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Brevity, the soul of wit

| Wednesday, January 27, 2016

If I were to compile a comprehensive list of my worst fears, snakes would most definitely slither their way into first place, while forgetting someone’s birthday would sit comfortably at second. Hippopotomonstrosesquipedaliophobia — ironically, the fear of long words — would likely also make the cut, for I frequently employ abbreviations (abbreevs) in everyday conversation.

It’s not as if I think I’m some kind of special snowflake just because I say DNA instead of deoxyribonucleic acid or AC instead of air conditioning. My abbreevs are not commonly used or universally appreciated, so I am usually met with initial confusion when I exclaim “Shal!” instead of “Shalom!” or refer to a T-shirt as a “teesh.”

People may hesitate or make fun of me at first, but soon enough they too are living lives of luxury in abbreviation nation, attempting to eliminate as many syllables as possible from any given statement.

Talking in abbreevs is no easy task though, and it demands a bit more effort than one might anticipate. One of the main challenges people encounter is thinking quickly and shortening words on the spot, which can be a surprisingly difficult process. To mitigate this struggle, people should heed Andy Bernard’s sound advice and always think one step ahead, like a carpenter making stairs. Having at least a general idea of what they plan to say can help abbreev-users sound even more smooth and effortless than they already do, for they can prevent any incidences of suddenly having no clue how to shorten a particular phrase. The misconception that big words are the sign of an intelligent person has G2G, because using abbreevs also requires aptitude and improvisation.

Because not everybody has perfected slang skills, I often have to launch into an explanation of what I meant by a certain abbreev, which usually takes enough time that it would have been faster just to say the original word to begin with. But I do not mind taking a few extra moments to help others understand the benefits of using abbreevs or maybe even convince them to try some out. After all, it is only a matter of time before even the most skeptical people understand that Arizona is the A to Z of abbreviations.

I’ll admit I may have taken Polonius a little too seriously when he remarked, “Brevity is the soul of wit,” but abbreevs have been adopted into my vocabulary for so long now, I’m not sure I can ever forsake them. For instance, I cannot even imagine sitting in the library and “doing homework,” for “doing homes” has become such a regular phrase for me.

Those who hope for abbreviation eradication will likely not see those dreams come true anytime soon, for just the other day I heard someone follow my lead and say “I have to take the elv to go do laund.” Some speak words of wisdom, but I prefer aphorisms of abbreevs.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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About Martha Reilly

Martha is a senior majoring in English literature and political science. She currently serves as Saint Mary's editor but still values the Oxford comma in everyday use.

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