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Please watch your acronyms - Curt Yeomans

I never again want to hear people refer to Valentine's Day the way my friends referred to the holiday last weekend.

In this world of text message lingo, people need to know that there are limits to using shortened names for things. My friends certainly did not realize this, and I got the shock of my life as a result.

They shortened Valentine's Day to the acronym "VD." And, it was not just one or two of them. Oh no. It was several of them.

"Happy VD"!??

"Are you enjoying your VD?"

"How did you celebrate your VD?"

It drove me insane. Why? Because "VD" has traditionally been the acronym for Venereal Disease. If you're a young adult, who may not remember hearing that acronym in the past, think "Sexually Transmitted Disease." In fact, let's leave it at that. You should not need any other reason to avoid using "VD" as an acronym for Valentine's Day.

I had to keep pointing out to my friends that every time they used "VD" to talk about Valentine's Day, they made me think of an old, 1970's Public Service Announcement, called "VD is for Everybody."

My friends chuckled at my assertion. One of them said it was OK to use the acronym, because he assumes people know what he means when he says "VD" on Valentine's Day.

Sorry, but that does not excuse the acronym's use!

When you think about it, there are several acronyms which tend to be confusing. In some cases, however, they are commonly used to refer to multiple entities.

Take the SEC as an example. You could either be talking about the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, or the more athletically-inclined Southeastern Conference.

Another college athletics conference, the Atlantic Coast Conference, or the ACC, shares a similar fate. ACC is also the acronym for the American College of Cardiology.

I'll take another example,which may not be as commonly known - USM. To me, USM means the University of Southern Mississippi, because that is where I went to college. However, USM is also the acronym for the University of Southern Maine. It is also close to USMC, which stands for the United States Marine Corp.

I found an interesting web site that comes up with several meanings for acronyms, called www.acronymattic.com. You type in an acronym in a search field, and this web site will tell you anything that the acronym could possibly mean.

In some cases, some of the groups, agencies and concepts listed as meanings for the acronyms make you scratch your head, though. They just don't use the acronyms the web site claims they do.

However, the site is still great for laughs.

Apparently, an STD is both a sexually transmitted disease, AND a sacred theology degree, according to the web site.

So, here are my parting words. As we move into a world dominated by text messaging and Internet-based communication, we should be careful of how we speak. Just because it is quicker to wish someone a "Happy VD" on Valentine's Day, it doesn't mean you should do it.

Someone is going to misinterpret what you say, and the next thing you know, rumors will abound that someone you were talking to has a venereal disease.

Now, is that something you want on your conscience?

Curt Yeomans covers education for the Clayton News Daily. He can be reached at (770) 478-5753, ext. 247, or via e-mail at cyeomans@news-daily.com.