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TLAs - aka Singapore’s fetish with acronyms

By Murray Bourne, 07 Mar 2006

I was staggered in my first months in Singapore. Almost everything becomes an acronym.

On the first day in my job here, I had to try to figure what everyone was talking about, as the following flowed easily:

  • PIE (Pan Island Expressway)
  • ECE (Electronics and Computer Engineering)
  • AET (Academic Excellence Team)
  • HDB (Housing Development Board)
  • ERP (Electronic Road Pricing)
  • MRT (Mass Rapid transit)
  • PAP (People's Action Party)

And there were many more.

You will notice that all the examples above share an important characteristic. They are all TLAs (Three Letter Acronyms)...

These days, I try to convince writers to avoid acronyms. They are a severe impediment to understanding.

Today was a classic case. The acronym "DIQ" was in an email to me on discipline issues. I asked a few people what "DIQ" was and no-one seemed to know. I asked the author of the email and she replied "Discipline Inquiry". Go figure.

Footnote 1: Wak - I used 2 TLAs in the heading for this post. It's getting to me...

Footnote 2: My favourite Singapore acronym is "BGR". This is a particularly relevant problem for angst-ridden teenagers. It stands for "boy girl relations".

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