NATO: Just another acronym
Government organizations and protesters to serve up an alphabet soup of confusion in Chicago
A protestor wearing a Guy Fawkes mask looks on as Chicago Police provide security outside an immigration court building in Chicago May 15, 2012, during one of the demonstrations in the week ahead of the NATO meeting in Chicago. Leaders from members of the NATO alliance are expected to discuss the worsening situation in Afghanistan, and protest organizers said they hope thousands of people will turn out to demonstrate against the war and other issues such as income inequality. (REUTERS/Jim Young)
We were supposed to be hosting the G8 summit along with the NATO summit, which is not only double the summits and their attendant logistical nightmares. It's double the acronyms.
We'll still be dodging and weaving protesters from OWS (Occupy Wall Street), CAN/G-8 (Coalition Against NATO/G-8 War and Poverty Agenda), UNAC (United National Antiwar Committee) and NNU (National Nurses United)—groups opposed to the policies embodied by the governments and leaders represented by NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization).
But President Obama, bless his heart, moved G8 (Group of Eight, as in eight of the world's largest economies) to Camp David, meaning the leading NGOs (Non-Governmental Organizations) are gathering to our east, ready to offer their take on how the major players fare on food security and the world's various financial crises, among other issues.
Are there two groups more enamored of acronyms than the government and anti-government activists?
"My favorite government acronym of all time is BOR, the federal Bureau of Recreation, pronounced 'bore,'" says corporate consultant Jay Heinrichs, author of "Thank You for Arguing: What Aristotle, Lincoln, and Homer Simpson Can Teach Us About the Art of Persuasion" (Three Rivers Press). "It changed its name to a seemingly safe Heritage Conservation and Recreation Service in the '80s. And immediately became known as 'Hookers.'"
Heinrichs recently did some consulting work for the Pentagon, which tends to favor abbreviations, he says, over acronyms.
"I did a workshop for MilVax, the agency that oversees military vaccinations," he says. "MilVax is so much clearer than some incomprehensible letter jumble, and it connotes a kind of boots-on-the-ground syllabic readiness."
(Though MVP—Military Vaccination People—has a nice ring.)
Unlike our NATO pals, Heinrichs is not actually a fan of acronyms, particularly the way they populate the Twitter-verse.
"IMCO (I mean, come on)," he says. "The sole social benefit of Twitter is to teach brevity. Acronyms constitute jargon, not brevity. If you can't say something in 140 characters, then try, oh, I don't know, actual writing, such as a letter or an essay or a poem. Otherwise, LMEDA (leave me expletive deleted alone)."
Good thing he won't be in Chicago this weekend.
Do you have a much-loved (or much-loathed) acronym? Write Words Work columnist Heidi Stevens at firstname.lastname@example.org.