Thursday, February 17, 2011
Acronym proliferation is out of control. It comes from many sources.
The most obvious is grant-funded programs. For whatever reason, a few decades ago someone decided that every grant-funded program needed a clever, upbeat acronym. As with many awful ideas, it was probably harmless enough at first. But the good ones went fast, and now each new iteration of a program needs its own spiffy new term.
Soon the state- and federally-funded programs followed. Now even local initiatives have to have acronyms.
The same letters tend to pop up in acronyms a lot. You don’t see many x’s, z’s, or f’s.. In the world of electronics, for whatever reason, every acronym has to have the letters c, e, and t. STEM has become an acronym without portfolio, taking on a life of its own as a generic term for science and math. One of my prouder moments as an administrator came last year when I noticed that a particular program was in danger of adopting an acronym that, when pronounced, suggested an unusual sex act. The components of the name were quickly and discreetly rearranged.
Some parts of the college tend to be more acronym-happy than others. Nursing, Teacher Ed, Adult Basic Ed, and Workforce Development tend to be the most prolific generators. The first two are heavily licensed and credentialed, which means you have agencies with acronyms generating programs with acronyms. The latter two are grant-heavy, which means there’s just no escaping it.
Over time, it’s hard to keep all the clever little names straight. They start to blend together. In the right context, too, you’ll sometimes hear three or four of them in the same sentence. Last week I endured one that was structured as follows: “The abab folks are collaborating with the cdcd project over at efef, in hopes of procuring a ghgh grant from ijij.” That’s just a crime against language.
Wise and worldly readers, what’s the worst acronym offense you’ve seen lately?
Then again, I'm 26 and have few problems with Internet acronyms, so maybe that's part of it.
I would ask that you share the name of the unusual sex act, though.
Since foreign language study is not required at that school, many students (and probably some staff/administrators!) do consider foreign language to be a "flabby" option that they might be better off without. I suppose the unfortunate acronym fits, then.
The dept has tried to rename itself with the more contemporary and non-acronymic title "World Languages," but FLABS seems to have stuck.
C for computer, E for electronics, T for technology?
My department in Oxford is called the Faculty of Medieval and Modern Languages. I'm very glad that the Medieval is in there too - otherwise we'd be FML.
Have you heard acronyms turned into verbs? That gets really bad, and can lead to acronyms made entirely from acronyms.
I also did some graphics work for a initiative that was something along the lines of American Indian Project for Leadership Endeavors. In my ignorance, I said oh, "AIPLE" (Apple). Turns out Apple is a very offensive term for Native Americans (akin to Oreo). The name quickly changed to American Indian Leadership Project. AILP wasn't great either but at least it wasn't offensive.
Love me some acronyms, especially the ones that have an illicit interpretation.
And a friend refers to the accreditation process as "being WASCED"
Come on now, you can't just leave a hanger like that. Forestry Science: The Next Generation? What?
Just be glad you aren't military. In one school the military sent me to, we were prohibited from pronouncing acronyms; the whole thing had to be spoken. That is, where you would write POAH, that would be spoken "point of adding heat." Similarly, [greek letter xi], spoken "average logarithmic energy decrement per collision," in full, every time.
Make everyone do that every time you talk to them (even if you have to play dumb), and I guarantee they'll get a lot less enthusiastic about acronyms.
My fave is still the current drive in the UK for 'Full Economic Costing' of all research grant applications, abbreviation 'FeC', pronouced 'feck'. Which is the way that our neighbours in northern Ireland pronounce the work 'fuck', and has become widely known in England through the wonderful 'Father Ted' comedy series. It's really funny watching besuited and perhaps somewhat insular senior management team repeatedly emphasise the importance of FeC in public meetings.
Yes, I do still have the sense of humour of a six-year-old shouting 'bum' in the playground and then laughing hugely at their own daring. So?
I also once worked at a Learning Assistance Program and we were the LAP of the college, and our students were called LAP students.