One linguistic tool used every day is acronyms – names or words consisting of abbreviations of the initial letters or syllables of a phrase. The top 50 acronyms include short forms used for popular film genres. Rom-coms (romantic comedies) make you LOL (Laugh out loud) and sci-fi (science fiction) incorporates many hi-tech SFX (Special Effects). Some countries and organisations also use acronyms, e.g. the USA, EU, UN (United Nations), UK or GB and NATO. The leaders of the G8 or G20 nations are VIPs who meet to discuss global issues like CO2 emissions. People remember the USSR, AKA (Also Known As) the Soviet Union. Humanitarian organisations like UNESCO also use acronyms, as do the world’s best known broadcasters, the BBC and CNN. New York and Los Angeles are often called NY – with JFK airport – and LA. The first syllables of Belgium, Netherlands and Luxembourg – make up the term Benelux.

To read more about acronyms, go to English Matters special edition English Long-term Calendar available at