They present challenges in translation but acronyms are part of our daily lives. We go SCUBA-diving, see a LASER light show, and bemoan the proliferation of QUANGOs. These are words that are formed from the first letters of other words; for instance, SCUBA = Self-Contained in Underwater Breathing Apparatus.
Many acronyms are names of organizations (NASA), computing terms (BASIC), or financial products (TESSA) but some encapsulate new concepts or phenomena in a memorable way. Ever since the YUPPIEs and NIMBYs of the 1980s, market researchers and others have coined snappy terms to describe new social types: we’ve encountered KIPPERS – older offspring still living at home with their parents (Kids In Parents’ Pockets Eroding Retirement Savings) and NEETs (young people Not in Education, Employment, or Training), while SKI-ers refers to parents who are Spending their Kids’ Inheritance (though not necessarily on the slopes).
More recently texting has produced thousands of new acronyms. A couple of my favourites: TL;DR meaning Too Long, Didn’t Read (an excuse for not wading through particularly wordy content) and YOLO meaning You Only Live Once (an excuse for doing something you probably shouldn’t be doing).