The new age of rebellion through abbreviations

Aakanksha Veenapani

My mother does not like abbreviations. I confess, I do. She thinks that they, and I quote, kill creativity and brain cells. I use ‘lol,’ and ‘brb’ in   (virtual) conversation. I can understand dislike or even contempt for abbreviations, yet my mother despises them with a passion I didn’t think abbreviations could incur. Chalk it up to being out of the loop or never needing to text, but she has never liked them and never will, and I felt compelled to figure out why. Unexpectedly, I found the answer in my senior seminar class. All it took was one not-so-simple theory: post-modernism. Or po-mo, if you are of that persuasion.  

Post-modernism is beyond description, striving for that indescribability without wanting to appear to be striving for anything at all. It often defines itself in terms of everything it is not (it is not: realism, romanticism or modernism), making it hard to see what it is. It is so anti-hero, anti-tradition, anti-linearity, anti-description that, sometimes, it just seems anti-understanding.    

As a generation, our narrative is post-modern. We are not: the baby-boomers, the hippies, generation X. But then, what are we? What do we stand for? We do not have a unifying, over-arching narrative of political and social consciousness through which to view the world. We love Stephen Colbert because we like to undermine authority of any kind. We are a negative response to the hippie, revolution-loving generation before us. Our hippie parents have given birth to the Che-Guevera t-shirt wearing Yippies –– we crave our Gucci and our ganja and our revolution doesn’t take place on the streets.  

But it is not any less powerful or evocative than if it did. Our revolution is much subtler, more subversive and does not appear to be a revolution at all –– did anybody say post-modern? And abbreviations are the perfect example of our rebellion. Language is no longer sacred in the hands of a post-modern generation. We don’t care about tradition and wields as much authority as the Oxford English Dictionary.  

Abbreviations are playful but they re-write the way we see ourselves. Aesthetics and eloquently crafted sentences don’t depict our world, 140 characters on twitter do (somewhere a modern-day Dickens is thinking “fml”).   Abbreviations are jarring fragments, untraditional, dismissed by the authorities and, in true po-mo style, they are constantly evolving. ‘Lol’ and ‘brb’ are now trite –– it is the age of ‘fml’ and ‘idk’. For the next two weeks at least.  

 I don’t think acronyms are a reason to bemoan the death of creativity or our brain cells –– in fact, just the opposite. They are the epitome of the post-modern, tongue-in-cheek way of life. They are our revolution against the proverbial Man. Sure, in our fight against that proverbial Man, we don’t take to the streets, tie ourselves to trees or fast unto death. Instead, we take the passion of the street into chat-rooms, onto blogs and podcasts. It is not as visible as revolutions before us, but it is potent nonetheless.   As a post-modern generation, we re-define our words to re-define the world.