WYSIWYG is an acronym: 'What you see is what you get.' It's of fairly recent origin, perhaps circa 1987-88, and as such1 it pertains to computer use; specifically, viewing items on a screen. It's pronounced 'whizzy-wig.'
Believe it or not, at around that time during the late '80s, what one saw on a computer screen and what one printed out onto paper were radically different. My, how times change.
Who actually first worked on this project is difficult to fathom. Over a period of time several computer programmers and enthusiasts were frustrated that what appeared on a computer monitor and how it printed out were completely different.
Eventually after nearly infinite computer routines were compiled, some particularly mad and caffeinated computer enthusiasts put together a way that allowed users to output onto paper text and images exactly as they appeared on the screen. This eliminated all the tedious spellchecking and copyediting that traditionally went along with producing printed material, and so the phrase 'What you see [on the computer screen] is what you get [on paper]' was born.
Because humans were swamped with such poorly edited copy, this gave rise to a myriad of spellchecking and grammar checking applications, programs that lined up your text just right, code that drew straight lines, and other time-saving routines that generally destroyed an entire industry of graphic artists and fontographers overnight. However, while these applications were striving for the perfect WYSIWYG, inaccuracies generally upset a large number of users expecting exactness and perfection in their documents.
This gave birth to yet two new acronyms:
- The first, WYSISBNRMOLWYG ('What You See Is Somewhat, But Not Really, More Or Less, What You Get'), is used mainly by programmers attempting to justify shoddy code written at three in the morning before the deadline.
- WYSIAG, is typically used by printhouses having to reformat and re-edit incoming documents before they're printed in mass quantities: 'What You See Is A Gorilla.'