Acronym overload shortens brain function

July 04, 2013|Lisa Prejean

After attending an all-day continuing education class for teachers and then two days worth of orientation programs at a public university, I am on acronym overload.

I don’t think my brain can process even one more abbreviation, so, please, don’t send one my way.

According to Webster’s New World College Dictionary, an acronym is a word formed from the first (or first few) letters of a series of words, such as radar, from radio detecting and ranging.

The first two letters in radio — ra — added to the “d” in “detecting” — rad — added to the “a” in “and” — rada —added to the “r” in “ranging” = radar.

But most people don’t even have radar on their acronym radar. We’ve seen the word so often that we think it got its start as an actual word, not as an acronym.

Perhaps that’s what people in education research and development are hoping will happen with the many acronyms that roll off their tongues. Either that or it makes them sound really smart. We want smart people teaching our children, so perhaps this approach works.

Acronyms also make everything sound important. After college orientation, my son was explaining to his grandmother that he is part of the EIP honors program. She thought he said “VIP.” She shook her head in agreement and said, “Of course, you are.”

Doesn’t every grandmother think her grandchildren are Very Important Persons?

Actually, he was trying to explain that he was part of the Entrepreneurship and Innovation Program. That’s a mouthful, so I guess it was easier for the organizers to refer to the program as EIP.

However, for VVP’s —Very Verbal People (I made this up) — like me, acronyms are like roadblocks in the middle of a sentence. I can’t skip over them. I can’t read around them. I have to plow right through them and process letter by letter as my brain picks apart the acronym, one word at a time.

It is a laborious process.

As someone who loves reading with children and teaching them how to decode words quickly, acronyms are frustrating.

I really think they should be banned.

That will never happen, though, because the texting world is full of acronyms. Most of these I don’t know until a student accidentally includes one in a paper for English class. Then I quickly find out the meaning. Thankfully, I have two teenagers who can help decipher those out-of-place acronyms.

This comes from a woman who initially thought that LOL means “Lots of Love.”

Go ahead. Laugh out Loud.

See, once the brain is on overload, it creates its own answers.

I’m sure there has been an important study done on this.

It probably has a complicated acronym to accompany it, too.

Lisa Tedrick Prejean writes a weekly column for The Herald-Mail’s Family page. Send email to her at

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