Monday, December 1, 2014

Goood Mooorning Vietnam!

“GOOOOD MOOOORNING VIETNAM!” In this movie Adrian Cronaur, aka Robin Williams, talks about Lyndon Johnson visiting the camp.
            “Excuse me, Sir. Seeing how as the VP is such a VIP…shouldn’t we keep the PC on the QT, ‘cause if it leaks to the VC…he could end up an MIA and then we’d all be put on KP."

These are a textbook perfect example of acronyms.:VP-vice president; VIP-very important person; PC-press conference; QT quiet; VC-Viet Cong; MIA-missing in action; and KP-kitchen patrol. 

For writers these acronyms provide a quandary. How do we use them? What is capitalized, how do I print it when my character is saying an acronym? Is this acronym known or understood in another country? There is no universal agreement on the use of acronyms or on written usage because the topic is too broad, used many different ways and may mean something else in another context. The answers I researched said YOYO (you're on your own.)

Acronyms, also called initialisms, are words formed from the initials of other words: laser, sonar, scuba, AIDS, and NATO.  Additionally there are many sub categories of acronyms.

1.     Pronounced as a word containing only initial letters
MoMA (Museum of Modern Art in NYC), LACMA (Los Angeles County Museum of Art), JAMA (Journal of American Medical Association), OPEC (Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries)

2.     Pronounced as a word Necco (New England Confectionary Company), URL (Uniform Resource Locator)

3.     Pronounced as words or letters depending upon the speaker: IRA (individual retirement account, also spoken I-R-A meaning the same or I-R-A meaning the Irish Republican Army), FAQ (frequently asked questions), SAT (Scholastic Achievement Test), AARP (American Assoc. of Retired People which dropped the full name in order to appeal to all adult people)

4.      Pronounced only as the names of letters ABC (American Broadcast Co.), DNA, IBM, GQ Magazine (originally Gentlemen’s Quarterly), USA, NAACP, BP (British Petroleum now British Products), AT&T (New York stock exchange abbreviation for American Telephone and Telegraph), Seattle’s Best Coffee became SBC when it went national but quickly changed back to its full name, AOL (American Online); DMZ (demilitarized zone)

5.      Pronounced but with shortcuts NCAA can be N-C double A, or N-C-A-A; NAACP can be said as N-double A-C-P;  AAA (American Automobile Assoc.) or triple A; Amateur Athletic Assoc. is said in short cut: three As

6.     A variation called orphan initialism involves cases where the name of an organization changes to match its initials. For example, GAO used to be General Accounting Office and is now Government Accountability Office (imagine what that cost us tax payers for new letter head stationery, business cards, etc.) TCBY used to stand for This Can’t Be Yogurt but a law suit forced it to change to The Country’s Best Yogurt.

7.     Pseudo-acronyms are basically what IM (instant messaging) uses. CULT (see you later), BB4N (bye bye for now) and hundreds of others.

Writers need to write so that acronyms are in the proper context and with clear understanding so the readers know what the letters stand for and how to read them, i.e., hear them spoken in their mind.

“Good Morning, Vietnam” was written by Mitch Markovitz, directed by Barry Levinson with much of Robin Williams’’ material improvised. 

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