In the real world, I work in a field where acronyms are used more than actual words. In my personal life I am also a regular employer of WTF, FFS, FML (lots of F’s in there, don’t tell my mum…) TBT, WIDN, BRB, FYI, PMSL etc. (I do, however, completely draw the line at
LOL. LOL makes me want to punch something). I consider myself pretty up to speed and ‘down with the kids’ with modern language parlons (saying this has probably proven how ‘un-down with the kids’ I actually am). However, nothing could prepare me for the unfathomable acronym peppered world of pregnancy and parenting websites. I will henceforth refer to this as ‘Forum Code’.
My first encounter with Forum Code came whilst I was scouring message boards after convincing myself I’d done something awful to Pickle after using blackboard paint whilst 24 weeks pregnant (See ‘And so it begins…’ for more examples of my ridiculous pregnancy behaviour). Whilst searching high and low for posts that would reassure my hormone laden anxiety, I quickly realised that I didn’t understand a single sentence I was reading. It was like I was having some kind of brain fart, where English no longer made sense and everything seemed to be written in hieroglyphics. Was this the bloody hormones too? Would I never understand my mother tongue again?! I skipped onto another post. Nope, still not enough actual words to make head nor tail of it. I’ll give you an example:
“Hey all, thanks for your advice re: EBF and BLW. DH keen to try and DS seems happy enough. Still issues with him taking EBM but will persevere, not ready for FF yet. Will keep BFing for now. xxx”
What?! What was she saying?! It may as well have been written in sandscript for all the sense it made to me. What the hell was EBF? Enormous Belligerent Ferret? Excellent Beetroot Festival? Elephant Breeding Frenzy? After 20 minutes I had come up with an ‘alternative’ version of the post:
“Hey all, thanks for your advice re: Eveready Bunny Fluff and Big Lanky Whimples. Darryl Hannah keen to try and Donald Sutherland seems happy enough. Still having issues with him taking Evening Badminton Matches but will persevere, not ready for Freddie Flintoff yet. Will keep Big Farting for now. xxx”
After I tapped myself on the back for my school girl humour, I sat there for a good 10 minutes trying to come up with more sensible suggestions, but I just couldn’t work it out. So, what does a girl do in a fix? I googled it of course! One click and my screen was full of 2-4 letter jumbles, that to be honest would have been simpler to type out in full in a lot of cases. 113 of them. One hundred and thirteen!!! Some were quite technical and specific, such as VBAC (Vaginal Birth After Caesarean) and LT (Luteal Phase). Fair enough, I suppose. They seem useful, and far easier to type repeatedly than the full length versions.
However, as I scrolled further and further down the list, it got a bit more, well, random. For example; POAS (Pee On A Stick), NMS (Not My Style) and NMSAA (Not My Style At All) didn’t seem like phrases that you’d commonly need to use, let alone abbreviate. You may think the POAS one would be useful on a pregnancy forum, but the thing is you could also choose from PT (Pregnancy Test), BFP (Big Fat Positive- on a pregnancy test) or BFN (Big Fat Negative- on a pregnancy test), which are all far more specific options. Or, you could just, you know, TYPE IT.
This system also leaves the user open for huuuuge foot in the mouth moments; Some acronyms have more than one meaning. For example: MS- you could end up having to write some very awkward clarifying responses to people trying to help you with your Multiple Sclerosis when you were just asking for homeopathic remedies for your Morning Sickness. The same with BM- You may receive a warning from the admin team about your post asking for advice on storing Bowel Movements when you meant Breast Milk.
When you add in BC (Because- BECAUSE!! We’re not even typing ‘because’ in full! I’ve just typed it THREE times in under EIGHT SECONDS!), CWIM (See What I Mean- they haven’t even got the bloody letters right in that one), BTW, FYI, etc, etc, there aren’t any sodding words left! It can feel a bit alienating, like everyone else is in this little club, using their secret language that you don’t understand. Which, when you’re feeling a bit nervous about growing a whole human by yourself and looking for help, can be pretty daunting. But with time I stopped being so stroppy, and after a week or two using my decoding cypher courtesy of Google, a bit like the Matrix, I couldn’t see the acronyms any more; just words.
Joking aside (and this is the part that matters I suppose), the ladies I exchanged messages with on those forums were really supportive and kind, even though they were total strangers. I know there are some sites and boards that are a bit catty and judgemental, but I didn’t have this first hand. I turned to them at times when I was pretty sure my friends would think my worries were a bit mental, so having these resources was incredible and extremely comforting. These people didn’t know me from Adam, and certainly didn’t owe me anything. Which in this day of trolling, cyber bullying and competitive Mum-ing (which I am luckily yet to experience), is so encouraging to find. So, once I got over my Oh-So-Slightly-Snobby irritation with Forum Code, I actually found these sites pretty useful and comforting, at times when I really needed it.
But please, I implore you, feel free to use full sentences from time to time!