I tuned in halfway through an interesting discussion on ABC Radio recently.  It was about attitudes to AI, and the presenter was contrasting Doomers – those folks who think AI is going to destroy us – with others she kept referring to as ee-yeks or ee-yaks.  That’ll be a new acronym, I sez to meself, and waited patiently for her to say the words the letters stood for. 

She didn’t, so I lost patience and went a-googling. 

I searched IAC and got Infrastructure As Code.  Nope, that’s not it.  Then I tried EAC and came up with Estimate At Completion.  That doesn’t sound like it either.  I added AI in the search field but that didn’t change the result.  Eventually, after about 30 minutes, she mentioned Effective Altruism.  So EACs are people who believe that when handled properly, AI can be a force for good in the world.  But I still don’t know what the C stands for. 

It seems half of our language these days consists of acronyms.  They run riot in bureaucracy, in international affairs, in social life.  I used one unthinkingly myself just now – AI, for Artificial Intelligence.  I do know that one.  EAC must be a newie – so new it isn’t even popping up on Google yet. 

One we hear a lot of these days is LGBQTIA+.  Most people, when using it in speech, tend to only get as far as LGB before they get the Q and the T in the wrong order and resort to that useful phrase ‘alphabet people’.  For the record, it stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Queer (or Questioning), Transgender, Intersex and Asexual.  That plus sign came along later as a kind of instant add-on kit in case something new comes along in gender diversity.    

The reason it’s so hard is that it’s not a true acronym, in that you can’t say it as if it was a proper word.  It’s really just an initialism.  There is a difference.  BIPOC – Black, Indigenous People Of Colour – is a true acronym because you CAN say it as a word without just rattling off the letters.

The best acronyms are the ones that sum up the organisation’s purpose in a name that also delivers a snappy acronym in a proper word.  Here are some Tasmanian examples.  

CAVE:  Computer-Aided Vicarious Exposure.  This program was developed by the University of Tasmania to cure phobias such as arachnophobia, agoraphobia and presumably also claustrophobia, such as you might get in a cave.   Nice one.  You don’t even have to leave out any annoying conjunctions or articles.

ISLAND:  Island Study Linking Ageing and Neurogenerative Disease.  This is a co-project of Tas Uni and the Wicking Foundation.  Another goodie, although you do have to ignore that superfluous A. 

Some of my examples go back a while so I can’t guarantee they still exist. 

TIGER:  This was a project set up during Paul Lennon’s days and it stands for Tasmanian Information on Geoscience and Exploration Resources.  Great name, as long as you ignore the ‘on’ and the ‘and’. 

EPOCH Tasmania.  The aim of this worthy group was to End Physical Punishment of Children, but what about that second P? 

CRAMP:  Concerned Residents Against Moral Pollution.  This is or was a Thing in Burnie.  Sure, they haven’t had to leave out any letters, but it’s not a very appealing name, is it?   

Organisations will go to tortuous lengths to get a memorable acronym.  I have a media release from April 2009 in which the Asthma Foundation of Tasmania welcomes the introduction of the Base-Line Air Network of EPA Tasmania, or BLANkET.  Note they had to use a ‘k’ from the end of a word, leave out the PA (Protection Authority?) and the ‘of’, but it’s a nice try. 

Just today I heard a story on the news about a successful crime raid by Taskforce VIPER.  Nowhere could I find what VIPER stood for.  I learned that it was set up by Tasmania Police in December last year, based on a similar Victorian project to target recidivist offenders.  Aha.  Maybe it’s VIctoria Police Ending Recidivism.  But VicPol aren’t explaining either!  They must just love their tough-sounding acronym so much they don’t want nitpickers like me spoiling the party. 

I’ve thought up a goodie for when we get our new stadium.  Tasmanians Adoring Young Lady Of Renown Send Welcoming Invitation For Tay-Tay.  On the other hand, like BLANkET and VIPER, it might just attract protests from COCOA – the Council to Outlaw Contrived and Outrageous Acronyms.