ACROSPEAK

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I have long treasured an original issue of The Mother Tongue by Lancelot Hogben. Lancelot, a Brit? Curiously, the author’s name is metaphoric for miscegenation, as is Bernardo O’Higgens, the revolutionary founder of Chile. In rather didactic fashion, Hogben makes the case for English as the most universally useful world language today.

 

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You know what that Acrospeak is; you too have suffered from it. Acrospeak is used by experts to inform those desiring to become informed;in Powerpoint slides and lectures to symposia attendees. Incredibly, Acrospeak, which is usually familiar to those already schooled in a subject,  confounds the uninformed who are hoping to learn. Is that stupid? Or What! While seekers of new knowledge puzzle over strings of CAPS which could represent– anything– the meaning is nowhere defined in hand-outs or powerpoint slides. As would be learners consider possibilities of obscure letters, the lecturer’s string of meaning becomes tangled.

Acrospeak could very easily be called acrodynia, acrolalia, acrothymia, acrodystrophy ; or any number of such invented but fairly understandable terms; terms we immediately recognize because they contain clues that come to us on the Indo-European language stream that flows through Sanscrit, Greek, Arabic, and Latinized European or Cyrilic languages. They are clues we don’t need to study, because they are embedded in our common languages, and especially in scientific language.

English, in particular, is a beautifully polyglot language. It is not only the most used language of science and business today, but one with roots in many other languages. Those of the Celts, Romans, Saxons, and Norman French conquerors were grafted onto English as it evolved over centuries. The result is modern English. On the one hand English spelling seems bizzare because it reflects the languages of all those who ruled the islands for centuries at a time; and the language of the conquerors themselves,  whose language also had been inseminated by other conquerors. Therefore anyone who learns to read and spell English well has completed an introductory course to an array of Indo-Europan languages; most prominntly are those of Europe, but also those of the Mideast, and West Asia. What, for example does Hamas suggest? Never, as in Spanish jamas, planted there over centuries by Arabic Moors. Cognates for the word mother are recognizable from Sanskrit on, and similar language strings are common.

I once was ship physician on a research vessel to the Antarctic Peninsula. It was an abandoned former USSR icebreaker refitted  in Finland. There were 17 scientists, not one from the same country, many from different continents. We all had to communicate in English

So here is my question to knowledgable and earnest people standing in front of colleagues who come to listen and learn: Why abandon centuries of language, and revert to CCP? Well, then, Clueless Cap Puzzles. And my plea: Do not abandon millenia of shared meaning that we all are at least  vaguely  familiar with. Do not tear out the common threads of language in favor of CCP. It may save space on slides, or breath for the lecturer. But that’s a poor tradeoff if the intent is to inform. And if you do abandon those clues of language, and revert to CCP, at least provide something on every slide to clarify, the acronyms,  or a ledger that can do so.

I made a careless comment long ago to my brother-in-law, a proper Massachusetts elitist, by declaring it is a waste of time to study dead languages like Latin; or, ( more offensive,) French. It was an attempt to wake him up for a moment; it did but he was as Outraged as if I spit on his mother. Now, considering the power of language that comes to us down to us through the millenia I realize he had a valid point. He is long gone from this life; but perhaps he can hear this somewhere above or below. “In the face of CCP, I apologize for that crude remark.”

Some acronyms are so common they are almost universally understood: like ASAP or USA;  or those a first grader learns on the street or from media– like this one which can also serve as a comment on Acrospeak: WTF! What’s That For? Well, No.

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