‘Firstborn’ was recently exclaiming about the apparent necessity for all sorts of projects and activities to have not just a name but one that lends itself to a clever acronym that is, more often than not, a bit forced. The example she gave was of some draft American legislation entitled Repeated Objectionable Bothering Of Consumers On Phones, or ROBOCOP. Now, one cannot belittle the aims of the bill if it does stop unwanted marketing or sales calls, but wouldn’t it be better to put time and effort into ensuring the legislation is well drafted rather than to create a laboured acronym that has little relevance to the subject, or is it just de rigueur to show that your a**e is as smart as that of your neighbour?
Anyway, the reason to touch on Firstborn’s minor rant is to highlight one of my favourite anti-smart-a**e acronyms and, in doing so, to acknowledge the person that first coined the sub-heading of the ‘A View From The Lanterne Rouge’ blog.
John Pope, a mildly eccentric fisheries scientist with an erudite quote for every occasion, once published a paper in the so-called ‘grey’ literature in which he developed a hybrid means of estimating fish population size and the associated mortality rates. In this case ‘hybrid’ refers to a mix of statistical rigour and some ‘chuck it out if you don’t like it’ ad hockery. I can’t remember many details of the method, but it was named ‘If thy cumulative-Z offendeth thee, then cast it out’ or, more catchily: ITCOTTCIO. An antidote to wise-guy acronyms! (For the uninitiated, cumulative-Z is a term that refers to the accumulated mortality of fish spawned in a given year as they pass through their different age groups in successive years).
John’s Biblical reference to ‘casting it out’ originates in the gospel according to Matthew chapter 18 verse 9: “And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee” and it indulged his whimsical use of scriptural and canonical references linked to his surname (see: John Pope. Response to the Note by M.S.M Siddeek . J. Cons. int. Explor. Mer (1982) 40 (3): 306 for the all-time classic example). But, as Ronnie Corbett would have said, “I digress”. The purpose of this post is to point out that John described his new method as ‘artless but enticing’, an epithet that I have commandeered to describe any of my attempts to be creative, including this blog.