Acronyms galore!

Do you ever get the feeling that some agencies pick an acronym for something before they figure out what the full name should be? FCW’s Matthew Weigelt observed that Washington, D.C., is clearly the CEA, or Creative Epicenter of Acronyms.

As Matthew writes, the General Services Administration is looking for help in naming a new services contract, and that name needs to be catchy and amenable to a meaningful acronym. Of course, “meaningful” is probably in the eye of the beholder.

Matthew highlights some of the most…er, creative…acronyms out there to inspire people to toss out some suggestions for GSA’s services contract. Do you have any good ideas? How important is an easily recognizable acronym vs. a name makes complete sense?

And what’s the craziest acronym you’ve seen?

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Corey McCarren

If you’ve ever seen “Accepted” you know that acronyms can define your organization, like it or not. It’s important to make sure no matter how great the name is it doesn’t spell something offensive. I think its just finding a middle ground. I’ve seen some crazy ones on stores before, but they aren’t ones I’m inclined to share here! If I think of one I’ll come back.

Samuel F Doucette

I work for a subordinate unit of the most business-life (and non-traditional military) organization in the Air Force: Air Force Materiel Command (AFMC). I’ve made a career out of helping others who transition into our world (AFMC) from the operational Air Force to understand that we don’t do things like the ROTAF (Rest of the Air Force). To my knowledge, no one else in the ROTAF or AFMC has coined this acronym yet.

ROTAF is my submission to your acronym list.

Vincent Wright

Ironically, as someone who’s created thousands of acronyms, I just wrote the following note about an hour and a half ago so, haven’t even shared it with my or communities:

How I Solve Problems And Negativity In Communities (H.I.S.P.A.N.I.C.) 2.24.2012 @7:31 AM

I’m not Hispanic and I don’t, yet, speak Spanish. However, I am a social media-oriented acronymist and awakened on Friday morning, February 24, 2012 with this acronym clearly in the front of my mind:
“How I Solve Problems And Negativity In Communities/Corporations”
That phrase acronymically = “H.I.S.P.A.N.I.C.”
Our communities and corporations need the mentality of solving problems – not just knowing about them. And so, while I don’t know nearly enough about the Hispanic community to set up and run a community of that name on my own, I do know that I’d like to espouse the positive philosophy embedded in the set of words which make up the acronym “H.I.S.P.A.N.I.C.”
If you know enough about the Hispanic community and would like to work on developing a group/platform which encourages solving problems and solving negativity in communities, I’d love to hear your thoughts and ideas…
How I Solve Problems And Negativity In Communities = Cómo Resuelvo los Problemas Y la Negatividad En Comunidades

+Thanks, and Keep STRONG!!

+Vincent Wright,
+1-860-967-0931 | SKYPE = MyLinkedinPowerForum

Cómo Resuelvo los Problemas Y la Negatividad En Comunidades

Terry W. Davis

FERS = Forget Ever Retiring System (according to M. Powell), brought to us by BOHICA (bend over, here it comes again)

NIPRNET = Unclassified but Sensitive IP Router Network (what?), but was orignally the Nonclassified IP Router Network and was sometimes said to be the Nonsecure IP Router Network (why would anyone intentionally build a nonsecure network?)

AMF! (adios my friends)

Amanda Rhea

I’ll admit we named our system so that it would have a catchy acronym. The budget staff created a new system for our departments to submit budget requests and we wanted a name that would, if not make people want to submit budgets, at least make it seem less like drudgery. We named it “FRED” (Funding Requests Enhanced Database). Corny, I know, but isn’t working with FRED more fun than working with the “new funding requests system?”

Shelly Nuessle

Not crazy, of course, but my favorite is still “ROAD” – Retired on Active Duty. It is even useful on the Civilian Side.

ann marie keim

During one of the reorgs-of-the-month, some labs were merged. The new manager decided they should now be called ‘Applied Surface Science Labs’; in other words, ‘ASS Labs’. Nice! Like parents naming a new baby, people should write the acronym down to make sure it doesn’t spell something they may not appreciate afterwards (and get saddled with forever!).

Jay Austin

Just wanted to make a distinction between an acronym and an initialism. An initialism is pronounced as a series of letters (e.g., CIA, FBI, SBA), whereas an acroynm is pronounced as a word (e.g., AIDS, FIPS).

A key problem in government naming schemes, in my opinion, is too many initialisms and too few acronyms. CFPB (an initialism) is a mouthful, whereas TEAPOTS (an acronym, and an IT system at HUD) rolls off the tongue a bit easier. But more broadly, the search for a “meaningful” acronym (or initialism) is a losing battle. Creating a meaningful acronym requires, nearly always, the creation of a backronyms–starting with something like MUSIC or UNICORN and finding less-than-meaningful words to fill in the letters.

GSA and the rest of the government should focus more on modeling the private sector’s approach: finding a catchy name that embodies the core of the company–Google (a large amount [of information]), Apple (vibrant and non-technical)–and building a brand around that, not the other way around.

Samuel F Doucette

I swear by when I am stumped by an unfamiliar acronym, of which many abound in the military.

Along the lines of the ASS Lab, at one time we had an Acqusition Systems Support Division — you guessed it, the ASS Division. Military humor abounds with other colorful humorous acronyms: Super High Intensity Training for one. I won’t go into the others.

David W. Scott

Many thanks to Jay Austin for the thoughts on naming schemes. Very cogent.

(And now that I’m better educated, I’ll mention that my favorite initialism is AAC – (The) Anti-Acronym Committee.)

Courtney Shelton Hunt

As someone with deep roots in the federal government – both civilian and military, I have a couple stories to share.

1. I was a “summer hire” in the Pentagon during college, working for the National Guard Bureau. My friends and I thought the acronyms and initialisms were hilarious, so we decided to talk in them exclusively. We developed an entire language, both written and oral. I still remember walking down the hall and having someone say, “H CH” (Hi Courtney Hunt). We even got the grown-ups to do it!

2.During my second job out of college, I worked for Price Waterhouse on a huge job for the Department of the Navy. We developed a new chart of accounts and took it on the road to the major commands in Norfolk, Honolulu and London. Being the pattern-oriented person I am, I noticed a discrepancy in the acronyms used for each. The (probable) reason for the discrepancy is hilarious. At least they got this one right!

Norfolk: CINCLANTFLT (pronounced sink lant fleet) – Commander in Chief of the Atlantic Fleet

Honolulu: CINCPACFLT (pronounced sink pack fleet) – Commander in Chief of the Pacific Fleet

London: CINCUSNAVEUR (pronounced sink us nav your) – Commander in Chief US Naval Forces Europe

Had they used the same convention, CINCUSNAVEUR would have been CINCEURFLT (Commander in Chief of the European Fleet), pronounced sink your fleet!!!

Telling the story works better in person, but I think you get the idea. And even if it’s not true, it’s still funny – and fun to share!

Now should we talk fund numbers? I still remember the funds for Military Personnel Navy and Military Personnel Navy Reserves…

Michael Protos

These are great suggestions and examples. I definitely laughed at some of these.

@Jay Austin: Thanks for noting the difference between an initialism and acronym. For journalists, the government’s love of acronyms and initialisms is often at odds with AP style. For example:

“In general, avoid alphabet soup. Do not use abbreviations or acronyms that the reader would not quickly recognize.”

Fortunately, most of our readers are well versed in acronym-speak, but avoiding alphabet soup can be hard to do. And we get occasional complaints about messing with people’s branding in acronyms. AP calls for any acronym longer than six letters to get only an initial cap followed by lowercase letters. So UNICORN would be Unicorn.

It gets messy.

Pamela McLeod

My first job out of school was at the Turkey Point Nuclear plant. As part of my Job Task Anlaysis I had to write locations and directions for the equipment/facilities being used. A commonly referenced object, a large water storage tank – visible from almost anywhere on the plant, was B.U.R.T. Being new and eager to do a good job, I insisted on the expansion of the Acronym for my report. The answer – Big Ugly Round Thing (I was then informed that it used to be Big Ugly Rusted Thing, until someone decided to give it a coat of paint.)

Robert R. Mander

Here’s my favorite, from Wyoming:

BANANA–Build Absolutely Nothing Anywhere Near Anything (WAM) [buh-NA-nuh].

We’re building a Web site devoted to government acronyms (etc.) and looking for a few good wonks who are experienced in and familiar with State governments and Federal agencies to help check us for accuracy and pronunciations. Interested? Please contact me at [email protected].

Matthew Weigelt

Gerry from Savannah, Ga., an FCW (Federal Computer Week) reader shared this acronym:

At one time, when women were first recruited in the military, early 70’s, DOD appointed a female officer to oversee the operations. The position was Chief of Women in the Services, better known as “COWS”. Just a few memos, and that changed quickly.

Allison Primack

Also posted this on GovLoop’s LinkedIn, here are the responses from Dave and Ted:

Dave Bell: I know of two that someone didn’t thnk fully through: the Agricultural Stabilization Service (ASS) and the Diversity Inclusion Council (DIC). The Agricultural Stabilization Service got changed before it got too far down the road, The other one, however, still exists.

Samuel F Doucette

We had a new General in charge at our higher headquarters who made us change our organization charts to reflect not just the office symbols (military-unique organizational hierarchy designators) but the office organizational titles with all acronyms spelled out. It actually made us think.

Robert R. Mander

At a recent seminar for technical writers, we were warned to “Never, ever, make up an acronym.” OK. But just who are the Acronym Police? Best answer: Nobody knows.