Damien on… The Trouble With Initials
Corporations love initials. They enable them to imprint themselves onto the public consciousness – but they have their drawbacks.
F’rinstance, while three initials would seem to offer an infinite amount of possibilities (well, 17,576 anyway) once you take into account the popularity of different letters they reduce dramatically.
And some combinations get downright over-used – the ubiquitous ABC, for example. American Broadcasting Company, Associated British Cinemas, Andover Bowling Club, Austrian Boxing Commission, Aniseed Ball Corporation (okay, I’m making them up now – but Google ABC and the entries’ll be in the millions).
The problem prompted the Dutch national airline to come up with KLM. Which doesn’t stand for ANYTHING. No, they hadn’t been smoking that stuff again – it was merely a ploy. K, L and M are consecutive in the alphabet – thus role off the tongue easily – and it was figured no-one else would use ’em.
Of course, Pan-American Airlines originally went with PAA, but when they discovered that people were colloquially referring to them as “Pan-Am” – they sensibly cashed in on it.
BA (just TWO initials) is British Airways – The World’s Least Favourite Airline – and was originally two companies: BEA (British and European Airways) and BOAC (British and Overseas Air Corporation) – which brings into focus the idea of using FOUR initials.
But as soon as you go with FOUR, people INEVITABLY try and turn them into acronyms. Which with BOAC doesn’t WORK (bow-ack?) and with others can be embarrassing. Take the U.S. government.
Having unintentionally WON the Cold War (see elsewhere in these ramblings) they needed a new Evil Empire and unwisely chose the Middle East – which blew up in their faces on 11/09/01 (9/11)
Their reaction was to retaliate, but realising they had bitten off more than they could chew, they went looking for help. They could hardly call their argument The West’s War Against Islamic Fundamentalism, so their spin-doctors came up with The War Against Terrorism.
Unfortunately, they hadn’t thought it through, ’cause TWAT is a coarse word for a lady’s naughty bits – so they hastily modified it to The War On Terrorism (even though TWOT is a “soft” version of the afore-mentioned).
Thus it can be seen that not only are four initials harder to recall than three, but they can also jump up and bite you in the arse. Just ask my friend – Steven Harold Ian Thompson.