With Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and President Barack Obama having
recently drafted major policy statements on the Middle East, the age-old adage
ascribing greater might to the pen than to the sword is once again being put to
the test. But this time ’round, with Facebook- fueled regional transformation
afoot, handheld devices have also entered the contest.
You may not have
seen it, but the other day America’s Commander in Chief not only dropped his
BlackBerry coming out of Air Force One, but was caught on tape bending down to
pick it up himself, a clip that news stations across America found worthy of
screening repeatedly. Why this incident was considered so important was lost on
me until I realized that if someone else had recovered the phone and WikiLeaked
its contents, our region might once again have been thrown into
turmoil. Keep reading.
IT’S BEEN a tough few years for those of us
who care about words. The advent of instant messaging, followed by texting (yet
to make its way into the dictionary), has wreaked havoc on the art of language,
threatening to replace the gentle love of idiom with a rapacious lust for
phrases that gobbles them up whole, chomps on them voraciously, and spits them
out in pieces with barely any allusion to their former splendor, at least AFAIC
(As Far As I’m Concerned) – one of more than 1,000 officially recognized
acronyms that allow the technologically au courant to communicate with one
another via an everdecreasing number of digital clicks.
Presumably it is
just a matter of time until these non-words find their way into the English
lexicon. In the meantime, when playing Scrabble, do we or do we not allow
“google”? What about “grande”? FGS (For God’s Sake), without them we’d be unable
to find the nearest *$s (pronounced “star bucks”) and order a medium- size
Talking about ordering, I note in fairness that the use of
acronyms cannot be blamed entirely on Israel and the gift of ICQ (I seek you)
that it gave to the world.
After all, for generations Americans have been
able to walk into a diner and order a BLT, knowing that they’d be served a
simple bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwich.
But things have become far
more complicated of late. The first time I came across LGBT, I figured someone
had added a dollop of guacamole to the traditional classic. That was before I
become aware of the burgeoning Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender community and
the realization that, depending on the sort of establishment I was in, asking
for an LGBT might instead land me with a KOTL (Kiss On The Lips) from a MOSS
(Member Of Same Sex) who considers me PHAT (Pretty Hot And
Which only hammers home the homily I’ll refrain from
delivering that our proclivity for shorthand will, in the long run, inevitably
lead to us putting that proverbial foot in our collective mouth, or, at best, to
major misunderstandings. TMOT
. Trust me on this.LOL
is a good
case in point. It is one of the most commonly tweeted expressions, and until
yesterday I was certain that it stood either for Lots of Love or Lots of
Turns out its official meaning is Laughing Out Loud, an
etymological cousin of ROTFLOL
(Rolling On The Floor Laughing Out Loud), not to
be confused with LMAO
(Laughing My Ass Off), something one does while sending
the message ONNTA
(Oh No Not That Again) to a friend who has just committed the
same faux pas for the hundredth time.
What can we conclude from all this?
If in the past it was the parents who conversed in Yiddish (or Italian or Greek)
when they didn’t want their offspring to understand what they were talking
about, today it is the children who have created a language unintelligible to
their elders, from whom they are obviously hiding things, or there wouldn’t be a
need to abruptly stop their online chatting with that most alarming contraction
of all: AITR
(Adult In The Room) or the similar PAW
(Parents Are Watching),
sometimes followed by LMIRT
(Let’s Meet In Real Time) ASAP
(As Soon As
Possible). Of course, mom or dad could always confiscate the iPhone and decipher
the backlog of messages by checking out the dictionary of Internet initials as I
have, an idea likely to cause young readers to respond with a favorite of the
phrases I found there: OSINTOT
(Oh S*** I Never Thought of That).
which brings me back to Obama’s fallen BlackBerry. Somehow in surfing for
meaning I inadvertently hacked into a classified alternative rendition of the
same abbreviations cited above, along with a series of tweets making use of
them. The following exchange is best appreciated if both versions of the
acronyms are considered simultaneously. This is what nearly spilled onto the
tarmac: National Security Adviser (NSA
): Communicate in secret AFAIC
for Arab-Israel Conflict). Need to do something.
Embarrassing to have
been caught by surprise with MOSS (Mubarak Ousted Somewhat Surprisingly). Bad
for our image. Suggest spin: ASAP (Abbas Serious About Peace).
Secretary of State (SOS): OSINTOT
(Obama Says Israel Needs To Offer Territory)
(Obama’s Naïve, Not Terribly Astute). Netanyahu won’t budge as long
as he’s concerned about ROTFLOL
(Rockets Over The Fence Lobbed Outta Lebanon)
SOS: Count on Ehud Barak. Remember he was LOL
(Last Outta Lebanon). More
important to placate AITR
(Arabs In The Region)
NSA: Agreed, and you’re the one
to appeal to those who are PHAT
(Palestinians, Hamas And Taliban)
Especially the Palestinians. LMAO
(Let’s Mitigate Abbas’s Objections)
NSA: Go for it. LMIRT
(Let’s Make Israel Relinquish Territory)
Don’t want Netanyahu to think PAW
(Palestinians Are Winning)
NSA: No problem.
Just give him the KOTL
(Kotel) he wants so desperately. And remind him he still
owes us for his BLT
(Bin Laden Terminated).
SOS: He’ll tell me Israel got
nothing for supporting LGBT
(Leaving Gaza Behind Totally).
(That’s Most Obviously True). Need Hamas to cooperate now.
SOS: If we
could only get them to FGS
(Free Gilad Schalit).
Still, I prefer a war of words to a world of war, and can only hope that all
involved are motivated by the same objective and moving in the same direction,
guided by a reliable GPS
(Good Peaceful Solution).
I just wish the
differences between us were only a matter of semantics.The writer is
vice chairman of the World Zionist Organization and a member of the Jewish
Agency Executive. The opinions expressed in this column are his own.