HD: Washington’s Love for Acronyms
Posted: 20 May 2012 03:46 AM   [ Ignore ]
Total Posts:  6485
Joined  2007-01-03

No duh

Posted: 20 May 2012 03:21 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
Total Posts:  4055
Joined  2007-02-26

Washington, and also that part of the world that lies outside Washington…

Posted: 21 May 2012 04:28 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
Total Posts:  394
Joined  2012-01-10

I’m a little surprised at the lack of criticism of the hyperbolic language used (I.e., bacronyms are a plague borne of a demon and the English language may not survive it).  Perhaps the hyperbole is so transparent that he thought is that even the author doesn’t really believe that this is a threat to the language.

While I tend to agree with what I think is the point of this article, namely, that many of the bacronymic titles given to be various pieces of federal legislation are either needlessly self-aggrandizing (i.e., the MICHELE and RAND acts) or blatant political pandering (I.e., the PATRIOT act and the DREAM act), I’m not sure that the use of bacronyms, as such, is what makes them obnoxious.  Even if the “patriot” act had a non-bacronymic origin (for example, if it was a nickname that he drafters came up with simply because they liked the ring of patriot act, and the short bill title could not be spelled out patriot) it would still be an insufferably self righteous and misleading title, as the act has little if anything to do with “patriotism”. 

Every piece of legislation has a “short title” (aka a nickname) and a much larger title.  The nickname is often more commonly known than the formal title, for the obvious reason that the formal title is too much of a mouthful for it to be convenient to use.  Some nicknames are acronyms (i.e., OSHA, the occupational safety and health act), some are bacronyms (I.e., the bills mocked here, such as RAND), and some are none of the above (I.e., the militia act of 1862, which is not an acronym.).

There is nothing inherently wrong with either acronymic or bacronymic approaches to giving names to legislation.  OSHA is a perfectly sensible short hand for the occupational safety and health act, which, itself, is an appropriate short form description of what that piece of legislation was intended to do, namely, improve workplace safety.

Some bacronyms are self-aggrandizing, self righteous, blatant pandering, or all of the above, but they are not such because they are bacronyms.  At most, it might be supposed that the use of any “cutesy” or “gimmicky” approach to naming legislation is a sign that the title is an obnoxious one in one way or another, and bacronyms certainly can be annoying in that way, and may even be disproportionately likely to be annoying.  But the deal threat, i think, is to a sensible discussion of politics, not to the English language itself, which is in no particular danger.  And the overuse of bacronyms is a trivial factor at most in the seeming dearth of reasoned political discussions.

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