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24 September 2014

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Microsoft UK's Reading Campus
Microsoft UK's Reading Campus

Voices: Acronyms

Listen to some employees discussing acronyms and how their meaning sometimes gets lost...

Among the jargon-heavy IT industry of Berkshire, one organisation stands head and shoulders above all others for their legendary use of acronyms: Microsoft.

We spoke to four employees about their experiences of dealing with TLAs (three-letter acronyms), FLAs (four-letter acronyms) and abstract project names. It's something most of us have to deal with at some point in life, whether you simply turn on your DSAT HDTV and scroll through the EPG for this PM (see what's on the telly tonight) or whether you're the recipient of a dreaded P45. You might later boot up your PC, launch IE6 to and enjoy some HTML, an MP3 or a DVD.

Meet the interviewees

Microsoft's UK HQ is in Reading, but gathers its workforce from around the country.
Allister Frost is 33 and from Walton-on-the-naze, Essex
Angus Lyon is 37 and from Bishops Stortford, Herts
Stephen Lamb is 34 and from Elloughton, Hull
Lucy Millington is 30 and from Kempton, Bedfordshire

They told us about what it's like coming to work in a place where acronym use is widespread. It's difficult for someone new to an organisation to get to grips with the acronyms in use. Then you get used to them, but a couple of years later, the original meaning of the acronym becomes lost and nobody can remember what it means!

That's when someone in another department comes up with a new project or process and uses the same acronym to describe it, giving your precious acronym a new, different meaning...

The clips

You can listen to the audio clips of our interviewees through the links on the right-hand side.

"Within the tech industry..."
Allister Frost explains why a project doesn't exist until it has an acronym attached to it.

"The thing I find hardest..."
Stephen Lamb says that sometimes where you are affects the meaning of an acronym.

"There are hundreds of acronyms..."
Angus Lyon highlights how difficult it is for newcomers to get used to it all.

"There was an interview done..."
Stephen Lamb on WAGHW - When Acronyms Go Horribly Wrong...

"Even beyond the technology..."
Of course, it's not just technical things which have acronyms, as Lucy Millington explains.

"The language that we use internally..."
Allister Frost likes being part of the GFA - Global Family of Acronyms.

last updated: 03/05/05
Have Your Say
Share your pointless and not-so-pointless acronyms here before it all gets FUBAR...
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I disagree with Bob Spicer. Surely an acronym is defined as a short hand using the initial letters such as LAN for Local Area Network. This makes BBC and IBM acronyms, while an abbreviation is a shortened form of a word such as 'uni' for university.

Bob Spicer
I was appalled when I listened to the comments from the Microsoft staff who did not seem to know the difference between an acronym and an abbreviation. The abbreviation TLA stands for three letter ABBREVIATION, such as BBC or IBM. It does not stand for three letter acronyn. An acronym is a word made up of the initial letters of other words, such as RADAR, SONAR etc. There seems to be a popular misunderstanding of the distinction between the two.

lucy millington is the coolest

Dougie Lawson
The reason that we IT folks use acronyms for everything is exactly the same as doctors using Latin. It means that the unwashed masses see computing as a specialist arena, they don't realise that it's simple and will pay top dollar to have the "computer expert" handle their IT needs. It helps to continue the myth that computers should be kept in the basement and only tended by the bearded, long haired sysprog (wearing sandals). If we open up all the acronyms and abbreviations we'll spoil the job that pays my mortgage. My favorite pointless acronyms are: TLA - three lettered acronym; TLA/E - three letter acronym / enhanced (four letters) and XTLA/E - eXtended three letter acronym / enhanced. FUBAR is, of course, "fouled" up beyond all recognition and not anything else.

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