Racy messages were exchanged between soldiers and their homebound sweethearts during World War II (WW2), as letter exchanges were processed by censors and a new mail system called for concise wording. Whether in a bid for privacy or to keep passion alive in a limited wordcount, soldiers got creative with acronyms to create the short, sweet, military equivalent of a modern day sext.
Millennials may remember "ASL" like a nostalgic punch in the face. Afternoons frittered away in the depths of Habbo Hotel exchanging their age, sex, location with strangers on the internet. While Habbo Hotel inhabitants used it for ease in the internet, textspeak age, soldiers in WW2 needed to get similarly creative in response to military monitoring and calls for space saving.
Unlike the rather more perfunctory ASL, however, WW2 postal acronyms were comparative works of art, demonstrating impressive wordsmithery on the part of soldiers trying to pen their passion from the frontline of warfare.
WW2 was a goldmine for acronyms across the board, from military to sarcastic and romantic. You may have described something as a snafu, which comes from the 1941 military slang acronym for “situation normal, all f****d up”.
In war, it was used as "an expression conveying the common soldier's laconic acceptance of the disorder of war and the ineptitude of his superiors," according to the Oxford English Dictionary. Today we use it to say something was chaotic, for example: "The leaving do was a total snafu, the pensioner accidentally ejected himself out of the fighter jet."
Victory mail, or V-mail, was probably also in part to thank for the explosion of acronyms, because it reduced the writing space for messages as they were microfilmed for dispatch. The process meant letters took up less space, so more could be sent alongside other cargo in a single payload.
The acronyms that cropped up among the more romantic of censored WW2 letters and V-mail are, in our opinion, poetry. They range from the wholesome (SWAK: sealed with a kiss), to the downright raunchy. According to a report from History, a few uncovered by author Simon Garfield in his book To The Letter: A Celebration Of The Lost Art Of Letter Writing, include:
ITALY, I Trust And Love You
BURMA, Be Undressed Ready My Angel
MALAYA, My Ardent Lips Await Your Arrival
VENICE, Very Excited Now I Caress Everywhere
EGYPT, Eager to Grab Your Pretty T**s