I overheard a bloke talking on the phone the other day. The conversation went something like this: “The COO says he wants us to provide RAMS for the SECC, sorry SEC – they’ve changed it. I’ll get H&S to send them over… yes, the RFI and the RFP are both issued and sorted and we’re now in the middle of the SLA.” He then mentioned something about ROI and the fact that an NDA had been signed.
What a complete to$$er, I thought. Then I realised that complete to$$er was me.
While none of the above will remotely phase events industry veterans, it did get me thinking just how hard it must be for newcomers to follow the typical conversations taking place all around them. And as someone who indignantly rants about “marketing bo!!ocks” on a regular basis, there’s clearly a whole world of jargon being bandied about in my own office that must baffle and exclude the uninitiated.
Are we in so much of a hurry nowadays that communication must be condensed into its briefest form? Or are we subtly flaunting our superior industry knowledge by speaking in code?
We’re inclined to assume that the use of acronyms is a modern trend, but actually it goes right back to the Bible. INRI ring any bells? Pontius Pilate had the initials inscribed on the crucifix – which translates from the Latin into Jesus the Nazarene, King of the Jews.
Fast-forward to the 20th Century, and the cost of advertising in a lonely hearts column spawned a massive dictionary of short forms. Over time, the fairly pedestrian GSOH (good sense of humour) and WLTM (would like to meet) were joined by the more explicit MBA (married but available) and PA (pleasing appendage).
Finally, of course, the texting revolution produced an entire lexicon, from LOL to ROFL and on, and on – until CU Next Tuesday became something of a reverse acronym, sending a different message altogether.
Our very own head of IT is no slouch in the abbreviation department. I had a recurring computer issue – PEBCAC. He’d fix it, mutter the acronym under his breath and go on his merry way. In time, the problem would resurface, and the process would repeat. It was only years later that I discovered the root cause – Problem Exists Between Chair and Computer. PEBCAC has now been replaced with error code Id-10t.
Some of our own industry acronyms have evolved into names in their own right. Rather like RADAR, the likes of NEBOSH and EIBTM don’t ever get spelled out in full, these days.
Which is why we must think about those initials carefully when choosing a corporate name. The International Special Events Society was forced to rebrand when hostilities escalated in the Middle East.
However, my favourite acronym story belongs to Andy Lenthall, general manager at the PSA (Doh!). Andy is also very much involved in an advisory committee that provides information on H&S across the film, theatre, live event and broadcasting industries. A few years ago, stakeholders from the different sectors began to grumble that the committee’s name wasn’t adequately conveying their own involvement.
Working diligently to incorporate all the sector names, Andy got as far as FLAPJAC before throwing in the towel. It was clear that a simple, umbrella title would have to suffice. He triumphantly came up with Entertainment Joint Association Committee, which seemed to work, until it was pointed out that EJAC was likely to yield some interesting search engine results. Now we all know why a hasty rethink produced its current name… JACE.
So, proceed with caution on your rebrand strategy – and spare a thought for your new recruits (FNGs in our company – N = new and G = guy. You can work the F out for yourselves).
As for me, I’m giving up acronyms for Lent. Be prepared for some lengthy chats!