Pilita Clark’s columns in the FT are unfailingly entertaining. In this column this begins by explaining that the fondness for using acronyms predates the birth of Christ: “It helps to remember that abbreviations date back to at least the time of Cicero, when ancient Romans shortened Senatus PopulusQue Romanus — the senate and people of Rome — to simple SPQR.”
In recent years, says Ms Clark, the climate change people have been at the vanguard of acronym creation: “These shortcuts have exploded in more modern times as advances in science and technology have brought longer, more complex terms that many sectors rushed to abridge, not least the business world.
I was reminded of this the other day when I was sent a new book that contained not one, not two but three pages listing the acronyms readers were likely to encounter inside.
There was a reason: it was a book about climate finance, which meant it covered the chronically abbreviation-heavy worlds of both climate change and finance.
The list’s P-words alone included PRI (principles for responsible investment); PPA (power purchase agreement) and PPP, which means purchasing power parity and, confusingly, public-private partnerships.”
And whilst entrepreneurs like Elon Musk have taken the high moral ground and told their staff to eschew acronyms, American politicians have no such qualms; they have in fact become extremely creative in using acronyms: “…Capitol Hill has become a hotbed of the reverse-engineered acronym known as the “backronym”.
Thus the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, or Cares Act, was followed by Creating Helpful Incentives to Produce Semiconductors, or Chips, and the Crook Act (Countering Russian and Other Overseas Kleptocracy).”
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