Why I Won’t Capitalize “asap”

Acronyms–oh, boy!–acronyms!

They might be useful. We save time, ink, eyesight, and money by simply writing “UNESCO,” as opposed to “The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.” It’s also a boon for laziness, for we no longer have to say “the president of the United States.” Now we can simply say “potus”!

The problem lies with our human inconsistencies. I truly believe that language, since one of its primary usages is for the successful transmission of knowledge, should make the attempt to be more regular, more uniform, more consistent. Let us, the operators of language, try to make a go for consistency, even though language all around us is sloppy, deranged and as mercurial and muddy as the Mississippi River Delta. Not that other aspects of language have been tamed into predictable standardization. Just looking at French or English spelling leaves one spellbound. Trying to pronounce the “gh” configuration is enough to make one run for the hills. Cough, though, through, thought, hiccough, slough (as a verb), plough, have you had enough?

Same thing with acronyms. Why should I capitalize “asap” when I don’t capitalize “scuba” or “radar” or “snafu”?

I understand why “NASA” and “MIA” are capitalized. The first one is the proper name of a proper agency. The second is pronounced as a serious of letters: we say “em, aye, ‘ey” and not “meea.” Similarly, we say “pea, oh, doubleyou” and not “pow” for POW. It, too, should be capitalized.

But not acronyms that are pronounced as words. “Self-contained underwater apparatus” became scuba and is pronounced “skoo/bə.” Who goes around saying, “Let’s go ess/see/you/bee/ay diving this weekend!” Who says, “There was such an “ess, en, a, eff, you at the airport last night!” No, we say, “sna/foo” because it has become a word, and as such, it is not capitalized.

Therefore, I’ve made my decision. I shall no longer pay attention to the chaotic pandemonium that is language as it is practiced with willfull inconsistency, at least where acronyms are concerned. From now on, I will capitalize only those acronyms that stand for proper names, FBI, CIA, DMV, WHO, NASDAQ, (even though these last two are pronounced as words), or that are pronounced as a series of letters, DIY, MD, UFO, HTML, LOL and so on. But those that have become words, and are pronounced like words, will, from now on, be in lower case, unless, of course, they begin a sentence, but only the first letter is capitalized.

Potus, scotus, sonar, laser, sars, swat, fubar, ram & rom, mpeg, jpeg, gif & tif, hazmat, motel, and asap. No more ASAP.

BTW (by the way), when researching material for this little blurb, I discovered that some linguists contrast acronyms with initialisms. Acronyms are pronounced as words, whereas intialisms are pronounced as a series of letters. “UNICEF” is an acronym; “ACLU” is an initialism. I like these linguists. Read on at: https://www.merriam-webster.com/words-at-play/whats-an-acronym


About the author

Roy Luna: Roy Luna is a retired French professor who dabbles in the arts, tinkers with music, reads heavily in fiction and history, but does not neglect biographies or science. His main efforts these days are devoted to writing a trilogy of novels based on events occurring during the years between the death of Voltaire (1778) and the French Revolution (1789-94), years rich in both enlightened human progress and dark, evil terror. Three times a week he volunteers at Dunbar Old Books, making sure orphaned books find their way to other readers. His library at home may have surpassed the 10,000 mark, and he valiantly tries to read them all… The one important thing to retain about Roy is his horror at the sins, the injustice, the atrocities, the crimes against humanity that are perpetrated and justified in the name of religion. Any belief system that condones such savagery has discarded its humanity, abandoned its compassion, and forsaken its principles of empathy, tolerance and love of one’s neighbor.


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