Sunday, February 24, 2008

My Rant Against Acronyms

I have mentioned it before, but it bears repeating: I hate acronyms. My soul hateth them with an undying hatred.

Acronyms are by their very nature exclusive; they exclude everyone who doesn't know (or can't remember) what they stand for. There are two groups of people in particular who use acronyms to excess, and they are unfortunately the two groups in which I most often find myself: fanboys and Catholics.

Fanboys are by nature an exclusive group, so their use of acronyms is to some degree justifiable. Nonetheless, when in an Internet discussion forum, I always feel a little out of touch because, while everyone else is glibly tossing around LOTR or ToD, I'm sitting there struggling to remember that those stand for Lord of the Rings and Temple of Doom, respectively. That's why, on this blog, I try always to spell out movie and book titles and then shorten them only in non-acronym sorts of ways. I am, however, guilty of using sf (always lowercase and without periods) as a substitute for science fiction. This acronym is the standard one, appearing as it does in the fanboy magazine Locus. But from now on, I will try to spell it out first whenever I use it, or maybe I just won't use it at all: as Strong Bad would put it, I totally have time to say all the syllables.

Unlike fanboydom, Catholicism is not supposed to be an exclusive group. I realize that theology requires some specialized language that won't be readily accessible to the uninitiated, but do we have to make things worse by using acronyms? All the RCIA and CCD around here is about to drive me nuts.

Particularly irritating, whenever I see a priest's name in print, it is almost always followed by an obscure, indecipherable acronym, as in "Fr. Peter B. Phlogistion, M.O.B." or "Fr. Horatio K. Flaggelate, L.M.A.O." I have asked around, and so far it seems that absolutely nobody has a clue what those stand for. Sometimes, people like to put their degrees after their names, as in M.A. or M.Diddly,* but I have never heard of an F.O.B. degree.

Speaking of which, how many non-Catholics even know that Fr. stands for Father? In C. S. (Clive Staples) Lewis's Screwtape Letters, the only named human character is a certain Fr. Spike,** an Anglican priest. When I first encountered that book as a middle school Baptist boy, I kept reading the name as "Friar Spike." I had no idea what Fr. stood for.

I couldn't even escape the acronyms if I went into schism, since our schismatics like to call themselves SSPX. I have never seen what that stands for*** because everyone who uses it assumes this incredibly obscure acronym is commonly known. They forget that, in any document, the phrase or title represented by an acronym is always to be written out the first time the acronym appears because somebody somewhere has never seen it before. Like me.

Aargh! My distaste for acronyms knows no bounds. Perhaps I should pray to the BVM to help me overcome my anger.

*From now on, I expect everyone who comments on this blog to address me as Mister Douglas Graham Damasus Davidson, M.A. Well, not really, but you can mark this as the historic moment in which I finally revealed my full name. Damasus, incidentally, is my confirmation name and the patron saint of archaeologists. Actually, commenters can call me anything they want as long as it is not the legendary Late For Dinner.

**Would anyone else be intimidated if he went to the confessional and saw the name "Fr. Spike" on the door?

***Supercilious Specialized Punk Xylophone being my best guess.
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