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A Full (White) House Of Acronyms

January 24, 2017

Acronyms have been around a long time, longer than I ever imagined according to this article, and they’re now used extensively in texting. The medical field uses acronyms quite a bit also – congestive heart failure becomes CHF; high blood pressure becomes HTN for hypertension and also HBP. There was one that I know of which didn’t work well–COLD. Even the first few times I saw it, I wondered why the person was admitted to the hospital with a cold. It actually means Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease. Insurance companies also had trouble with that acronym and refused to pay for colds. It was quickly changed to COPD – Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease.

Most of the time they make sense, but there will be the oddball one that requires some brain power to figure out.  One night we admitted a patient with CHI – KBC. No one on staff knew what ‘KBC’ meant. The ‘CHI’ stood for Closed Head Injury. Even reading through the ER notes didn’t give us a clue. We thought something to do with kidneys, but that didn’t fit no matter how silly we got with our word search. Besides, anything kidney related was ‘R’ for renal. Day shift was as much at a loss as we were. Luckily, his doctor came in before I left. I told him that none of us could figure out the ‘KBC’ in the diagnosis. He smiled, “Kicked by cow.” That one just didn’t catch on.  Enjoy.  ~ Connie

January 19, 2017  by:

In today’s 140-word character powered world, abbreviations and assorted acronyms are more prevalent than ever. The most powerful of these acronyms might well reside at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, otherwise known as the White House—home to POTUS (President of the United States) and FLOTUS (First Lady of the United States). In that POTUS definition, note that only the upper-case version applies to the nation’s Chief Executive. The lower-case potus refers to a drink!
The late William Safire, who was an author, columnist, lexicographer (sweet), and speechwriter for the Nixon White House, wrote an excellent article on these terms for the New York Times. He recalled its use in the Nixon administration:
As a Presidential aide in 1969, I first noticed this acronym on a label of an extension of a five-line telephone along the back wall of the West Wing’s Cabinet Room. When the button next to that label lighted up, the phone was answered with special alacrity. A similar button labeled POTUS was on the telephone set of H. R. Haldeman, the President’s chief of staff, and was used by him for calls both from and to Mr. Nixon.
Safire also wrote that President Johnson’s aide Jack Valenti saw the POTUS designation on phones but didn’t recall it being used as an everyday figure of speech—same for Hamilton Jordan of the Carter White House. POTUS may have come into pop culture vogue with Safire’s 1977 White House novel “Full Disclosure,” as a “pet name adopted by the unmarried President’s inamorata-photographer. She felt awkward calling the Chief Executive by his first name, and ‘Mr. President’ was not appropriate for intimate moments; POTUS was her solution.”
The actual use of the POTUS acronym may go back a lot further than the 1960s, though. A post on Quora dates POTUS back to the 1880s and the use of the telegraph! A continuity website for The West Wing mentions that President Franklin D. Roosevelt used the term POTUS for himself, in communications with British Prime Minister Winston Churchill.
An article in The Atlantic says that Nancy Reagan was the inspiration behind the FLOTUS acronym. Of course, the acronyms don’t stop with the very top positions. The vice president has the acronym VPOTUS, but there is no matching term for the wife of the vice president—that would be SLOTUS? Second Lady of the United States?
Then there’s the term VEEP. While we know it these days as a popular HBO show starring Julia Louis-Dreyfus, The Atlantic says that Alben W. Barkley, President Truman’s second term vice president, was the first to be referred to in that manner, with VEEP “created perhaps as a conflation of the pedestrian vice-presidential abbreviation VP with VIP, meaning ‘very important person,’ the latter a usage that emerged before the Second World War.”
Now, getting back to the 140-word character thing. Twitter has been a prime means of communication for the incoming POTUS. The Twitter handle @POTUS is reserved for the current office holder, and went online in 2015.
Hello, Twitter! It’s Barack. Really! Six years in, they’re finally giving me my own account.
— President Obama (@POTUS) May 18, 2015
Once President Obama leaves office, the archive of his tweets will move to @POTUS44, with Donald Trump gaining access (gulp) to @POTUS, though reports indicate he may stick with @RealDonaldTrump. The world waits and wonders.
Other world leaders have distinctive Twitter handles, too. While not an acronym, Pope Francis goes by @Pontifex, reaching out to get his message through to contemporary audiences in eight different languages, no less.
And of course, we can’t forgot to mention the United States Supreme Court which is routinely referred to in the media as SCOTUS, and the first deaf person to ever hold the title of White House Receptionist, or ROTUS.


From → Writer's Craft

One Comment
  1. To play on those immortal words from the movie Amadeus: “ Too Many Letters “ !!!

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