Recently a friend amusingly used a clever nickname for our local KFC/Taco Bell combo restaurant (Mexican food and fried chicken—such a natural combination, don’t you think? Just picture the Colonel dressed in his Sunday best with a large sombrero perched atop his snowy locks. But I digress.) While I appreciated the creativity of the name, “K-Tac,” and was even tempted to use it myself, it got me thinking about acronyms, particularly in the context of our college community at Taylor University.  There is something about acronyms that is aesthetically pleasing to my ear, unlike texting shorthand, which I refuse to do, much to the annoyance of my friends and resulting in excessively long messages, which frequently exceed my character limits.  Acronyms sound official and are often more phonetically interesting than the phrases they stand for.

I don’t know if all college campuses are so plentifully sprinkled with names like “DC” (Dining Commons) or “KSAC” (not to be confused with K-Tac, KSAC is the Kesler Student Activities Center, where you go to run on the treadmill as penance for having eaten too many potato wedges at K-Tac). This is to say nothing about the various campus organizations. I am sure that it makes life easier for those familiar with these acronyms and probably saves their jaw muscles considerable work throughout the day. “Hey man, want to meet at KSAC after we go to K-Tac for the ICC meeting or is tonight the SAC meeting at the DC?” This is certainly a sentence that rolls off the tongue more easily than “Hey man, want to meet at the Kesler Student Activities Center after we go to the  Kentucky Fried Chicken/Taco Bell restaurant for the Inter-Class Council meeting or is tonight the Student Activities Council meeting at the Dining Commons?” The intention, I am sure, is never to exclude anyone. But throw enough of these ABC’s together and you get the equivalent of a verbal secret handshake. Each seemingly non-sensical string of consonants and vowels is an audible confirmation of your acceptance among the knowing or, if you aren’t so lucky, a slap in the face saying you don’t belong. (In Taylor’s defense, I think they provide copies of the code book for incoming freshman, and before you know it, they too are able to speak Taylorese.)

I have actually started a counter-revolution in which I refuse to use any acronyms. My counter-revolution begins to feel counter-productive when rather than cultivating a culture of inclusiveness, I feel my pride creeping in to create my own secret code of acceptance. The mental conversation with my imaginary friend goes something like this: “Did you notice I didn’t use the secret code but rather spelled it out just in case someone wouldn’t have understood the reference otherwise? Just another way I am looking out for the downtrodden and acronym illiterates.” Of course, this all goes on in my head, and since I have a slight tendency to over-analyze everything maybe no one but me really cares whether I say KSAC or Kesler Student Activities Center, K-Tac or Kentucky Fried Chicken/Taco Bell. Still, for my part, I am holding myself to a higher standard, shunning the language of exclusion.  Hope you will join me, ASAP.


3 Responses to “Acronyms and the Art of Exclusion”


  1. Andrew

     

    I certainly appreciate the intent of this counter-revolution, but I wonder if it’s harder than it sounds.

    That is, having graduated from TU (oops – I mean Taylor University) in ’03, I’m not familiar with the Kesler Student Activity Center. An even longer description is needed for someone like me – “…the Kesler Student Activity Center – the new gymnasium with basketball courts, indoor track, and workout facilities.” Similarly, the student dining facility back in the day was what is now the Student Union – I’m not sure that Hodson would come to mind even when it is more fully described as the Dining Commons.

    I don’t mean to be obtuse, but any level of description is exclusive to a certain degree. Fully articulating an acronym is just a lesser degree of exclusion…why is that taking the point far enough?

    Reply
  2. layla

     

    i also have witty running-commentaries in my head with my imaginary friend. maybe we should get “out of our heads” and be more open to real live humans. that being said, i am fully aware of the difficulties this invites into a person’s life, and may not be ready for that kind of adventure.
    i’ll check with my perfectly kind, wonderfully beautiful, super-fit friend in my head to hear what she has to say.

    p.s.
    i HATE that indiana wesleyan is referred to as IWU (pronounced /eye-woo/ )
    sounds suspiciously like IU, which it isn’t. but they gave that acronym to themselves so poop-dee-doo (PDD)

    Reply
  3. Bronwyn

     

    Thanks for your writing!
    As an educator in an international school, I am consistently bombarded by the most recent trends. The latest and more absurd than many – PLC (Professional Learning Community) A simple example of AIS (Administration Incompetence Syndrome)

    Reply

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