Thursday, July 18, 2019

An abbreviation in need of brevity

Mar 08. 2019
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Re: “Parties promise gender equality as world marks Women’s Day”, Thailand, March 8.

My eyes glazed over as they lit upon the acronym “LGBTQI” (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and intersex) in this otherwise riveting article. I have always thought that the word “queer” is pejorative, hence politically incorrect; and I have no idea what an “intersex” person might be.

But that is not my point. Acronyms are useful shorthand for designating entities with long names. As such, they themselves need to be kept short. Two or three letters, as in UK and USA, ought to be the norm. Four letters, as in “USSR” and “NCPO”, should be the maximum. 

Otherwise, the reader’s attention is diverted from the entity itself to the problem of figuring out the meanings of all the letters in its acronym. The NCPO would not be nearly as popular as it is today (I am striving for irony here) if it had assumed the name the junta really meant: the National Council for the Promotion and Maintenance of Peace, Order and the Utter Submission of the Downtrodden Masses Forever (NCPMPOUSDMF).

Thus also with the ungainly “LGBTQI”. Obviously its inventors were struggling to be inclusive. Alas, they left out people who might want to have sex with animals. They could have added “AL”, for Animal Lovers, which would have given us “LGBTQIAL”. But even this excludes those lonely souls who, bereft of companionship, are forced to practise the solitary art of masturbation (LGBTQIALM).

The solution lies not in adding more letters to an already-unwieldy acronym but in coining a neologism that includes everybody and everything. We have heterosexuals and homosexuals – so why not anysexuals? I commend this compact neologism to the dictators of political correctness. It would obviate the need for an acronym and could lead to many exciting future headlines (“Cockroach lovers demand acceptance by the anysexual community”). 

Yours for greater precision of language, 

Ye Olde Pedant

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