So today I thought that we’d cover a subject which you’ll have come across, but which you may not have heard explained specifically. And that subject is acronyms. That’s a word you may know – it may the same in your language – or you may not know that word. A-C-R-O-N-Y-M. It means when we shorten a name or phrase so that we use just its first letters.
You can find a pod cast version of this post here.
Important Every Day English Acronyms You Must Know
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Hi there, I’m Hilary and welcome to this latest podcast from Adept English. This is our free, weekly podcast which goes out on a Monday. It’s one of many podcasts that you can listen to for free – all with the purpose of helping you develop your understanding of spoken English. And spoken by someone – me – who is English and who knows the English language inside-out, as we say. We also offer courses – some you pay for, and one which is free. If you haven’t done our free course yet, The Seven Rules of Adept English, then you’re missing out. You can sign up for that for free on our website at adeptenglish.com. That course will also help you really understand how listening helps with language learning – and how pleased you’ll be with the progress you’ll make with our method.
So today I thought that we’d cover a subject which you’ll have come across, but which you may not have heard explained specifically. And that subject is acronyms. That’s a word you may know – it may the same in your language – or you may not know that word. A-C-R-O-N-Y-M. It means when we shorten a name or phrase so that we use just its first letters. So an example of an acronym that you’ll already know – when we say UK, that’s an acronym for United Kingdom. We also say it for other countries – like the USA is the United States of America. So that’s an acronym too. So let’s have a look at some common acronyms that you may come across. Perhaps you’ll know some of them, perhaps not others – or you may know what they mean, but you might not know what the words are that make them up. And when we explain an acronym, we say ‘it stands for’ or ‘it’s short for’. So the UK is short for United Kingdom and USA stands for the United States of America.
So let’s start with another example that you probably know – a UFO. Now UFOs were very popular. Apparently lots of them were around in the 1970s and the 1980s. Perhaps not so many of them now being seen. I wonder why that is? Anyway – UFO is short for ‘Unidentified Flying Object’. So ‘unidentified’ – if you ‘identify something’, that means that you find out what it is, you know what it is. But if something is unidentified, you don’t know what it is. Flying just comes from the verb to fly – so it’s flying around in the sky – and the word object just means a thing. So a UFO is an Unidentified Flying Object. Simple.
There are lots of these acronyms which we use all the time. If you look on the Adept English website, you’ll see a section called FAQs. FAQs stand for Frequently Asked Questions. Many websites have a section like this – and in Frequently Asked Questions – they try to answer the questions which people ask most frequently, most often. That makes sense, doesn’t it?! So they are FAQs.
So there are lots of acronyms. Some people use acronyms in conversation, but more often you’ll see them in emails, or on websites or messages of various kinds. So if someone says in a message ASAP – that stands for ‘As Soon As Possible’ – so that means if they’re asking for something, they want it straight away, they want it immediately. Similarly FYI – this stands for ‘For Your Information’ – so that might be a heading for some text which gives you information. Be a bit careful with both of these phrases – you might hear them used in spoken English, but if you say ASAP or FYI to people, it can sound a bit rude. It’s better to say the words if you’re speaking, rather than writing.
A couple of other acronyms, which you might see written down – in an email or a message people might use these – TBA. TBA means ‘To Be Advised’. So if someone is making an arrangement, an arrangement to meet someone, make a phone call with someone, or have a meeting, they might say TBA, To Be Advised, if the time and date hasn’t yet been agreed, hasn’t yet been decided. ‘Advised’ comes from the verb ‘to advise’ which can be used in different ways – but here ‘to advise’ is the same meaning as ‘to tell someone something’. So TBA or ‘To Be Advised’ means – we’ll tell you the details of the date and the time later on, when we’ve decided what they are. So that’s TBA.
Another similar acronym – ETA. If you have a couple, and one person is at home, looking after the children perhaps, cooking the dinner. And the other is coming back from work. And the first person, cooking the dinner – that’s often the wife or the woman, but in many households nowadays it’s the man – that person may message the other person, the one travelling home, saying ‘What’s your ETA?’ You can imagine this on a text message on your phone. ‘What’s your ETA?’ means what is your ‘Estimated Time of Arrival’? In other words, what time do you think that you’ll get here, what time will you arrive home? ‘Estimated’ comes from the verb ‘to estimate’ – which means to guess, to try to predict something that you don’t yet know. So the person on their way home might reply ‘Uh, I’m stuck in traffic, my ETA is about 7 o’clock – or 7pm’. ETA allows for the fact that dinner may need to be flexible. The person travelling can’t guarantee what time they’re going to be home. If you travel regularly in the UK, this is how it is. The trains, the roads, the number of people travelling at one time often means it’s a bit unpredictable. It’s difficult to say how long a journey will take. So it might be that the person doing the cooking is fed up by the time the other one arrives home – and it’s a ‘You’re late. Your dinner is in the dog’ situation.
What about some more? VAT is another acronym that you’ll hear. In fact, if you live in the EU – the European Union (there’s another acronym) – then you will know all about VAT. It’s the tax that the government charge on products, on things, products or services that you buy. So if you’re buying something online – then you’ll notice that you’re charged VAT on what you buy. Some money is added on. If you live outside the EU, you’re lucky – you don’t have this. So what does VAT stand for? This is very annoying this one – it means ‘Value Added Tax’ – so it’s a tax, apparently with ‘added value’. I’m not sure that that’s true, but there you are ‘Value Added Tax’. It’s something that was implemented first in France in the 1950s ‘Taxe sur la Valeur Ajoutee or TVA’, which was adopted in the UK in 1973. Most French exports are good things – camembert, French bread, champagne – but not this one! I guess if France hadn’t thought of it though, someone else would. So VAT, Value Added Tax.
And a final acronym, just to finish off. You probably have a bank account – most people do – and you have a card which allows you to pay for things out of your bank account? Well, if you want to pay for things in a shop or a restaurant or you want to get your money out from the ATM (there’s another one – the Automatic Teller Machine), the ‘hole in the wall’ as we call it in the UK, then you’ll need not just your bank card, but also your PIN. Your PIN is the four digit number that you use when you’re taking out money. You have to keep it secret, so that your money is secure. PIN stands for Personal Identification Number. So the number that only you know and which therefore personally identifies you as the owner of the card. I’m sure you know what I mean by this!
OK so that’s enough acronyms for now. Shall we do a little test, then you can see which ones you remembered? I’ll read them back to you now.
So do you remember what UFO stands for?
And then FAQ or FAQs?
Do you remember ASAP?
We also talked about ETA
And then that happy subject – VAT.
And finally, we talked about PIN – what is your PIN, do you remember?
OK, that’s enough for now. Listen to this podcast a number of times, until you understand all the words – and then listen a few more times, so that you can understand any new vocabulary automatically and you’re more likely to remember it. Have a lovely day, speak to you again soon. Goodbye.