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Words: acronym, n.

A CURRENT trend will make mankind revert to communicating by a series of grunts. I called First Direct to ask whether I could pay in cheques at any bank other than the Hong Kong and Shanghai: "No, you can't use that one, only the Midland or HSBC." "I thought the Midland had gone." "So it has, sir, it's the HSBC now." "So I can use the Hong Kong and Shanghai?" "No, only the HSBC."

As Basil Fawlty told Manuel, I could have this conversation for the rest of my life. Acronym, from Greek for end of a name, is first recorded as recently as the Forties and examples had proliferated by the end of that decade. Nabisco is the National Biscuit Company and byte means binary digit eight, but why truncate the splendid, exotic ring of Hong Kong and Shanghai?