If you've ever done business with businesses of any size, you've encountered the acronym ISO, which represents the world's largest developer and publisher of international standards (or, as the organization itself likes to call them, International Standards). You usually see "ISO" followed by "9000" or "9001" or the suffix "-compliant." I can't explain what the numerals stand for—ISO has developed more than 17,500 standards for a huge range of industries, from health-care technology to clothing to agriculture, so the 9000 must stand for something other than that aggregate number. Maybe it's the ninth in a series of standards, with three zeroes added as placeholders. But that's just a guess. No doubt one of you will enlighten me.
Until this week I thought I knew what "ISO" stands for: International Standards (or maybe Standardization) Organization. It turns out I was wrong. In English, the group's name is International Organization for Standardization. What gives?
Here's what ISO says:
That's a nice story, but it doesn't work for me. "ISO" would be the organization's name if it were pronounced as a word (eye-so or ee-so) or if there were no non-initialized alternative (as with AARP, which dropped "American Association of Retired Persons" in 1999¹).
(Hat tip: Catherine Newton.)
¹ Very prescient of them! They must have suspected that by 2009 no one would be able to afford to retire.