There is a way of doing things and then there is an army way of doing things. As known, the army (armed forces) is not only the biggest user of abbreviations and acronyms but is also the organization which has given birth to a plethora of such terms. Usage of abbreviations and acronyms stemmed from the operational needs, to ensure quick flow of information from one to the other, during battles. As not known to the people from the civil background, there are also promotional exams, for all ranks, in the army, on the subject of abbreviations and acronyms. Few of the soldiers/officers may well have missed out on their next rank not because they didn’t know the terms, but because they didn’t know the correct abbreviation of that term! However, the army also knows when not to use those abbreviations. There are proper guidelines and restrictions on their usage. Use of abbreviations, for instance, while communicating with the civilians or in a legal document, is strictly forbidden.

When I was an young Lieutenant, I had a penned a DO (Demi Official ) letter to a Colonel. My letter began with, “My dear Col Ravinder Singh (Name changed!!)” ……..The same letter was returned to me by the addressee with the remarks in red, which read, “Dear Lieutenant Dinesh, although ‘Col’ is an abbreviation for ‘Colonel’, kindly note that it is incorrect to be used in the salutations while writing a letter”. That perhaps was my first lesson in abbreviations!

These days, people use abbreviations, acronyms and emojies without a care in the world. People are not just concerned about the meaning that a message would convey at the other end. Abuse of this term, ‘RIP’, is widely rampant on the social media. People are agonizingly mechanical in responding with a ‘RIP’ whenever they hear about the death of a dear ones of some other. It behoves friends and well wishers to comfort and provide solace to people in problems: It is the duty cast upon friends to cheer up the flagging spirits of their people in distress. Words of comfort, through a thoughtfully written letter would go a long way in mitigating the severity of the sorrow. People have forgotten that the way one communicates the feelings can also be a helper and healer when you are with people who are in grief.

The physical presence or a heart-felt condolence letter has now been substituted by this three-letter acronym, ‘RIP’.

In America, letters to grieving families of the slain soldiers are a presidential tradition. This is what President Richard Nixon wrote to the parents of a young soldier killed in the Vietnam War:

Dear Mr. and Mrs. Cummins:

It is with great sorrow that I have learned of the death of your son, Specialist Five Richard L. Cummins.
Of all the hardships of war, the cruelest are the losses of men such as your son. The only consolation I can offer is the profound respect of the nation he died to serve, and the humble recognition of a sacrifice no man can measure and no words can describe. Those who give their own lives to make the freedom of others possible live forever in honor.
Mrs. Nixon joins me in extending our own sympathy and in expressing the sympathy of a saddened nation. You will be in our prayers and in our hearts.

Richard Nixon

It would have been discourteous and preposterous if the President were to send a ‘RIP’ message to the grieving family of a soldier who was martyred.

Therefore, sympathy ought to be what Dr Leslie Weather has called a ‘fellowship in misery!” One ought to feel the pain of the other while expressing those emotions. One can’t just type, “RIP” and ‘Rest In Peace’, thereafter.

JND: Just Not Done!!



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