Speaking English Without The Use Of Acronyms Is Hard

Wednesday, June 3, 2009, 6:02 AM | Leave Comment

In finance and other disciplines, we have been bombarded by a variety of acronyms, mostly by all three branches of the government but to a lesser extent by private sector as well. Can we speak English without the use of acronyms? It depends on the subject and the talk of the moment.

In some cases, we are so used to using acronyms that we forget what the individual alphabets stand for, at least one or two if not all alphabets of the acronym.


I asked a friend of mine, last year, what TARP stood for. He explained that if it was framed by the U.S. Government – and he said the government is extremely good at framing, especially when it comes to confusing the public; my friend is one of those guys from the 60s – then the T must stand for Transportation and A for Authority.

So, he said TARP stands for Transportation Authority Something Something.

Then I asked him about the RAT Board. He used language like [expletive deleted] and you don’t wanna know that.

The last few months of the Bush administration produced TARP, for Troubled Asset Relief Program, also commonly known as “the bailout.” The stimulus package has brought to life the RAT Board, LUST Trust and ARPA-E and BUST Trust. Well! the last one is not an acronym or maybe it is. Who knows! I guess I was looking at another website busting out.

It seems that when the Government spending increases, deficit increases and that creates a surplus of acronyms. Who says we don’t have a surplus. Well! may be not in terms of money but that’s besides the point.

The New Deal gave the country a mouthful of acronyms, the biggest example of that is FDR himself. I bet there are still people who don’t know what the letters stand for. Franklin Something Roosevelt.

The RAT Board, which in more official circles is known as the Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board, is charged with sniffing out waste, fraud and abuse in the $787 billion plan. RAT is fine with me. I would have preferred HUMAN though but hey! at least someone is watching and sniffing. May be SEC should turn into RAT for watching and sniffing. It’s not HUMAN anyway, just an acronym.

The Leaking Underground Storage Tank trust, an unsexy environmental cleanup fund that existed before the stimulus package, has now been unofficially rebranded LUST Recovery.

When I first read about LUST Trust, I said there is something wrong here. It should be LUST Recovery because it looks like we have lost our LUST. The government is trying to recover it.

Food stamps is officially known as SNAP, or Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. I was on food stamps at one time. Well! It was a long long long time ago, so long that I don’t even remember I was on food stamps. But I can imagine standing in line to get food stamps. “What do you want?” I hear someone asking me in a deep voice. I want my share of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. Say what?

To make sure that recovery money is made available fast, the Department of Transportation has imported a TIGER from India, as in Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery. Beats me why India has to be dragged into this quagmire.

Just like we had DARPA, Defense Something Research Something Agency – my friend from the 60s says if it is from the government, the D must stand for Defense and A for Agency and they are always doing Research. The ARPA-E, an energy research program, was described by the House Committee on Science and Technology in a press release: “ARPA-E will apply the DARPA research model to energy technology development.” Why didn’t they just replace D with an E to make it EARPA. The Europeans have it so why not us. Are we not as big a country as the entire European continent is?

The Department of Commerce has created a new language for its recovery act appropriations. You guessed it. It’s called Acronym. Their weekly report talks in terms of: “NIST CRF, NIST STRS, NIST Health IT, NOAA PAC, NOAA ORF, NTIA DTACBP, NTIA BTOP, EDA EDAP, EDA S&E, Census PCP [LUST, BUST, RAT, HUMAN].” I am sure the last four are misprints in their weekly report. Everybody gets carried away sometimes.

Mental Abus To Humans (MATH)

Asked to comment, Parita Shah, a spokeswoman for the department, said: “We are already providing the public with an unprecedented level of information about their tax dollars at work under the Recovery Act and are continuously working to strengthen that direct communication with the American people.”

That means we don’t wanna confuse the public. The government and confuse the public? Are you kidding? That will be the day. Go figure that one.

There are certain acronyms that we have gotten used to over the years, like FBI and CIA. Now I am sure the public knows what the B in FBI stands for but spell it? No way, Hozay [No way, Jose]!.

In a Nutshell
When the Government wants to confuse the public – it seems for too long GOV and PUB have been two mutually exclusive entities, one does not know about the other – it throws the book at them. I mean ACRONYM at them.

I wonder if ACRONYM is an acronym of something. My friend from the 60s says: it stands for “American Committee Really Out To Numb Your Mind.” In the same breath, he said or may be it means “Annoyingly Cryptic References Or Names You Make.” Who could be in a better position to do that? Only the government.

Notice that Wikipedia uses acronyms and initialisms in the same breath – I say breath because Wikipedia seems to be a living thing. I never heard the word initialisms before. As a matter of fact, the WordPress editor is underlining it in red.

What about HUMAN? Is that an acronym of something? My friend from the 60s says HUMAN is not an acronym. You become one. He says: Do you know what it means to be HUMAN? At another time, he said: the government ASSUMES a lot and when they ass-u-me, they make an ass of u and me.

But then again English is not my first language.

Read the article in The Wall Street Journal in full: New Crop of U.S. Acronyms Adds to Thistles and Tares in Language.

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