When Acronyms Go Bad…or Just Sloppy Naming Work?

Name developers occasionally are asked to develop acronyms for clients. Sometimes acronyms are terrific short cuts that resonate. Who hasn’t heard of MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving)?

Sometimes acronyms are trouble. The CNN article has numerous examples of “bad luck” with unfortunate acronyms (e.g., when your acronym develops a bad meaning). Perhaps some of these acronyms are a result of bad luck…but I believe most of these cases are unfortunate examples of naming sloppiness and bad branding!


Consider the DOA acronym. In 2009 Iowa changed the name of the Department of Elder Affairs to the Department on Aging, or DOA. This is not bad luck…this is bureaucratic stupidity! How could you not realize that DOA meant Dead On Arrival?

What about the Philharmonic Orchestra of Florida (POOF)? Didn’t anyone realize that POOF had another meaning that might prove to be a problem?

How about the cultural mistake made in Iraq? When the Coalition Provisional Authority began planning new Iraqi armed forces in 2003, they originally called them the New Iraqi Corps. They hit a big snag, though. As ABC News reported, in Arabic "nic" is "a colorful synonym for fornication."

These choices reinforce some of the “Naming Faux Pas” I noted in a previous blog post.

C’mon people…if you are going to use acronyms or suspect that people will shorten a name to an acronym, shouldn’t you consider this in the naming process?

Could a professional name developer have prevented all of these? Well, nobody is perfect and mistakes happen. But I am pretty sure most would have caught DOA and most would have checked the communication of NIC in the local language! Professional name developers can be worth their weight in gold…not only do they come up with great names, they often prevent you from making a huge (and expensive) mistake!


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