…and Silly Codes were Business As Usual

blahblahblahThe electronic generations think they’re quite clever using all their toys to communicate in cryptic messages.  OMG.  TTFN.  LMAO.  Secret codes are not new and they weren’t the first to invent or use them.

We called them acronyms.  And we used them daily in our company.  We had a Board of Directors meeting to change the company name officially to an acronym  (perhaps to update the company‘s image?).  Every month I updated a binder with them.  We even had acronyms that had child acronyms.  (a separate three inch binder)  And we almost always pronounced them as words.  Because that’s how clever we were.

In one meeting, pouring over data, a discussion ensued about the silly code.
Which silly code?
The silly code.  Where is it (located)?
Which one?
The silly code.  It should be with this (specific) data.  Oh!  You think we’re saying silly!  No.  Not silly.  CLLI (pronounced as the word ‘silly’).
They’re all silly codes to me.  And Who’s on first base?  I Don’t Know.  Third Base.

Then there was the meeting in which the project manager told us we had to keep (a person’s name) in mind while developing the current project for a future development project.  Who?  Why?  We looked around the room for the person.  Then we started naming all the people we knew with that name.  It wasn’t a who.  It was a new system.  And the developers/designers found a way to use their first names’ as an acronym for the system.  The ultimate work legacy.  Forget a comment in the code with your name.  Forget initials as part of a utility name.  An entire system with your given name!  We were jealous and spent the next half hour trying to create system names that used the letters in our own names while the project manager tried unsuccessfully to get the meeting back on track.  After all, systems retain their names when they become legacy systems, unlike yet like, EPICAC.

For another project, we needed to request a new child acronym, which were always 2 or 3 letters.  One of my users called me excitedly to tell me the news of the proposed ‘name’, which would be pronounced as ‘foo’ or ‘few’ but spelled as FU.  Finally an acronym that was apropos.  We laughed.  It would make so many employees happy to legitimately use FU in their daily work day.  “Why yes, of course.  I would be happy to put that order in for you.  My pleasure.”  However, as the board voting meeting neared (yes, we had specific people whose job it was to officially designate acronyms) it was decided to add an additional letter to FU.  Probably someone was afraid they’d be fired for a violation of the company’s Code of Conduct if we used FU as company nomenclature.  Blame it all on those 20 somethings who can’t pronounce acronyms.  Aw, c’mon, if you let us use ‘foo’ we won’t be too upset if we have to settle for a smaller raise this year.  And think of all the employees who would willingly transfer to our divisions so that they could use ‘foo’ in a professional manner.

On that same system project team, we did use an acronym that was a misnomer:  RFI.  It was used to identify specific types of documents we issued.  Sometimes recipients were confused by the acronym.  So when asked, we began to tell them “Real F’n Important.  You don’t want to miss a single issue.”  We considered trying to come up with a new acronym, but if we couldn’t have FU, we were keeping Real F’n Important.  And one month I was going head to head with another system engineer producing RFIs for the title of RFI Queen of the Month.  I had a near perfect sequence of  RFI documents — since the damn users kept changing their minds about what they wanted.  Then I was blind-sided during the test phase when error codes didn’t surface.

What changed on your project?
(She laughed.)  I issued an RFI.
I had no time to read yours.  I was too busy writing mine.
You should have read it.  You knew it was Real F’n Important.
Aaaargh!  Now I have to write another RFI!!  And I need more test cases!

The Army can probably out-acronym any company or industry.  Naturally they use SOP and BAU.  But every SOP and BAU contains additional acronyms – for each step.  Reading email and documents were extremely time-consuming since every fourth ‘word’ had to be translated.  Meetings with Army personnel were intensive exercises in language skills – especially since there were no binders with definitions.  You learned not to say yes or no to anything until after you translated and verified each acronym.  They have their own nomenclature and each acronym is in itself RFI.  One of the the unrealistic aspects of the TV program ‘NCIS’ is the lack of acronyms used.  The Navy can match the Army one for one.  And then there are their codewords, which won’t be discussed since I don’t want the MIBs knocking on my door.

And some days SPOC (pronounced like the Trekkie ‘Spock’), should stand for Simple Piece of Crap — or Single Piece of Crap.  Either.  Or.  Both.  This post is not a SPOC.

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