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Words for Thought: You may LOL when you read the history of these words

Today’s language is awash with acronyms, especially for those who communicate by texting or computer chat. It is almost a code, which is a way many people love to communicate. Those of us who lived during the years following WWII, or who have served in the military, know all about coded communication.

Try to recognize which in this list of words is not from an acronym: Nylon, Radar, Laser, Scuba, Sonar, Snafu and Flak.

If you picked “nylon,” you are correct, although there are myths attached to the origin of the word in 1940 such as, NY-London, or “Now you’ve lost Old Nippon (Japan).”

Moving on to the word “flak.” it dates back to WWI, and it is an acronym for the German term for anti-aircraft weapons: “Flieger Abwehr Kanone,” or flyer defense gun. As is true of the other words in this list, Flak has left the world of acronyms to become a full-fledged word — it is no longer written in all capital letters. Flak has taken off on a use of its own: we have “flak jackets,” we “catch some flak” or “give some flak.”

Some effort has been made to further Anglicize it by the spelling “flack.”

Radar may not fool many people, as its origin as an acronym is widely known. Like so many acronyms, it came into use in 1940, and is an acronym for “Radio Detection and Ranging.” Now one can exist below the radar, or appear on the radar without using it to refer to radio detection. Sonar is a close cousin of radar, meaning “Sound Navigation and Ranging”.

“Scuba” was readily adapted as an English word in its own right, with scuba gear, scuba diving, without awareness that it is actually an acronym for “Self-contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus.” Scuba first came into use in 1939, and like radar, is a US Navy invention.

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