ARRAPEL (A Reflection Regarding Acronymial Proliferation in the English Language)
Acronym: n. word formed from the first initials of several words (e.g. NASA)
I recently read Stephen Lewis’s Race Against Time, (See http://ca.360.yahoo.com/geoe41 ) and was highly impressed by the fervour with which he advocates for the Africans suffering from the ravages of the HIV/AIDS epidemic sweeping across that continent. But that’s not what I want to talk about today.
Lewis worked for quite a few years with the United Nations, and the UN with its many departments and sub-departments is a breeding ground for acronyms, those ubiquitous stand-ins for names-of-more-than-one word. He was with UNICEF (United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund) and then later with UNAIDS (United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS). AIDS, of course, is itself an acronym for acquired immune deficiency syndrome.
Here are some other acronyms that float around the UN and other international circles:
Sometimes the name of an organization includes only consonant initials, as in
Sometimes the acronym can speak ironically about its original. United Nations Food Emergency Directorate simply won’t ever exist. UNFED would simply be too appropriate! While I was an MCC (Mennonite Central Committee – See below) administrator in
But in that vein, the acronyms that would be created by the Canadian Organization of Women, or Saskatchewan Organization of Women, quite a bit less than helpful, knowing the ribald humour that men in this country seem to prefer.
Of course, many acronyms don’t read like words at all. Saskatchewan Government Telephones has always been “S-G-T.” Even adding a vowel to that combination of consonants doesn’t seem to work: “SGIT?” “SGET?” Likewise, Canadian National Railway and Canadian Pacific Railway will do doubt remain “C-N-R” and “C-P-R.”
Probably the most frequently used acronym in my daily life is MCC (Mennonite Central Committee). In fact, the acronym has become its name, as is the case with, say, CBC or DVD. That is, of course, fortunate. Mennonite Central Committee sounds like a branch of the Communist Party, and I don’t understand how the spin doctors and PR people haven’t cottoned on to that a long time ago and campaigned for a better name. But then, we Mennonites aren’t very creative in that department: Mennonite Disaster Service sounds like we service disaster, when we really purport to mitigate its effects. MDS should really be MDMS, Mennonite Disaster Mitigation Service. Also, we now have MCC—Mennonite Central Committee—and MCC—
I am in search of the perfect acronym. The “word” derived from the initials of the organization would be so appropriate that were I to come across it in Lewis, I wouldn’t have to flip to the glossary to get the drift of the sentence at all.
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