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Monday, December 15, 2008

Initials

Slightly whiny/ranting post:

The Post has an article on trade associations feeling the pinch of the recession. It happens to mention two different organizations that have formally changed their names to their initials:
  • "...ASAE, formerly known as the American Society of Association Executives..."
  • "...AeA (formerly the American Electronics Association)..."

Okay, so they want to make their names seem more modern, and maybe signal a broader mission than their original names conveyed. But please, just change your friggin' name. Officially changing it to the initials of your former name may seem like a nice compromise -- everyone can keep referring to you by the same acronym they've always used, but the antiquated/narrow name is dropped. Seems sensible enough, but it sounds asinine outside a board meeting.

This trend may stem from KFC, nee Kentucky Fried Chicken. They made a successful transition to non-acronym acronym because everyone knows what they do. They serve fast food, much of which is fried chicken, but they were able to get rid of the word "fried" in their name when it became undesirable, and excise the slightly outdated-seeming "Kentucky," to boot. This does not work, however, if many people don't know what you do. Every time the New York Times prints a health article that references something in BMJ, the poor reporter is forced to say that it was formerly called the British Medical Journal. Even though the name was changed in 1988, they have to keep saying it because otherwise no one outside the field would know what kind of organization BMJ is. When people from these trade organizations introduce themselves to members of Congress, do they say they're from "AeA, the organization formerly known as the American Electronics Association"?

If these groups can't bring themselves to part with their initials, a much better option is to change the words to fit. For instance, the U.S. General Accounting Office became the Government Accountability Office in order to reflect a broader mission. It may take some people a while to realize the underlying name has changed, but at least you're not left having to explain what the initials stood for before you officially declared that they no longer do.

(I realize that I've given this more airtime than it deserves, but it's a pet peeve.)

2 comments:

gastropodblue said...

Heheh...I used to work for ASAE! Maybe they switched to initials-only because they knew they'd never be able to find a better name that explains what they do. Hell, I barely even knew what we did half the time!

teague said...

I suspected that was your old employer...funny. One thing they do: talk to reporters about how the recession is affecting associations.