The Acronym: Scourge of Our Times? Okay, Probably Not “Scourge”.

December 30, 2010


I have, what I have come to accept as, a strange pet peeve.  It is not my biggest pet peeve (can anyone know that?  I mean, there’s a thin line between, say, your biggest pet peeve, and your smallest actual “issue” or “cause” or “hate”) nor is it my most ironic (that would be my pet peeve of people with excessive, nit-picky pet peeves), but it is apparently among my strangest; because after so many times of sharing it and then waiting for my high-fives, “amen’s” or at least polite nods of agreement only to receive confused, side-ling glares, I’ve come to accept that I’m on my own.

Right, but on my own.

The peeve is this: I really can’t stand acronyms, forcibly mashed into a word to fit a theme.  Not acronyms like “NASA” or “SCUBA” which are just acronyms because they are, and then they became word-ish.  I also am not including mnemonic devices (SOAPS, ROY G BIV, etc.).

I’m talking about the acronyms in which people try forcibly construct linguistic monstrosities, Frankenstein-like, in order to push an agenda, or faux-inspire people by saying, “Remember you’re a TEAM!  Together Everyone Achieves More! Whoo!!”   You know what I’m talking about.

The grand champion of the universe, of course, is the USAPATRIOT act (you see, it isn’t that it was a shamelessly manipulative ploy to paint anyone who refused to support it as Un-American and to basically pre-write the attack ads for election time  – ‘My opponent voted against US Patriotism!’ – it’s just that they named this act Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism and when they were done – color them shocked! – it spelled out USA PATRIOT.).  I think these get me because they combine a generic, sterilized, homogenized, emotion (like motivational posters), with a castrated creativity.

As I said before, I did not realize this was an unusual peeve, but consistent scrunched faces and looks of “Jesus, you’re a crank” when I’ve rolled my eyes and snorted derisively at some labored attempt to cram an acronym together have opened my eyes.  How am I the only who thinks they’re so awful?   It’s just such bumper-sticker depth of actual thought that it doesn’t seem possible that everyone isn’t actively turned-off by them.  Not saying that people who like them are dumb, I just don’t get how people can like them.  Are people actually inspired by these?  Ever?  Ever?

Would Churchill have inspired the English more if he’d said, “we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender because we’re BRITON’s! Bravely Resisting Invasion by Those Oppressive Nazi’s! YeeaAAAAHH!!”

Okay, so now that this cranky-train is really going, let’s open ‘er up a little bit… because beyond this are the acronyms which aren’t even sentences.  There’s just a string of adjectives or even short descriptive phrases starting with the respective letter.   Obviously, I’m giving a pass to, you know, eight-year-old girls who want to write out that their best friend Beth is Beautiful, Energetic, Talented and Hegemonic (What?  Some third-graders have impressive vocabularies.), but for grown-ups, this isn’t even trying.   Or maybe it is – maybe people are spending actual quantities of time on this.  Gads, I hope not.  Three days of sweat, frustration, angry barks at spouse and children to be given a little space to think, crumpled drafts hurled furiously in the corner so that your soccer team can know it has “Power, Rigor, Integrity, Determination and Excellence.”

It seems to be an epidemic of management.  Maybe it’s a disease?  I’ll check the DSM, but probably not.  Business managers, sports coaches, and, God help us, academic administrators.  “Remember, students, wherever you go, you’re a West Valley High Panther! Which means you always strive for Wisdom, Enthusiasm, Success, Truth, Valuable input from others… (18 minutes later)… Encyclopedic knowledge of your chosen area of vocation, and Rationally-based perceptions of cause and effect!  Yeah!!”

On a final couple notes:

1) The Beastie Boys get a pass.  Their name made sense with their first album, but then they outgrew their adolescent style and became geniuses, but it was too late to change their, let’s be honest, terrible name (I don’t know that they wanted to, but I suspect at some point they really did).  So they made it in to a long, labored acronym of something positive and spiritual.  It’d be like spending your high school years getting everyone to call you Slamma Jamma, then you realize that’s awful, but it’s too late. You’re Slamma Jamma.  And no amounts of efforts to convince people that it’s an acronym (“No, really, I always meant it to stand for, uh, Selflessly Loving And Moving Meaningfully As Justly As, uh…”) will change it.  But they also have created some of the most incredible music of the last 20 years, so… pass.

2) Okay, this is probably as good a place as any to admit, yes, obviously, I take some kind of ironic, perverse pleasure in coming up with awful acronyms.  I’ve been patting myself on the back for that Churchill one for, like, ten minutes.  But they’re parody, so it’s okay.  I’m still a crank, but not a hypocrite.


About The Byronic Man

Recently voted "The Best Humor Site in America That I, Personally, Write," The Byronic Man is sometimes fiction, but sometimes autobiography. And sometimes cultural criticism. Oh, and occasionally reviews. Okay, it's all those different things, but always humorous. Except on the occasions that it's not. Ah, geez. Look, it's a lot of things, okay? You might like it, is the point.

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4 Comments on “The Acronym: Scourge of Our Times? Okay, Probably Not “Scourge”.”

  1. Charlotte Says:

    That’s okay. You deserve a pat on the back for that Churchill one.


  2. WorstProfEver Says:

    Second that, the Churchill one was good. I agree that the Beasties get a pass — but what about NWA?


    • Byron MacLymont Says:

      For me, anyway, NWA doesn’t fall into my peeve-parameters, since they aren’t trying to make a self-descriptive word (“We’re BAD-ASS: Black-America Destroying Archaic Social Stereotypes!”), I hope. And even if it were a word I’d personally be tempted to give it a pass on the same grounds as the Beasties, for their profound social/musical impact, even if there weren’t in the same position of being stuck with the name.

      Also, I’d be afraid the ghost of Eazy-E would come and punch me in the face.


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