By Jenny Fujita and Joy K. Miura, Fujita & Miura Public Relations boasts being the web’s most comprehensive database with definitions for more than 269,000 acronyms, abbreviations and initialisms. On its Fun Stuff page they recount the following story:

“In 1968, ‘Newsweek’ magazine published a short, but humorous article, How to Win at Wordsmanship. It described the ‘Systematic Buzz Phrase Projector,’ a concept developed by Philip Broughton, a (then) 63-year-old worker in the US Public Health Service. He must have had a delightful sense of humor.”

Broughton’s system used a three-column list of 30 buzzwords taken from the mouth of corporate America. For example, the three words “synchronized organizational contingency” are randomly chosen to form the acronym SOC. The story goes on:

“The idea was to drop these random buzz phrase nuggets into conversation or technical reports. Broughton said ‘No one will have the remotest idea of what you are talking about, but the important thing is that they’re not about to admit it.'”

A delightful sense of humor indeed…It used to be that people like Broughton were only at home in the business world or the military. Now, our fast-paced world and penchant for doing everything more “efficiently” have resulted in acronyms galore. Acronyms have become a clever marketing tool, enabling companies to change their names without, well, changing their names.

Take Kentucky Fried Chicken. When they became KFC they remade their image and boosted their business. Saturday Night Live, after the departure of the classic greats like John Belushi and Jane Curtain, went through a low ratings period until they began calling themselves SNL. Then there was MTV and J. Lo and the rest is history. We even have a few of our own here: KCFCU, KIUC, KCC and PS&D among them. In some cases, we don’t even know what the letters stand for, and for the most part, it doesn’t matter. What does matter is that we have a hip new way to name our services, products or companies. Thank you, Mr. Broughton.

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