Tweeting our way toward peace

Keep Dreaming: Our proclivity for shorthand will, in the long run, inevitably lead to a major misunderstanding. TMOT.

Scrabble_521 (photo credit: David Breakstone)
(photo credit: David Breakstone)
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 coffee.
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 Tempting).
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 Luck.
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).
ALL OF 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 (Acronyms 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).
US Secretary of State (SOS): OSINTOT (Obama Says Israel Needs To Offer Territory)
NSA: ONNTA (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)
SOS: Right. Especially the Palestinians. LMAO (Let’s Mitigate Abbas’s Objections)
NSA: Go for it. LMIRT (Let’s Make Israel Relinquish Territory)
SOS: Careful. 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).
NSA: TMOT (That’s Most Obviously True). Need Hamas to cooperate now.
SOS: If we could only get them to FGS (Free Gilad Schalit).
NSA: KD (Keep Dreaming)
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.