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With the recent RBC Canadian Open, I’ve been thinking about banks and their acronymic tendencies. In Canada, most banks have acronyms: RBC, TD, CIBC. One major exception is Scotiabank. An acronym for the old Bank of Nova Scotia would have been BNS, which may have been too close to BS. Scotiabank sounds alright though. It doesn’t really have anything special to do with Nova Scotia anymore, so who needs the “Nova”? Of course “Scotia” isn’t really anything without the “Nova” but you can’t get rid of it or you’d be left with just “Bank”, acronym, “B” — which is kind of hiphop street gang cool: “Yo, B, let’s dip, I gotta go to the ‘B'”.

Anyway, consider the Bank of Montreal, or BMO. This is an acronym in the J.Lo tradition. It’s easy to understand why the marketers at Bank of Montreal went with this. If you leave out the ‘O’ you’re left with BM, which has certain non-financial connotations. If you include an ‘o’ for ‘of’, something none of the other Canadian banks do, then you get BOM. Again, you could see it in an urban hipster street youth campaign, “Yo, this bank is the BOM.” But really, you would more likely see it in a G20 Black Block campaign, “Yo, let’s bomb the BOM!”

Do we see acronyms in big American banks? Bank of America is usually Bank of America. Otherwise you might see some nifty headlines: B.O.A. is D.O.A. And of course the BOA constrictor that crushes the life out of the mice and other rodents (metaphors for small time investors), and that doesn’t have the down home comfort of Fanny Mae. And  Chase Manhattan is CHASE, which sounds cool but makes you think of a criminal running away with somebody’s money. Chase him!

Anyway, a salute to Carl Petterson who won the RBC Canadian Open, shooting a 60 after drinking 7 beers the night before thinking he didn’t make the cut. He now has 918,000 more dollars to put in the “B” of his choice. Way to go, C.Pe!

Last night I watched episode 1/Season 4 of The Wire, which has a disturbingly realistic scene depicting a demeaning session of Professional Development (PD) for a group of Baltimore inner-city teachers. I posted the clip on YouTube for your enjoyment.

Please note the intellectual and emotional death evident in the teachers. They are texting, exchanging notes, and looking skyward (with the exception of the odd keener, taking notes). When the leader asks for a loud and enthusiastic response, “I A L A C”!!!!, they give her the inevitable monotone reply of a group of adults resigned to the humiliation of being treated like kindergarten children.

I Am Loveable And Capable (IALAC) is a true acronym. According to Urban Dictionary, it was introduced to the education world by Dr. Sidney B. Simon, a professor of education in Massachusetts. It’s fairly typical of the “Self-Esteem” movement in education – requiring that teachers affirm a student’s value regardless of the actual quality of their character. It’s a bad acronym anyway, with some unintended meanings. Read it the following way: I  A LACK.  As in I A LACK LOVEABILITY AND CAPABILITY. Or  “Aye, alack the day I had to sit through a PD session on IALAC”. It also sounds like a brand for infant formula. “Here, teachers, drink your IALAC with this baby bottle and then go teach those loveable and capable kiddies. Goochie goochie goo.”

Here is another example of flagrant acronym abuse for you to consider:

Just yesterday a radio host in Toronto referred to the Canadian band Great Big Sea as GBS. To me the sole justification for acronym usage is to abbreviate very lengthy sets of words that become tedious with constant repetition. For instance, the Canadian Union of Public Employees. Call them CUPE (kewpee, as in the doll) by all means. But Great Big Sea? The total syllable count is exactly the same as GBS. That’s gratuitous acronym usage, especially when you’re not even writing it down. Compare that to CUPE, which saves 10 syllables of your valuable breath each time you utter it. That’s efficient acronym usage, and strained vocal chords everywhere are thankful. For musicians, there are alternatives. Consider, for a moment, the Bee Gees. They easily could have left it at BGs. But the addition of those four extra “e”s cemented their reputation as a thoughtful and counter-cultural voice in the wilderness of the dying word.

I can’t manage fitting my life into a pre-set acronym template. So, I will present you my life goal and adjust the acronym to fit.

My goal is to become an incandescent light of joy streaking across the universe for eternity.

It is specific. It is measurable. It is, I admit, unattainable. Unrealistic, yes. Timeless, absolutely. SMUUT. Which is Finnish for SMUT. What can I say? I’ve always had a dirty mind.

Thanks to the good folks at Acronym Finder, I have a much more thorough understanding of SMART acronym usage. Here are a couple highlights.

1. Stereoscopic Mapping and Rescaling Technology. No idea what it means, but it sounds smart.
2. State of Missouri Alcohol Responsibility Training. I didn’t see State of Minnesota or State of Montana or State of Maine Alcohol Responsibility Training. Not as smart as Missouri. Glad that the state of Florida didn’t jump in. SFART! Yes.
3. Sex offender sentencing Monitoring Apprehending Registering and Tracking. Does this organization set SMART goals? We will sentence, monitor, apprehend, register and track 5% more perverts on an annual basis.

And, last but not least, Strategies for Motivating and Rewarding Teachers. This from Houston. Makes you wonder what a Texas motivational strategy is. Do your job and we won’t execute you?

Go to Acronym Finder and generate your own acronymic buzzphrase. Total Parallel Contingency.

Perhaps the most vile acronym in recent memory is S.M.A.R.T. for the SMART goal. This one is pervasive in Ontario education at the moment and seems to have a lot of currency in business management. According to wikipedia, the world didn’t get SMART until 1981 when a dude named Doran introduced it and saved humanity from a long history of vague, immeasurable, unattainable, irrelevant and timeless goals. Imagine, 6000 years of VIUIT goals. No wonder the world’s such a mess.

What is SMART? Specific. Measurable. Attainable. Relevant (sometimes Realistic). Time bound. At some point it evolved into the SMARTER goal. You just add an E for Emergency and an R for Room and there you go. Or, Evaluate and Re-Evaluate if you want to be technical. And if you keep on re-evaluating than it becomes a SMARTERRRRR goal, or if you intersperse evaluations with re-evaluations it becomes SMARTERER goals. I’m getting smarterer every year as all my friends get dumberer.

What is particularly vile about this simple mnemonic device, you may well ask? First off, there’s something particularly un-smart about writing the word “smart” all in capital letters. It’s like calling a dumb kid, “smart”. You don’t really mean it, but you don’t want to hurt his feelings. Second, there’s something gross about applying such a technocratic bizspeak thought packet to the world of education. I will explore this in later posts, but the gist of it is, it explicitly directs education to the more mundane territory of test scores and away from the land of inspiration. As soon as an educational leader sets a SMART goal, he/she decreases the soul size of everyone affected. SMART goals are de-motivational to anyone with spirit, shrinking our imagination to the measurable size of a pea. So, if you don’t like your soul or imagination, then it’s okay to be SMART. For now, I will follow my DUMB goals. Divine. Universal. Mind. Bending. Not de-motivational uninspired meaningless blather.

This blog is dedicated to the mockery and scorn of overzealous acronym usage everywhere. The underlying premise is that acronyms are a poisonous stream in the river of language evolution. My own experience with the slow brain death syndrome that results from acronyms has been with the Ontario education system. TLCP, EQAO, DI, NaFlC?, and the more universal S.M.A.R.T. Goal. Each of these has contributed in some way to the decrease of neuron connections in my brain and the steady shrinking of my soul. In future posts, I will explore these acronyms and outline the process by which they are inhibiting my “joie de vivre” JDV!

For now, I will tell you where it all began to go wrong for me. I used to like acronyms. When I was a kid, I was all about RBIs and ERA and NHL and NFL. These were like magical symbols to me, hinting at far deeper meanings than their simple letters. Where it all went wrong was when Kentucky Fried Chicken became KFC. I like Kentucky Fried Chicken. I liked the rotating bucket at the top of the pole with that cracker-assed Nazi sympathizer face of colonel Sanders smiling out at me. 11 herbs and spices? Who cares? I liked the grease and the salt and nuclear waste green colored slaw. You knew what you were getting. Chicken. Fried. From Kentucky. Okay, so maybe only the word “fried” was an accurate descriptor, but at least you were under the illusion that you knew what you were getting. Now. KFC. What do you imagine you’re going to get there? A series of random consonants? Sure you can say it faster, but where’s the poetry?

And so begins our journey, into the destruction of language as a result of a global syndrome of attention deficit disorder (ADD which really means SUBTRACT). In the beginning was the Word, and that Word was reduced to a single Letter. Let’s get back to the Word. Reconnect your neurons, expand your soul.

Goodbye word!