Accents & Acronyms: “WIIFM” What’s In It For Me?
If you read my blogs, you’ll know that I like to find article references on HBR. You know, “Harvard Business Review”. This time, I wanted to find an article about acronyms, prompted by a recent experience.

I was in Cambridge, Massachusetts a couple of weeks ago, listening to others as they were speaking in the bookstores, coffee shops and cafeteria while we were eating lunch each day. In Cambridge, as you probably know, there is an abundance of technical, business and scientific people; these people use a lot of acronyms.

Acronyms are like another language with terms typically relative only to the specific group. As noted in Dan Pallotta’s 12-05-11 Harvard Business Review blog, we often have less than a vague idea of their meaning. When the individual is speaking English as a second or third language, acronyms get mispronounced, making it even harder for the listener to understand.

A simple example is when the acronym CEO becomes a single 2-syllable short “sih-oh” versus the three (3) separate words it is supposed to be > “SEE–EE-OH”.

Often, acronyms are pronounced as individual letters. Each letter in the English alphabet is pronounced as a specific [vowel or diphthong], [consonant + vowel or diphthong], or [diphthong or vowel + consonant]. Of course, there are exceptions like OSHA which is pronounced OH-shah.

A = “Eh-EE”:

B = “B-EE”

C = “S-EE”

D = “D-EE”

F = “Eh-F”

G = “J-EE”

H = “Eh-EE-CH”

I = “Ah-EE”

J = “ J-Eh-EE”

K = “K-Eh-EE”

L = “ Eh-L”

M = “IH-M”

N = “IH-N”

O = “O>”

[Pronounced with lips pushed forward]

P = “P-EE”

Q = “KYU”

R = “Ah-R”

S = “Eh-S”

T = “T-EE”

U = “Y-U”

V = “V-EE”

X = “Eh-k-s”

Y = “W-Ah-EE

Some Common ErrorsA > “ eh”
B > “b-ih”

C > “s-ih”

D > “d-ih”

E > “ih”

F > “ih-f”

G > “j-ih”

H > “Ih-ch”

K > “K-eh”

Note: A “diphthong” is two-vowel sounds put together. For example, the “I” sound is a diphthong of “ah”+ “ee”.

Here’s a link to a useful guide. Try saying each of these common business acronyms as individual letter-words.

If we are going to “talk the talk”, we had better be able to say it so that others understand it.