A Reader’s Guide to Acronyms

November 14th, 2006 by

As part of our effort to keep readers informed of the latest management trends in the workplace, the Insider focuses today on contemporary acronyms: an update of the latest compressed nuggets that are finding their way into common speech. Well, not so common, perhaps. We begin with the admirable work of Megan Aemmer at MSN, who offers the latest in acro-speak making the office rounds:

1. A2O (Apples to Oranges): A comparison of dissimilar things; an inappropriate comparison. “I think we should ignore Smith’s suggestion; the analysis is totally A2O.”
2. B2B (Business to Business): Marketing-speak for a business supplying another business, as opposed to consumers or government. “They’re strictly B2B, so you won’t find their products in retail stores.”
3. BHNC (Big Hat, No Cattle): Adapted from cowboy parlance. Used to describe someone who is all talk and no action, full of self-importance, and/or a poser. “She brags about her ‘fabulous’ job all the time, but she’s BHNC.”
4. CLM (Career-Limiting Move): A move that blocks your career path, or gets you fired, as in: “Wow, he made a real CLM when he showed up an hour late for the big pitch meeting.”
5. CTD (Circling the Drain): Something that is on its last breath and about to die. Possibly related to disposing of a dead pet goldfish or a similar flushing-something-down-the-toilet scenario. “We all know the project is CTD, so most of us have started looking for new jobs.”
6. FUD (Fear, Uncertainty, Doubt): A marketing tactic used by companies (often computer-related), FUD is used to scare consumers into staying with their product instead of trying the competitor’s new product. “You could go with Company B, but their servers might crash on you.”
7. MEGO (My Eyes Glazed Over): A sign of extreme boredom. “I had a serious case of MEGO after that accounting presentation.”
8. PEBCAK (Problem Exists Between Chair and Keyboard): Tech-speak used when the “problem” is within hearing range. “I took a look at her machine and it’s clearly a PEBCAK situation,” said one technician to the other.
9. PURE (Previously Undiscovered Recruiting Error): A new employee who isn’t working out as well as expected; an employee who looked good on paper but isn’t cutting it on the job. “The new assistant buyer is definitely a PURE. Her qualifications are stellar, but she’s so rude!”
10. WIIFM (What’s In It for Me?): A key question in communication. People aren’t going to be interested in hearing your pitch if they can’t see what’s in it for them. “Jones completely failed to sell the new PR campaign. The client just didn’t see the WIIFM factor in his pitch.”

Acronyms have been around at least since the 1940s. First and foremost in the creation of these curious and often annoying devices is the government, and more specifically, the military. Here are a few choice items:
EDAC: Error Detection and Correction. Or Economic Defense Advisory Committee. Or Equipment Distribution and Conditions Report. [Take your pick.]
PA: There are 41 possible meanings here, ranging from pad abort to proponent agency.
MA: From Military Advisor to Mission Abort, you have 17 options here (including, of course, the Insider’s home state).
LEMUF: Limit of Error on Material Unaccounted For. [As awkward as this formation appears, there is ample opportunity to use it in Iraq.]
Before we put this topic to rest, check out the link to medical acronyms in yesterday’s blog by our colleague Julie Ferguson. A couple of examples: LOBNH – Lights On But Nobody Home. Or how about two acronyms for parents: HIVI – Husband Is Village Idiot; HMF – Hysterical Mother Figure. A lot of these acronyms are pretty outrageous, not to mention, obscene, sexist, agist and racist. Unlike the military acronyms, these are intended to be humorous.
Meanwhile, we”d best sign off, before your blogger turns PEBCAK and begins CTDing. We don’t want our valued readers to go MEGO. After all, we’re all about B2B and we can’t afford to have you look PURE or stumble onto a CLM so early in the work week!