The Vocabula Review

July 2013, Vol. 15, No. 7 Saturday, April 30, 2016

Acropox Skip Eisiminger
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The French spell NATO backwards but pronounce it forwards. — The Wordspinner

If FEDEX and UPS were to merge, would they call it FED UP? — Anonymous

In 1950, Fred Iacocca chose not to bestow a "junior" on his son, Ed, but perhaps he should have. Fred was named by his father, Luigi, who had joined FIGHT REDS, EXPAND DEMOCRACY, which was long before ERECTILE DYSFUNCTION shriveled into ED. Ed's mother, Jan, had approved the name because, as she told friends, "I'm JUST A NURSE," and she was. However, to her patients, she was the woman with the MILK OF MAGNESIA; to Fred, she was the MASTER OF MAGIC, and to Ed, she was the MAKER OF ME.

When Fred's second cousin took over at Chrysler years later, Jan said it was clear he was perfect for the job given that "Iacocca" stood for "I AM CHAIRMAN OF CHRYSLER CORPORATION OF AMERICA." (To Ed, however, Fred was "Dad," the DEPUTY ASSISTANT DIRECTOR of something slightly less ambiguous than his title.) However, Fred, who'd always driven Fords, was torn by his cousin's success. He favored Fords because they were FIRST ON RACE DAY, but Jan, who loved the Dodge, countered with her own etymology: FOUND ON ROAD DEAD. Fred was ready for her, however, claiming that Dodges were DEAD ON DAY GUARANTEE EXPIRES.

By the time Ed learned to drive, he had all the symptoms of his parents' acronymic disorder. For example, he had difficulty remembering whether "stop" stood for SLIGHT TOUCH OF PEDAL, or, SPIN TIRES ON PAVEMENT. Nor could he recall if "kiss" meant KEEP IT SHORT [and] SWEET, SIMPLE [and] SAFE, or SLOPPY [and] SEXY. Despite Jan's efforts to educate her son sexually from autoeroticism to zooerasty, Ed was not her best student: for years, he did not understand why the NCAA forced the Friends' University Christian Knights to change their mascot's name, and he was thirty before he understood that "gay" did not imply the following question: GOT AIDS YET? Jan assigned her son's lapses to "acropox."

For Ed, the problem of reading a new acronym or initialism was the same as "reading" an inkblot. Was IHOP the INTERNATIONAL HOUSE OF PANCAKES or the INVENTORY [of] HAZARDOUS OP[erations]? And couldn't IHOP have been INTERPAN or INHOUSECAKES? It all seemed so arbitrary.

His disorder worsened in high school when he took a history class from Mr. Otto Hannah. Palindromic Hannah, who'd failed the language-history course at TriBeCa Tech, informed the class that "wop" was an Italian immigrant WITHOUT PAPERS, "tip" originated from the custom of leaving coins for a server TO INSURE PROMPTNESS, "news" derived from NORTH EAST WEST SOUTH, and the first "cop" was a CONSTABLE ON PATROL. Ed started calling the school's folk etymologist "Mr. Emota," short for, EXPLAIN MEANING OF THE ACRONYM.

Hannah, who'd urged his class to read the Bible because it contained BASIC INFORMATION BEFORE LEAVING EARTH, shocked everyone when he announced his resignation. It seems the police had sent him and dozens of others letters claiming to be from the JOINT AMERICAN INHERITANCE LOCATORS. Thirty others with outstanding warrants swallowed the bait. Red-faced, he told the class he'd overlooked the letterhead clue since "jail" was spelled "g-a-o-l" at Tech.

The superintendent replaced Hannah with a woman who taught a course called, "A History of WEIRD Countries" in the sense of WESTERN, EDUCATED, INDUSTRIALIZED, RICH, [and] DEMOCRATIC [Countries]. Ed was delighted to learn that the Navy had all but invited the Japanese to "sink us" in WWII. Not until after Pearl Harbor did CINCUS, the COMMANDER IN CHIEF [of the] US [Navy], edit his titular nomenclature.

After graduation, Ed enlisted in the army, which, as far as he could tell, had never invited an enemy to bomb us. As luck would have it, he was sent to a Ranger battalion whose motto was TESTICLES: TEAMWORK, ENTHUSIASM, STAMINA, TENACITY, INITIATIVE, COURAGE, LOYALTY, EXCELLENCE, [and a] SENSE [of humor]. Most of his buddies thought the motto was too long, but Ed loved it. However, he found himself in hot water when he began placing his own stamp on the army's acronyms. When the operation, code-named IOWA, began, Ed explained that the men on maneuvers were IDIOTS OUT WALKING AROUND. The colonel, a Hawkeye, was not amused.

After his tour was up, Ed took the test for MENSA but qualified for DENSA, an organization for those DIVERSELY EDUCATED, [but] NOT SERIOUSLY AFFECTED by the experience. He tried joining the Mormons, but when he learned that LDS did not stand for LAY DOWN, SISTER, he turned to alcohol.

In the COYOTE (CUT OUT YOUR OLD TIRED ETHICS) Bar one night, he met Meg, a woman with BITCH embroidered across the back of her jacket. Ed was smitten when he learned that she was a BROAD IN TOTAL CONTROL [of] HERSELF. Meg in turn was taken by this SENSITIVE NEW AGE GUY who had SNAG tattooed on his forearm. But when she told Ed about her work with MADD: MOTHERS AGAINST DRUNK DRIVERS, he panicked and joined DAMM: DRUNKS AGAINST MAD MOTHERS.

At TriBeCa Tech where Ed was now enrolled, an organization named BACCHUS (BOOST ALCOHOL CONSCIOUSNESS CONCERNING [the] HEALTH [of] UNIVERSITY STUDENTS) helped our protagonist dry out, but the mixed message conveyed by the name sent Ed to CADAVER. This was a campus club made up of CHRISTIANS AGAINST DRUGS AND VIOLENCE [and for] EQUAL RIGHTS, but again there was that unsettling message in the name.

His parents, meanwhile, had joined a fundamentalist mission named MOM, which stood for MARY, OUR MOTHER. MOM was run by Father Jim, a defrocked priest, who claimed that "Jim" stood for JESUS IN ME. His favorite Bible verse was even less inclusive; it was simply TGIF: THANK GOD I'M FORGIVEN. Nevertheless, his take on SIN (SELF-INFLICTED NONSENSE) and EGO (EDGING GOD OUT) appealed to Ed. But when the collection plate made the rounds on Sunday, it was "Hail, Mary and get out the CASH," for CHRISTIANS ALWAYS SAY HALLELUJAH in Father Jim's church. Jim explained that God wanted his people to go first-class, and since Jaguar could only mean JESUS ALWAYS GUIDES US AND REDEEMS, Jim drove one.

Though Fred and Jan remained with the padre hoping to trade up to a Jaguar, Ed had had his fill. He founded AAAAAA: the AMERICAN ASSOCIATION AGAINST ACRONYM ABUSE ANONYMOUS, had a tattoo removed, married Meg, and got on with his life.

At last sighting, Ed was driving a Ford and stopping at most intersections.

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Skip Eisiminger

Skip Eisiminger :: Move me   Skip Eisiminger taught English and humanities at Clemson University from 1968 to 2010. He is the author of Felix Academicus: Tales of a Happy Academic, Wordspinner, The Consequence of Error, and Letters to the Grandchildren.

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