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On this day in 1922 the British Broadcasting Company (BBC) was formed. In its almost one hundred years as the United Kingdom’s public-service broadcast service on both radio and television, it has been responsible for propagating what is known as Received Pronunciation.
What the printing press did for making written English standard, the BBC has done for making spoken British English standard. With a variety of regional dialects of English in the United Kingdom, the BBC created an Advisory Committee on Spoken English in 1926 to explore and establish the best forms of pronunciation among competing usages. The influence and popularity of BBC broadcasts, especially during World War II, established the English spoken on air as the “correct” way to speak English. This Received Pronunciation goes by several names: “Standard English,” “the Queen’s English,” “Oxford English,” “Public School English,” or “BBC English.”
“BBC” is an example of a three-letter abbreviation (TLA), the common method in English of condensing language to save time and space. Whether it’s the name of corporations (IBM), politicians (JFK), computer terms (CPU), agencies (CIA), countries (UAE), or text messaging (LOL), TLAs continue to be ALR (all the rage).
One distinction should be made in regard to two key terms associated with abbreviations: acronyms and initialisms.
An abbreviation is the general term for any shortened form of a word or phrase, such as Oct. for October.
An acronym is a specific type of abbreviation in which the first letters of words are combined to form a word, as in RAM (Random Access Memory).
An initialism is another specific type of abbreviation in which the first letter of words are combined as upper case letters with each letter pronounced as an individual letter, as in FBI = “F” – “B” – “I.”
As you examine examples of TLAs, you will discover that the vast majority fit in the category of initialisms. Many are familiar. Look at the gaggle of TLAs below to see which ones you recognize, and use a good dictionary to look up the ones you don’t.
ABC, AKA, BCS, CBS, CEO, CIA, CNN, CPA, CPU, DNA, DVD, EKG, FAQ, FYI, HIV, IBM, IOU, IRA, LCD, LDS, MLB, NBA, NBC, NFL, NHL, NYU, POW, SAT, SDI, UFO, VHS, WWW
TLAs harness the Rule of Three (ROT), a powerful principle in writing that recognizes that there seems to be something special, maybe even magical, about things in three. There’s nothing new about this principle. In Latin it was stated as Omne trium perfectum, or “everything that comes in threes is perfect.” Likewise, the French motto “Liberty, Equality, Fraternity” demonstrates the brevity, rhythm, and balance of a tried and true trio.
Today’s Challenge: Three-peat After Me
What is a three-word motto that you would use to sum up a principle for success in life, whether at work, at school, at home, or some other aspect of human endeavor? Brainstorm some original mottos and sum them up with a TLA. For example, in the film Glengarry Glen Ross (1984), the motto for success in selling real estate is ABC = “Always Be Closing.” To prime the pump here are a few other example mottos:
Be the change (BTC)
Dream, believe, achieve (DBA)
Just do it (JDI)
Pain is gain (PIG)
Love conquers all (LCA)
Keep it simple (KIS)
Quitters aren’t winners (QAW) (2)
Once you’ve settled on your TLA motto, write a short motivational message in which you explain what it means, using appropriate examples and anecdotes to illustrate why it is a motto worth remembering and how it will help the audience achieve success. (Common Core Writing 1 – Argument)
1-Crystal, David. Evolving English. London: British Library, 2010: 57.
2-Samuel, Victory. 199 Three-Word Phrases That Will Make You a Better Person. Thought Catalog 10 Mar. 2015.