‘Word of the Week’ is DYT’s weekly partnership with author Tim Glynn-Jones. Each week Tim will choose a word, exploring the history behind its meaning, pulling upon an assortment of wry observations on life as well as revealing some surprising historical facts and amusing home truths. This week: IT
|Apologies if you work in Information Technology, but a recent survey carried out among a comprehensive sample group of one (me) revealed that your industry has the worst acronym in the world. There’s nothing funny about IT. And you can quote me on that.
Firstly, it’s not much of an acronym if you have to spell it out every time you say it. That puts it in the same league as the FA, which is no league to be in. Secondly, using one of the most popular words in the English language as your acronym has to be the most ill-considered linguistic error since France chose to call the world’s favourite hot drink ‘the’.
This morning I saw an advert that read, in block capitals, ‘ARE YOU HAVING PROBLEMS WITH IT?’ In response to which I instinctively glanced down and then quite reasonably thought to myself, ‘With what?’ You see the problem? Confusions of this nature happen every day with IT, which is ironic really because no-one likes an acronym more than the IT crowd, so you’d have thought they’d have put a bit more thought into it. But then they’re partial to a bit of confusion too, aren’t they?
It – by which I mean it – is a fantastically versatile word, a gloriously economical pronoun, proven to give more value per letter than any other word in the entire English language. Try writing a sentence in English without using it. It’s not easy. See! It can be emphatic (that’s it), dramatic (this is it) and cool (he’s really it).
When they invented it, like a good parent they said, ‘Go out and be whatever you want to be, little one.’ And just to make sure it didn’t go off the rails, they laid down a couple of ground rules, specifically concerning apostrophes –that strike fear and self-doubt into people of all ages. For the ‘it apostrophe’ is the most misplaced piece of punctuation in the history of mankind. It’s renowned for its misplacement.
OK, quick time out.
Its (no apostrophe) = belonging to it. Like his, hers and theirs.
Back in the 70s, you couldn’t get through a break time without hearing it at least 382 times. ‘You’re it!’ ‘No I’m not, you’re it.’ ‘No, you’re it. ‘You’re it. ‘Who’s it?’ ‘Are you it?’ ‘No, you’re it now.’ ‘You’re it.’ ‘You’re it.’ ‘You really think you’re it, don’t you?’ ‘No I don’t. You think you’re it.’ ‘OK, that does it…’
We knew how to make our own fun in those days.
Kids in the early 1900s had similar issues with It Girls, who drank Gin & It (Italian vermouth, not Indian Tonic) and had it but didn’t flaunt it because it wasn’t the done thing. And throughout it all, everybody knew what it meant in every instance. Never was it misinterpreted, confused or misunderstood… until it became the worst acronym in the world.
Word of the Week is a collaboration between DYT and author Tim Glynne-Jones. Word of the Week began as a weekly blog in 2016. A book of the first 52 words in the series – Word of the Week: Volume One – is available to buy at word-of-the-week.com.
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