Although it may seem that the use of acronyms in everyday speech and writing is a relatively new fad, the practice has been going in and out of fashion for a long time. The use of popular acronym is spawned out of a joint desire to keep a secretive language for the initiated and also from the drive to shorten correspondence in the wake of new technology or circumstances.
The latest inventions to force the development of new acronyms were the invention of modern telecommunications (such as the mobile phone and email)
Preceding this the invention of the telegraph produced some beautiful and creative examples of acronym.

During World War Two lovers had problems communicating with each other due to the brevity of the telegrams and letters that they could send.
For this purpose they developed secret acronyms that could be used in place of loving messages:

(In approximate order of sauciness!*)

  • CHINA: Come Home I Need Affection
  • HOLLAND: Hope Our Love Lasts And Never Dies
  • ITALY: I Trust And Love You
  • WALES: With A Love Eternal Sweetheart
  • MALAYA: My Ardent Lips Await Your Arrival
  • MEXICO CITY: May Every X I Can Offer Carry Itself To You
  • BURMA: Be Undressed Ready My Angel
  • NORWICH: Nickers Off Ready When I Come Home
  • SIAM: Sexual Intercourse At Midnight
I think that these acronyms are engaging because, they form real nouns.

By using place names the World War sweethearts avoided the vulgarity of ‘LOL' or 'ROFL' for words with a pleasant cadence. This allowed the writers to retain a sense of intimacy. It would have been quite easy to secretly put the word into a sentence in such a way that a dirty minded censor or protective mother in law wouldn’t notice.

There is one more potential consequence of these acronyms that I hope is true: that it drove the Nazi Intelligence officers barmy.
Letters and telegrams that look like they have place names in them would be read first because they are most likely to accidentally contain strategic information. To think that these romantic messages could have thrown up enough clutter to genuinely undermine the effectiveness of German intelligence gathering is wonderful.

It might be a foolish of me to think that these coy flirtations helped win the war (My rational mind tells me that this is very unlikely) but wouldn’t it be nice if love; rather than bloodshed, could have won a battle once or twice?

For purposes of completeness the acronyms that are less romantic or are not related to a place names are listed here from

  • CHIP: Come Home I’m Pregnant
  • FISH: Forget It I’m Staying Here
  • SIDCUP: Sexual Intercourse Definitely Causes Unwanted Pregnancies
  • EGYPT: E'Got You Pregnant Then
  • BITS: Be In Touch Soon
  • STARDUST: Still Thinking And remembering Darling Unforgettable Moments Together
  • BOLTOP: Better On Lips Than On Paper
  • finally and most famously: SWALK: Sealed With A Loving Kiss

*This list is selected from 'WW2 Postal Acronyms' found in The Man’s Book by Thomas Fink (2006). Available from

Wertperch and I both remember 'BOLTOP' as 'BOLTON' (Better On Lips Than On Notepaper)

Update: 6 November 2006. This node title could have been used to answer to a University Challenge question! If only the Oxford or Reading University teams used E2!

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