Our culture and our technology are so interlinked that historians tend to break down different epochs based on the technology people had at the time; you have the stone age and the bronze age as clear examples.
And, since culture and language are, in a sense, different sides to the same coin, it should come as no surprise that the evolution of technology has had a profound effect on the language we speak.
For instance, the industrial revolution gave rise to several new words, including train, engine, and combustions; it repurposed old words, such as vacuum, pump, and factory; and it gave birth new ones by combining old ones, such as railway, horsepower, and typewriter.
Today, thanks to the internet, everybody is texting, tweeting, or instant messaging each other, and this habit has infused our culture with numerous acronyms that wouldn’t have made sense to anyone a couple of decades ago: You have “brb,” “lol,” “XD,” and the list goes on.
What’s more, these acronyms have jumped off our computer screens and into our spoken language; it’s not unusual these days to hear a teenager tell another teenager that they’ll brb.
However, this use of acronyms is nothing new to us. We’ve been using “RSVP” for a while now, and it stands for “répondez s’il vous plaît?,” which is French for “reply please.”
What’s interesting is that we have made RSVP into a noun, as in “I’ll send out the RSVPs,” as well as a verb, as in “Have you RSVP’d yet?”
Another acronym, one born from the technology of its time, is P.S. This acronym predates the internet, yet it has found its way to us nevertheless.
What does P.S. mean?
The main definition of P.S. is “PostScript.” It is used to add something at the end of the letter, after the signature. It is a way of adding an afterthought, something the author of the letter forgot to talk about in the main body of the letter.
There are other definitions of P.S., plenty of which use the two letters as an acronym. For example, PS could either stand for PhotoShop or PlayStation.
Finally, if we add an apostrophe between the “p” and the “s,” giving us “p’s,” the resulting word can mean money or a pound of marijuana.
P.S. and letter writing
Before the computer and e-mail, people had to send each other physical letters.
These letters were either written by hand or typed up by a typewriter, and, in either case, the author of the letter didn’t have the option of hitting backspace, meaning if they made a mistake, fixing it was much more of a hassle.
In fact, your only real options were leaving the mistake where it is, striking it out, or covering it with a strip of white tape.
Worse still, if you forgot to mention something or say something critical, you might have had to rewrite the whole thing.
This is where the P.S. comes in
Even though P.S. stands for PostScript, it comes from the Latin “Post Scriptum,” which means written after. It was used back in the days of the typewriter and the handwritten letter as a way of including important information that the author initially forgot to mention in the main body.
The P.S. was actually used with full documents as well as letters; so long as an author forgot to mention something in the main body of a text they had already written, they could always use a P.S. to save the day.
Additionally, there is no limit on what comes after the P.S.: It could be a small sentence or it could be paragraphs and paragraphs of text.
When Ronald Reagan sent his son Michael a letter after Michael had gotten married, this is what the ending of that letter looked like:
“…Mike, you know better than many what an unhappy home is and what it can do to others. Now you have a chance to make it come out the way it should.
There is no greater happiness for a man than approaching a door at the end of a day knowing someone on the other side of that door is waiting for the sound of his footsteps.
P.S. You’ll never get in trouble if you say “I love you” at least once a day.”
Notice how the P.S. comes at the end of the letter, right after the signature. It’s almost as if two people were talking, and after one of them had said their goodbyes and was about to leave, they turned back and went, “oh, by the way, I almost forgot…”
Another beautiful example of the use of P.S. can be found in Richard Feynman’s letter to his dead wife.
Richard Feynman was a very influential American physicist who won the Nobel Prize in 1965. He also married Arline, his high school sweetheart, but, unfortunately, Arlene passed away at the young age of 25 as a result of tuberculosis.
Owing to this tragedy, Feynman wrote his deceased beloved a letter, one that remained in a sealed envelope till Feynman himself passed in 1988. This is an excerpt from that letter:
“. . . I know you will assure me that I am foolish and that you want me to have full happiness and don’t want to be in my way. I’ll bet you are surprised that I don’t even have a girlfriend (except you, sweetheart) after two years. But you can’t help it, darling, nor can I — I don’t understand it, for I have met many girls and very nice ones and I don’t want to remain alone — but in two or three meetings they all seem ashes. You only are left to me. You are real.
My darling wife, I do adore you.
I love my wife. My wife is dead.
PS Please excuse my not mailing this — but I don’t know your new address.”
What comes after the PS?
Now, let’s say you forget to mention something in the heart of your letter as well as in the P.S. section. Does that mean you have to rewrite the entire letter?
Just use a PPS, which stands for post-post-script. Forget something else? Add in a PPPS. This may seem excessive, but at least you know you have the option.
PS vs P.S.
If you take a closer look at Ronald Reagan’s letter, you’ll notice that the PS is written with a period after the P and a period after the S, giving us P.S. So, the question is how is it written?
In a nutshell, there is no standard way.
According to the Cambridge Dictionary, PS is the correct way of writing it in British English. So, proper British English dictates that the end result should look like this;
“…I am excited to see your work.
PS Don’t forget to structure the article properly and to focus on an introductory paragraph.”
On the other hand, the Cambridge Dictionary states that including the periods, giving us P.S., is more popular in American English. What’s more, in a lot of American writing, you are bound to find it written accordingly.
Yet, The Chicago Manual of Style says that it finds PS, without the periods, more preferable.
So, this lack of consensus means that you can write it however you please. That said, it is better to capitalize both the P and the S.
Current usage of P.S.
As you can see, the P.S. emerged as a solution to a problem, namely the difficulty of correcting mistakes made by typewriters. But, we do not have this problem anymore.
With a computer, you can just delete any unwanted mistakes, and should you forget to say something, you can just edit the entire document to make it look like there nothing was ever missing in the first place.
So, does this mean that nobody uses P.S. anymore?
The P.S. is alive and well; it has just taken on a different meaning. It is now used for effect. It is used to highlight something and make it stand out from the rest of the text.
For instance, studies show that people notice what’s written at the beginning and at the end of an e-mail, so by placing something at the end, you’re sort of telling the reader: “If you’re going to notice anything about this e-mail, notice this last part.”
This is why marketing strategists love using the P.S. in their direct mail campaigns. If anything, studies have shown that almost four out of five people who open a direct mail letter will start by looking at the P.S.
It is for this reason that the P.S. helps marketers highlight certain promotions, repeat a certain call to action, share a testimonial from other customers, or create a feeling of FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) in the customer.
What’s more, P.S., like most other acronyms, has made it into our common speech. For instance, if two friends are talking, and one of them goes on a rant, they might resort to P.S. should they finish their rant but still feel that there is more to be said. Here is a simple example:
Person 1: I’m not working on this project. It’s demeaning and doesn’t add any value in any way.
Person 2: I hear you.
Person 1: And P.S., the professor is a harsh critic who won’t like anything we have to offer.
The P.S. in pop culture
However, it isn’t only marketing strategists who use the P.S. The P.S has made its way into pop culture, thanks for its ability to highlight certain what comes after it.
In 1962, the Beatles recorded a song named “P.S. I love you.” The song was composed by Paul McCartney and is considered by some to be McCartney’s dedication to Dot Rhone, his girlfriend at the time.
However, McCartney says that this isn’t the case. Instead, he asserts that the song was supposed to be a theme song premised on a letter. He then went on to elaborate that some themes lend themselves more readily to having songs written about them than others and that a letter is definitely one of those themes.
In 2004, Irish writer Cecelia Ahern published her debut novel called “PS, I love you.”
The novel did so well that it became the number one best-seller in Ireland, Germany, Britain, the Netherlands, and the United States. Moreover, the novel clung to that number one ranking in Ireland for nineteen weeks.
The plot of the novel follows a grieving widow as she tries to get over the death of her husband. To that end, her husband left her several letters containing personal messages from him before he passed; each letter encourages the wife to go out on an adventure, helps her get over her grief, and ends in “PS, I love you.”
In 2007, a film adaptation based on Ahern’s novel was released. The film starred Hilary Swank and Gerard Butler.
Other words that give off the same meaning as P.S.
Interestingly, other words can perform the same function as P.S.:
If you want to highlight something in your text, you can use NB. What’s even better, N.B. doesn’t have to come at the end of your text. N.B. comes from the Latin “Nota” and “Bene,” which means to note well, and putting in the middle of a text asks a reader to pay careful attention to what follows.
This word is used as a unique form of netiquette, internet etiquette. You’ll find it used on Reddit and other websites with discussion boards. It doesn’t exactly signify something the author of the post wants to add to the end of their post; instead, it signals that the author chose to edit their post.
The idea is that editing something outright is not the best online etiquette. It is better to highlight this edit below and leave the original post for all to see.
Other meanings of PS (without the dots)
When PS is used as an acronym, it doesn’t just mean post-script. It can also refer to one of the following:
PlayStation is a Sony product, and it has brought us some of the finest games, including Metal Gear Solid and Devil May Cry. The product’s famous logo consists of a P intertwined with an S at the bottom.
Therefore, it is not unusual to hear someone say they just bought a new PS or that their PS was broken and they needed to go get it fixed. Besides, who hasn’t overheard two gamers take part in the greatest debate the gaming world has ever seen: PS vs Xbox?
Photoshop is such an integral part of our lives that it has become a word in its own right, sort of like Google. If overheard, the following sentences would make complete sense to anyone alive today:
If you don’t like your picture, you can just photoshop it.
That picture doesn’t look right; it looks photoshopped.
In fact, how many times have you heard someone having a gripe with how a certain image was photoshopped to convey unrealistic gender expectations?
Anyway, the logo of PhotoShop consists of a P and an S side by side. Hence, people sometimes refer to the program as PS.
Also known as pen twirling, pen spinning is a hobby that many indulge in, and the best thing about it is that all you need is a pen. In any case, given its name, it can be abbreviated as PS.
So, you wouldn’t be completely off if you were to tell your friend that you are hooked onto PS, assuming he knew which PS you were talking about.
Many other words can be made up by these two letters, and if you browse the internet, you will come across plenty of possibilities. The issue is that it can be difficult to tell which are legit and which aren’t.
Nevertheless, here are a few of the best the internet has to offer:
Public School. Some say that when referring to a public school, the letter PS are followed by a number to indicate the number of the school.
Pat Salvagna, a character notorious for lying all the time. When used to refer to Pat Salvagna, PS almost means bullshit or BS; it’s almost like saying that only Salvagna would say that.
PS with an apostrophe in the middle
According to the Urban Dictionary, “p’s” can have a few meanings:
P’s as in money
P’s can be short for paper, in which case it refers to money. The expression first appeared in Croydon, a town in England.
For instance, someone could say, “I ain’t got p’s, so I ain’t going out.”
P’s as in pounds of marijuana
In the US, where everything is measured in pounds and inches, p’s can be used as street code for pounds of marijuana.
So, if someone wanted to say that they sold five pounds of marijuana, they could say, “I pushed five p’s today alone.”
Hey fellow Linguaholics! It’s me, Marcel. I am the proud owner of linguaholic.com. Languages have always been my passion and I have studied Linguistics, Computational Linguistics and Sinology at the University of Zurich. It is my utmost pleasure to share with all of you guys what I know about languages and linguistics in general.