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Saturday, February 19, 2005

Acronyms SOL

Acronyms: Bane of Our Existence

You’ve no doubt heard the jokes about how engineers, government contractors, bureaucrats, and assorted consultants confuse themselves and burrow into their increasingly narrow subfields by using acronyms in place of real language. It’s true and an annoying part of working in Washington, DC.

One of the more absurd examples of this is when legislative staffers give bills long, awkward names in an effort to get neat acronyms. For instance, did you know that the well-known PATRIOT Act, which expanded the powers of law enforcement after 9/11 is actually entitled the “Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act of 2001?”

While confusion is a problem, sometimes it can be hard to concentrate on a serious matter when an acronym repeatedly used in a document means something different to you. For instance, a recent investigation into a federal agency’s actions repeatedly referred to the Office of the Solicitor (the top lawyer in the agency) as SOL which, for most of us, has an entirely different meaning. Now that’s just silly.