Acronyms are jargon that can confuse your audience, particularly if you do not define them the first time you use them. Acronyms should be avoided whenever possible. In a previous post on Drowning in Acronyms I lamented their wide use. Back when I was a small child acronyms still were uncommon enough that one of my mother’s friends could threaten her kids by saying that: “If you don’t behave, then I’m going to send you home COD (Cash On Delivery) on the L&N (Louisville and Nashville railroad).
Acronyms are a wonderful way of mystifying outsiders because there are no consistent rules for making them up. Sometimes articles or prepositions are included, like TMS which originally was The Metallurgical Society, and every month publishes JOM, which once was more logically called the Journal of Metals.
Some acronyms are contrived. For example, TWAIN means Technology Without An Interesting Name. CAPTCHA means a Completely Automated Public Turing (test to tell) Computers (and) Humans Apart and was even trademarked by my alma mater,
My nomination for the worst acronym ever is for what used to be called the American Symphony Orchestra League. Once they even titled their newsletter ASOL (possibly an obscene synonym for anus). Imagine calling them up and having the phone cheerily answered, “Good morning, ASOL.” It would have been much better if they had named themselves the American League of Symphony Orchestras (ALSO). In 2007 they finally did change the name to the League of American Orchestras (LAO). They now claim that corresponds to a Chinese word for “old”, as in “wise elder.”
Do you have another nominee for the worst acronym ever (WAE)?