When acronyms go bad

There are only 26 letters in the English alphabet, which has proven sufficient for a lexicon of some quarter of a million words or so, but nonetheless appears inadequate for creating non-repeating acronyms. How many times have you changed jobs to find out that at XYZ Corp., “TPS report” stands for “Tactics, Priorities & Strategies Report,” while at NewCo, “TPS reports” means “Talk to the President’s Secretary, she’ll report it to him so you don’t have to.”

I was thinking about that this weekend, when a friend of mine posted the following link to his Facebook page:


I’ve said it before: aren’t moms amazing? I swear, motherhood gives you political — and apparently hostage-negotiation — skills like nothing else. (As my friend said, “I feel sorry for the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, but that’s got to be a hell of a recruiting tool.”)

I have to show you the graphic, because if you follow the actual link, someone at the Christian Science Monitor clearly had the big “D’oh!” and removed the last two words since it was originally posted.

(Author’s note: If you don’t know what a MILF is, I’m not telling you. You are by definition on the internet as you read this. Go look it up.)

So it got me to thinking about other acronyms that go two ways, or more than two. I used to work in central administration at Harvard when we were installing a new HR and payroll system, the doing of which required us to get clear on a lot of our HR policies and practices. Anyway, you can take two kinds of medical leave at Harvard: short- and long-term disability. Which are referred to by, of course, acronyms.

Which is why, when the benefits lady said, “We more or less consider pregnancy to be an STD,” I really shouldn’t have choked on my coffee and blurted out, “Good Lord, I don’t even want kids and I find that offensively cynical!”

Acronym lag. It happens to the best of us. Share your stories (SOS)!

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