Long-time listener here, but I’m the first to admit to some gaps in my knowledge of radio history. Oh, sure, I knew that US radio and TV call letters begin with “W” for stations east of the Mississippi and “K” for stations west of the Mississippi*, and that Canadian stations’ call signs begin with “C.” I recognized many call letters as representing the networks that owned or operated them: KABC, WCBS, KPBS. I knew that the call signs of many public-radio stations include the initials of the colleges and universities that house their studios: KFJC (Foothill Junior College), KCSM (College of San Mateo), KPCC (Pasadena City College), WBUR (Boston University Radio). And I appreciated the Bay Area references in many local stations’ call letters: KABL, KFOG, KOIT (for Coit Tower, one of the city’s quirkier landmarks).
I also knew one call sign whose initials stood for a phrase: Chicago’s WGN, for “World’s Greatest Newspaper,” aka the Chicago Tribune. But it wasn’t until I started watching Ken Burns’s excellent eight-episode Country Music on PBS (that’s Public Broadcasting System, in case you didn’t already know) that I learned how many other early call signals—though randomly assigned—took on extra character as initialisms for slogans and phrases used as commercial gimmicks or mnemonics.
Undated ad for WSM, which began broadcasting from Nashville on October 5, 1925.
Although Trump insisted his cave-in was “in no way a concession,” many of his fellow Republicans begged to differ. A Tea Party founder, Mark Meckler, called Trump’s move “pathetic and disgusting.” Breitbart, the right-wing news outlet, called it a “short-term surrender to the Democrats.”
But the punchy, one-syllable wimp was the epithet that stung – and stuck. It was echoed by Senator Mazie Hirono, Democrat of Hawaii, who called Trump “an amoral, lying person,” and added: “I guess if Ann Coulter yells at him he turns into a wimp.” Ouch!
Mountain Dew, the neon-yellow-green soft drink brand owned by PepsiCo, evidently failed to consult anyone in Scotland before it introduced its new ad slogan, “Epic thrills start with a chug.” If it had, it would have learned that chug is Scottish slang for masturbate. (Jelisa Castrodale for Vice, via Language Log)
That word: It does not mean what you think it means. Not in Scotland, anyway. (Via @jaysebro)
The design-critique blog Brand New last week reviewed the new look of LNER, a British railway with a nearly century-old history under various names and owners. The most recent owner was Virgin, which operated the line as Virgin Trains East Coast (VTEC); the railway is now owned by the UK’s Department of Transport, and the LNER acronym – which stands for London North East Railroad – is appearing again for the first time since 1948.
The point of the review was, of course, the new LNER logo, but what caught my eye was a paragraph about three-quarters of the way down about the newest fleet of trains. Brand New says they’re “nicknamed” Azuma, but in fact Azuma is their official name.
Moreover, “Azuma” isn’t entirely new; the LNER/Azuma identity designer, Brand Cooke, tells us that it had been developed by VTEC – in 2016, according to a Wikipedia page – and was already familiar to passengers.
But what does this un-British-sounding name signify?
In my newest column for the Visual Thesaurus, I take a look at backronyms, defined in an Oxford Dictionaries blog post as “an acronym deliberately created to suit a particular word or words, either to create a memorable name, or as a fanciful explanation of a word’s origin.” Backronyms are rife in the names of legislation: witness the recent HONEST, COVFEFE, and MAR-A-LAGO acts. It’s a tradition that goes back to the USA PATRIOT Act of 2001, whose rah-rah title expands into “Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism.”
Backronym was coined (as bacronym) in 1983; examples were rare before then.
Full access to the column is available only to subscribers for three months. Here’s an excerpt:
I’ve been holding my tongue and staying my pen since January, when Fiverr – the online marketplace that matches skinflint budget-conscious business owners with freelancers willing to work for as little as $5 a gig* – launched its first ad campaign, “In Doers We Trust.” But my initial distaste for the ads has not faded with time.
Last week five Democratic congressmen introduced a bill that would require the Trump administration to release the visitor logs at the White House or wherever else the president holds court – including Mar-a-Lago, the Trump-owned private Florida club that the president likes to call the “Southern White House” and which the club’s website calls “The Legendary Pinnacle of Palm Beach.”
The name of the bill: Making Access Records Available to Lead American Government Openness, or MAR-A-LAGO.