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Editor’s note: Michael Ackley’s columns may include satire and parody based on current events, and thus mix fact with fiction. He assumes informed readers will be able to tell the difference.
“We’re very proud of our work here at BOA,” declared Dr. Howard Bashford, director of the U.S. Government’s Bureau of Acronyms. “It’s true that there are thousands more federal agencies and sub-agencies than those for which we have devised really sharp names. But, really, what are you going to do with something like the Virtual Cement and Concrete Testing Laboratory.
“It’s VCCTL* and it’s going to have to stay VCCTL – unless somebody comes up with something like Virtual Amalgamated Cement and Testing Initiative of the Nation. That would be VACATION.
“Say! Let me write that down.”
Our visit to Dr. Bashford was stimulated by a television commercial for HARP*, the Home Affordable Refinance Program.
“Honestly,” said Bashford, “that should have been the Affordable Home Refinance Program, but who wants to go around saying ‘AHRP’? Sounds too much like stomach gas. The vowel simply had to be moved.”
Bashford and his staff of about 300 occupy basement offices in adjacent buildings in the Washington, D.C., “govplex.” There they labor diligently, working their way through the list of government programs, agencies and even buildings whose names lack punchy acronyms.
“It seems like there are new ones every day,” said Bashford, using the eraser on the stub of a pencil to scratch his nose. “We only wish BOA had been around earlier. Then we might have avoided some unfortunate alphabetical juxtapositions.
“Senate Office Building is an obvious example. Hits too close to home. And while War on Poverty has a certain verve, its abbreviation is ethnicity offensive.”
As we strolled through the ranks of BOA cubicles, Bashford stopped next to one in which a youngish man was staring at a blank note pad, his fists locked in his hair.
“Dingle here is working on the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. PPACA* lacks the panache such a program should have, and he’s trying to find it a new name. The best he has come up with so far is ACHMED, for Affordable Care, Health, Medicine, Emesis and Defibrillation.
“But that’s a bit too Arab, isn’t it Dingle?” he said patting the young man on the shoulder.
Dingle gave an irritated nod and went back to staring at his notepad.
Moving along, Bashford pointed a young woman engaged in the same “activity” as Dingle.
“She working on COGH*,” he said. “That’s the Coordinating Office for Global Health. It really needs a ‘u.’ So far she has produced ‘uplifting,’ ‘uncompromising’ and ‘unsanitary’ in the effort to make it ‘COUGH.’ Keep plugging, Darlene!”
“I have a few favorites we’re striving to emulate,” Bashford told us. “Perhaps my favorite favorite is AGRICOLA*, for Agricultural OnLine Access. Latin was my favorite course of study. Agricola means farmer, you know.
“I also like BISON*, Biodiversity Information Serving our Nation, and DEPORT*, Detention Enforcement and Processing Offenders by Remote Technology. That really sings, but we’ve been told it has to go. Too accurate. Right now we’re working on a substitute, like Home Again, Lucky Friends – HALF. Has a nice ring, no?”
Bashford said some agencies appeared impossible, like HAB*, or Harmful Algal Blooms.
“We’re toying with Blooms, Algal Helpful,” Bashford mused, “you know, BAH, as in humbug. Others currently in use are working, like the Commission on Helping Enhance the Livelihood of People around the Globe.”
“That simply goes by HELP*,” said Bashford. “You see, you don’t really have to use the initial of every word in a title. When you do that, you end up with agencies like TEAPOTS*. That’s Title Eight Automated Paperless Office Tracking System. It’s admirable work, but POTS probably would do as well.
“Other acronyms are accurate, but convey the wrong feeling, like LUST*.”
We did a double take, and Bashford explained, “That’s Leaking Underground Storage Tank Trust Fund. No kidding. And TIGER* is Topologically Integrated Geographic Encoding and Referencing.”
Asked if BOA could keep some 300 acronym technicians busy indefinitely, the director said, “Absolutely. Why, there are more than 450 agencies just in the ‘Ns.’
“You might say, ‘There’s no ‘Ns’ in sight,” he chortled. “Anyway, even if we get through the ‘national this’ and ‘national that,’ the new agencies under the Affordable Care Act alone should keep us in business for at least a decade. You might say BOA will have a stranglehold on the job.”
When does arrogance slip into delusion? I’d say it’s when President Obama tells CNN, “During the course of my presidency, I have bent over backward to work with the Republican Party and have purposely kept my rhetoric down.”
And another thing: His Eminence bemoans the furloughing of 800,000 federal employees, but he doesn’t seem to notice the millions still out of work due to his policies, or the millions more whose hours are being cut below 30 per week because of Obamacare. Grrrrr!
* All of these are real.