Rooney: Lettering Of The Language

<B>Andy Rooney</B> On Using Acronyms

A weekly commentary by CBS News Correspondent Andy Rooney. It was first broadcast on April 25, 2004.
During the recent 9/11 hearings, Richard Ben-Veniste kept asking questions of Condoleezza Rice using the initials "PDB.?
I felt dumb because I didn't know what they stood for. Well, they stand for "President's Daily Brief."

There are always people who try to sound special by using words that are familiar only to the people in their profession. Doctors do it; scientists leave us in the dark using initials. Lawyers do it.

Bureaucrats in Washington love to use initials. The GAO, CIA, OPEC, HUD. Sports fans have their own language of initials. If you're not a baseball fan, you probably don't know what an RBI is. It's a "ribbie."

Initials are handy as shorthand, of course. We don't call it the United States of America every time. We say "the USA."

It's strange that some presidents are called by their initials, and others aren't. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt was well known as FDR.

President Kennedy was "JFK." Lyndon Johnson was "LBJ." On the other hand, no one called Richard Milhous Nixon "RMN." We didn't call Jimmy Carter "JC," or Bill Clinton "BC."

People called him a lot of things, but not "BC."

If you can pronounce the initials as a word, it's an acronym. AIDS is an acronym for Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome. "RADAR" is "Radio Detecting and Ranging."

"SCUBA" is short for "Self Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus."

Businesses use acronyms. The Aluminum Corporation of America is "ALCOA," the National Biscuit Company is "NABISCO." Sunoco stands for Sun Oil Company. "IBM" is not an acronym because it's not a word you can say.

The most familiar acronym in WW II was SNAFU. Sanitized, it stood for Situation Normal, All Fouled Up.

The popular new set of initials is WMDs. For a while, it stood for Weapons of Mass Destruction. Now, WMD doesn?t stand for anything because they didn?t find any.

So, I'm getting out of here PDQ, ASAP. You can catch me on TV Sunday at 7:50 p.m. here on CBS. OK?

Written By Andy Rooney
  • Rebecca Leung

Comments

CBSN Live

pop-out
Live Video

Watch CBSN Live

Watch CBS News anytime, anywhere with the new 24/7 digital news network. Stream CBSN live or on demand for FREE on your TV, computer, tablet, or smartphone.