” most certainly stands for absolutely nothing. Nothing at all!

And don’t even get me started on that phrase people love to use when texting one another: LOLZ.

8. LOLZ!!!

But what do all of these acronyms have in common? According to O’Neill, they’re all really harmful because they promote a sort of excessive and illogical use of language. And that’s exactly what he wants to change.

9. This is the exact opposite of what O’Neill wants 

Because people are indeed communicating too much with their abbreviations, even though it makes texting and messaging difficult.

In fact, we actually rely on them too much, said O’Neill: “Unfortunately, it seems that very few people — if any — are questioning the ubiquitous use of these symbols for more than just a shorthand for ‘LOL.

10. Not that we have to.

O’Neill believes the cause for this “problem” stems from students who are learning too much language, but communicating nothing.

11. Well, maybe that’s a bit of an overstatement.

That’s when these acronyms can hurt us, according to O’Neill: “The result is an expanding body of knowledge that fails to communicate.”

12. Whoa! This is getting a little intense!

He then added further details on his website: “Moreover, this collective knowledge makes the world seem more vast and complicated than it really is: each person knows more and thinks less than they otherwise would.” 

13. I feel like I’m falling asleep here…

O’Neill is also concerned that modern communication technologies make such a thing as language too complicated. He believes all his fellow academics are confusing students and that, as a result, they’re limiting their own growth.

14. So what? You can’t learn much from the internet!

“Academics who either don’t know or fail to teach enough about language share in this failure,” said O’Neill and Pratten. “It’s the same reason why people tend to use acronyms when they don’t know how to say something otherwise.”

15. Wait, I think I just did it…

But on top of that, O’Neill believes his fellow academic peers are making a huge mistake when they fail to teach students proper skills. “Academics seem to have forgotten that language is not simply an academic discipline but rather a tool for effectively communicating with diverse audiences,” he said.

16. So instead of acronyms, O’Neill wants us to use words like “flip the script” and “intriguing new approach.”

He added: “Academics urgently need to update their understanding and treatment of language.”


Initialisms and acronyms are not good or bad, they just make communication and getting your point across easier. – People like O’Neill and Pratten think they’re bad. – People like me think they’re okay. – I have no idea what the title of this article is supposed to mean. Thanks for reading!


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