The Dark & Satanic Forces Proliferating Gobbledygook
in Versailles on the Potomac

June 22, 1999

Comment: #290

Discussion Thread:  #289

A member of the staff in the House of Representatives says I worried too much about getting my acronyms right in the Comments regarding Task Force Hawk. On the other hand, he is evidently fascinated by the military's proliferating variety of incomprehensible acronyms. What follows is analysis of the dark and satanic forces driving the proliferation of gobbledygook in Versailles on the Potomac. Enjoy .....

-------[Quote from the Hill]------

"Don't fret too much about the acronyms: they are a symptom of the creeping, bureaucratic metastasizing of big government. For instance, "NPR" could stand for National Public Radio, National Performance Review, Naval Petroleum Reserve, or New Production Reactor (and probably a couple of other things)."

"George Orwell considered the growing proliferation of acronyms in his day (Gestapo, OGPU, SS, etc.) a symptom of totalitarianization. The acronyms are ugly, and meant to be the ugly jargon of a brutal state."

"That's as far as he went with his analysis, but I would add that more likely the proliferation of acronyms is typical of the bureaucratization of formerly open and democratic societies. The "in" group has to have its own secret language that distinguishes itself from the uninitiated. At some point it becomes as inane as the Masons' secret passwords. It's obvious, though, that acronyms have gotten so far out of hand that the professional military now has trouble communicating WITH EACH OTHER."

"One could probably write a doctoral dissertation on military speak: not only the dishonest euphemisms like "collateral damage" and "incontinent ordnance" and "retrograde movement" but also weird coinages that seem to have no purpose at all: what on earth does "ramp up" say that "increase" doesn't? Why the hell do they insist on saying "vice" when they mean "versus?" (the Marines in particular seem to pound into their officer candidates at Quantico that thou shalt use "vice" at least once per sentence). What in God's name does "rotary winged assets" imply that "helicopters" does not? As a scholar of the bizarre, I thirst for enlightenment."

 -------[End Quote]-----

Chuck Spinney

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