Chopping Off Syllables
Here’s a fab app for keeping track of your lab info docs, vocab lists, and rehab meds.
English speakers have been lopping syllables off words for centuries. And thank goodness for that when it comes to such mouthfuls as taximeter-cabriolet and streptococcus. I’d much rather call a cab or a taxi and talk about avoiding strep-throat.
I can’t help wondering, though, if the English spoken a generation or two in the future will consist of staccato sentences in which words of one and two syllables predominate.
Here are some shortenings already in common use:
doc – document.
exam – examination
fab – fabulous
graph – paragraph
info – information
lab – laboratory
meds – medications
op – opinion/operative/opportunity
promo – promotion (with meaning of advertising)
prep – preparation
rehab – rehabilitation
sax – saxophone
vac – vacuum (I’ve also seen it used as a shortened form of vacation, but I don’t know how that vac is supposed to be pronounced.)
vet – veterinarian or veteran
vocab – vocabulary
Some of these shortenings, even the ones I use in my own speech, bother me when I see them in formal writing. Others don’t faze me because I’ve grown used to them.
That’s the way of change in language. What infuriates one generation of speakers is mother’s milk to the next.
I recall reading a novel written in the early 20th century–by Booth Tarkington (1869-1946) I think–in which a young man is chided by one of his parents for using the slangy word “lunch” instead of “luncheon.”
Nowadays lunch is the common word for a meal between breakfast and supper. The word luncheon has not fallen completely out of use, but has acquired an altered meaning. My associations with luncheon include fussy repasts provided by and for ladies in flowered hats, and SPAM luncheon meat.
Is the shortening of words a bad thing?
Not necessarily, but–depending upon the intended audience–writers should probably give some thought to which shortened forms they promote by committing them to print.
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