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by Steven D. Johnson
Racine, Wisconsin

This month:

Woodworkers Need More Acronyms


The Deep Discount Tool Store

Tour Of A Mid-Size Pallet Manufacturing Company

Woodworking Acronyms

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We were chatting over coffee and looking at our computers, neither endeavor garnering our full attention until my friend became absorbed in an email, grunted derisively, and muttered a couple of probable expletives too quietly for me to hear above the din of a hissing espresso machine. "What's up?" I asked.

"Can you believe this? Look at this!" He turned his computer around so I could read the email. After a moment I had no choice but to tell him that not only could I not believe it, I couldn't understand it. The email, from someone he works with, was so full of his business-specific acronyms that it might as well have been written in code.

My buddy tried to explain the meaning of the acronyms in the context of the email, but I never did figure out what riled him so. But the memo did get me thinking about acronyms. Once, it seemed, they were solely the lingua franca of government bureaucrats. NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration), FRED (Federal Reserve Economic Data), and PILOT (Planetary Image Locator Tool) are examples. These are "true" acronyms. We call these acronyms, too: FDA, GSA, NSA, and TSA. But in reality these are initialisms. Acronyms are initials that make words; initialisms are initials that make, well, nothing. Common usage today, however, is that any series of letters, whether they spell a word or not, is an acronym.

Of late, the business world has gotten on board. Since the turn of the century there has been an explosion of new business acronyms. We always had EBIT (Earnings Before Interest & Taxes) and its big brother EBITDA (Earnings Before Interest, Taxes, Depreciation & Amortization), but those were principally accountant-speak. Now the whole business world talks (and writes) in shorthand acronyms like Capex (Capital Expenditure), TCO (Total Cost of Ownership), and KPI (Key Performance Indicator). Companies make up their own specific acronyms, too. My friend's email mentioned KSP, TTN, and ARK… I have no idea what those mean.

The current blizzard of email, texts, instant messaging, and blogging has obviously contributed to our infatuation with, and for, acronyms. It is not just kids that use OMG, IMO, BFF, and (my personal fave) WTF. We have become a truncated, abbreviated, initialized, shorthanded populace. And there is absolutely no reason woodworkers should not also GWTP (Get With The Program).

Oh, to be sure, we have a few. RAS means "radial arm saw," TS is "table saw," SCMS is "sliding compound miter saw," and the much overused X, meaning "cross," i.e. "X-Cut Sled." But we can do better! In fact, I propose that we woodworkers usurp certain common acronyms and redefine them for our private cabal.

In our exclusive secret society of woodworkers WTF would now mean "Work To Finish," i.e. "Can't waste time texting with you anymore, I have WTF." BF, as it should, means "Board Feet" in our woodworking world, not "Boy Friend." Kids text other kids that their "Parents Are Watching" by typing PAW. For us, PAW will mean "Part Away," as in, "I screwed up that dovetail and had to throw that PAW."

We all like to show off our shops. When the outside world types TIME they mean "Tears In My Eyes." We mean, "This Is My Equipment," usually followed by a string of photographs. SSDD always meant "Same Stuff, Different Day," but to an excited woodworker it is "SawStop Delivery Day!" Even if you have never texted or tweeted you know the acronyms OMG and LOL. But did you know woodworkers have changed these to mean "Outside My Garage" (It was a pretty day so I was sanding Outside My Garage) and "Lots Of Lumber" (I just went to the store and bought Lots Of Lumber).

Some folks communicate through IMS (Instant Message System). If you send me one and I don't answer right away, it is because I am IMS (In My Shop). RTSM in response to a stupid question means "Read The Stupid Manual." Okay, no real reason to change that one. And I guess we can keep this one for sarcastic responses when the acronym avalanche buries us fully: YABA (Yet Another Bloody Acronym).

NE1 think I'm JJA? Heck no! We can form a sub rosa committee for the cataloging of woodworking-specific acronyms and post them to Woodipedia. After all, while Chris is busy documenting all knowledge of woodworking, past and present, he could miss something! AGH.

* Just to help the Luddites:
  • NE1 = Anyone
  • JJA = Just Joking Around
  • AGH = Ain't Gonna Happen
* Here are a few all-purpose acronyms that while not woodworking-specific, will help woodworkers communicate:
  • YF = Wife
  • YL = Young Lady
  • XYL = Ex-Young Lady, which means Wife (that one is going to get me in trouble)
  • X! = Typical Woman (that one is going to get me in even more trouble)
  • Y! = Typical Man (to be fair)
  • HIVI = Husband Is Village Idiot (I put this in for additional redemption)
  • OM = Old Man
  • DOM = Well, you can figure this one out

Got more? Send them in by emailing downtoearthwoodworks@me.com. We will compile all that are fit for publication in a family-oriented newsletter!

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