FYI, this talk is HAZ-MAT

Phillip Coorey has a humorous op-ed in today’s Sydney Morning Herald about Kevin Rudd’s increasing — and unrestrained — use of acronyms. Hey, I’m all for the everyday FAQ, IOU, PS, ATM and ASAP. But there is a limit to how much we should invoke acronyms, particularly in conversation. Right? Not sure? See below.

Ever since Washington, where Rudd cooly dropped the acronym CSBM (confidence- and security-building measures) during an address to foreign policy wonks at the Brookings Institution, collecting examples of what Rudd calls “geek talk” has become a trip favourite.

At the NATO summit in Bucharest, where Rudd spoke of war in terms of establishing and measuring performance benchmarks, the ABC’s Louise Yaxley asked him whether the leaders had streamlined the rules of engagement that apply to the NATO soldiers.

“You mean RoEs,” said Rudd.

“Yes, I mean rules of engagement,” said Yaxley.

At the Grove, Rudd’s acronym use hit near-fatal levels as he rattled off – always without explanation – EWS (early-warning system), RTP (right to protect), CCS (carbon capture and storage), and IFIs (pronounced iffeys, international financial institutions).

The ripper came when he chaired the session on climate change, reminding each speaker to keep their contribution to three minutes. When the first speaker easily exceeded three minutes, Rudd tried to crack a joke as he warned Jens Stoltenberg of Norway, who was up next: “Jens, if you go beyond three minutes, your ODA goes up 0.1 per cent.”

No one laughed or said anything, either because it was possibly the unfunniest joke ever told or it took a good while for everyone to work out what ODA meant (overseas development aid).

You can read the piece in its entirety here.


#1 Mohammed on 04.07.08 at 11:30 pm

Well done, Rudd. FWIW, I’m all for plain english, but acronyms are simply undervalued in society. How much is too much? YMMV, but Rudd seems to have got it right, IYAM. The only problem AFAICT is teaching people to expand acronyms on the fly, perhaps by promoting a kind of real life HTML <abbr> tag. AFAIK, this is not possible now, but Rudd and his government could throw their weight behind a national acronym initiative. IANAL, but they should be able to spend significant tax-payer money on this, too.

#2 Amal on 04.08.08 at 1:16 am

YMBJ. I had to look up several of those.

Who talks like that?!

#3 Eudaemonion on 04.08.08 at 2:43 am

I had to look up all of those. What is wrong with speaking English as God gave us the language. Mary!

#4 Amal on 05.27.08 at 8:44 am

More on the wonder of Rudd. I almost miss Howard now.

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