All these acronyms are FTB (for the birds)

For the 4th of July, we went to the SOF (Stadium of Fire) at Brigham Young University in Utah.

They had a gigantic display of fireworks with views of Carrie Underwood on giant screens, as well as dancers, parachutists and trampolinists. All performed on a sweltering night for more than 50,000 other WMPIs (well-meaning patriotic idiots). The whole evening brought me to tears. Or was that sweat in my eyes? We all suffered a little from SLPFF (sweating like pigs for freedom).

Scientists like acronyms. Well, it may not be that they “like” acronyms. It may just be that they’ve become necessary. Scientists like to discover new things, and new things have to have names so that we can talk about them. Scientists are pragmatic realists who use only PDNs (precise descriptive names). PDNs are usually PAWNs (polysyllabic adjective weighted nouns). Since these kinds of names can often be misinterpreted, scientists have to have ERONs (elaborate rules of nomenclature).

These rules are not arbitrary, you understand. Nothing in science is arbitrary, which is why science is sometimes called DULL (dull). It’s just that the names get so complex that one could sprain one’s tongue if you had to refer to the new-found scientific thingy more than once in a paragraph. There is also a tendency to spray when using scientific jargon. Or maybe that’s just the nerds. Anyway, things like adenosine triphosphate become ATP and deoxyribonucleic acid becomes DNA. I wish I could discover something. I would give it the acronym NAME (non-arbitrary modified element).

Biologists are often ridiculed for the strange names plants and animals are given. But have you ever tried to read the ingredients on over-the-counter medications or cosmetics?  What the heck is methylchloroisothiazolineone, and why is it in my wife’s shampoo? It’s not in my shampoo, but that’s because I can get by using wet wipes for HC (hair care). Maybe that should be hair careless. Or hairless care. WE (whatever).

Actually, acronyms are just abbreviations and methylchloroisothiazolineone is also an abbreviation. The real chemical name of the compound is 2-methy-4-isothiazolin-3-one. Some people like to call it 5-chloro-2-methyl-4-isothia-zolin-3-one, but I think that’s going a little too far, don’t you?

The only organization with more acronyms than science is the federal government. However, I have limited experience with government, outside of the IRS, and I want to keep it that way. I did discover, however, that chemists have only 288 pages of recognized acronyms while the federal government has 338 pages. 

That isn’t really a fair comparison, though, because there is a lot of redundancy in chemical acronyms. The federal government only has redundancy of programs, but their acronyms are all unique. Anyway, the debate continues. Is it better to name millions of things in Latin using a binomial system or are acronyms preferred?

Well, I offer this:

IMHO*, FWIW**, I prefer the Latin.

However, as always, YMMV***. LOL!****

* In my humble opinion

** For what it’s worth

*** Your mileage may vary

**** Laugh out loud

Gary McCallister, .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address), is a professor emeritus of biological sciences at Colorado Mesa University.


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