that ain’t no furshlugginer acronym!

Es­ti­mated reading time is 4 min­utes.

CBDRILONCWRC IS NOT AN ACRONYM! It’s gob­bledy­gook, or at least an ini­tialism that looks like gob­bledy­gook. But it’s CBDRILONCWRC that in­spired “Meet the Acronym That Just Might Save the World,” an ar­ticle by Robinson Meyer that ar­rived this morning in my Mother Jones email newsletter. And it comes with a sub-title: “It’s 12 let­ters long. Good luck pro­nouncing it.” 1

Um, sorry, but if you can’t pro­nounce it, it’s al­most cer­tainly not an acronym. The whole point of an acronym is pro­nounce­abilty: taking a bunch of gob­bledy­gook that takes too long to say and re­ducing it to one simple word. A pro­nounce­able word.

Thank Grom­mett I didn’t have to post a com­ment cor­recting the writer, as sev­eral others had beaten me to the punch. But I am get­ting ahead of my­self. Here is the opening state­ment of Mey­er’s article:

“The United Na­tions climate-change ne­go­ti­a­tions do not hide from acronym. No, they sprint to­ward it, arms stretched, yelling ‘Take me!’ Spend some time reading tech­nical press cov­erage and you’re sure to en­counter IPCC (the In­ter­gov­ern­mental Panel on Cli­mate Change).

Stay a little longer and you’ll hit LDC (Least De­vel­oped Coun­tries) and SIDS (Small Is­land De­vel­oping States). Even COP21 of the UNFCCC, the event’s name, em­braces acronym: It’s the 21st Con­fer­ence Of the Par­ties under the United Na­tions Frame­work Con­ven­tion on Cli­mate Change.” 2

Okay, so first things first: just like CBDRILONCWRC, nei­ther PICC nor LDC are acronyms—they are ini­tialisms. SIDS can be con­sid­ered an acronym along the lines of AIDS (Ac­quired Im­mune De­fi­ciency Syn­drome). Hell’s Belles, COP21 can be con­sid­ered an awk­ward acronym, but UNFCCC cannot. 3



The Feb­ruary 1979 issue of Oui mag­a­zine car­ried a blurb on the front cover for “A Fur­sh­lug­giner In­ter­view With Mad’s William Gaines.” Every­thing Mad can be fairly as­so­ci­ated with Bill Gaines, but the use (or misuse) of such ap­pro­pri­ated terms as fur­sh­lug­giner and potrzebie were al­most cer­tainly the doing of ed­itor Harvey Kurtzman.

What difference does it make?

So, back to CBDRILONCWRC: it stands for Common But Dif­fer­en­ti­ated Re­spon­si­bility In Light Of Na­tional Cir­cum­stances With Re­spec­tive Ca­pa­bility. It ref­er­ences the UN’s pa­thetic at­tempt to limit carbon emis­sions glob­ally. 4

Fi­nally, the Big Ques­tion: What the hell is an acronym? How is it dif­ferent than an ab­bre­vi­a­tion? I found the best de­f­i­n­i­tion in The Free Dic­tio­nary, where they give the fol­lowing for cor­rect usage:

•  “In strict usage, the term acronym refers to a word made from the ini­tial let­ters or parts of other words, such as sonar from so(und) na(vigation and)r(anging). The dis­tin­guishing fea­ture of an acronym is that it is pro­nounced as if it were a single word, in the manner of NATO and NASA. Acronyms are often dis­tin­guished from ini­tialisms like FBI and NIH, whose in­di­vidual let­ters are pro­nounced as sep­a­rate syllables.”

•  An ab­bre­vi­a­tion is “a short­ened form of a word or phrase used chiefly in writing to rep­re­sent the com­plete form (e.g., Mass. for Mass­a­chu­setts or USMC for United States Ma­rine Corps).”

•  An ini­tialism is “an ab­bre­vi­a­tion con­sisting of the first letter or let­ters of words in a phrase (e.g., IRS for In­ternal Rev­enue Ser­vice), syl­la­bles or com­po­nents of a word (e.g., TNT for trini­tro­toluene), or a com­bi­na­tion of words and syl­la­bles and pro­nounced by spelling out the let­ters one by one rather than as a solid word (e.g., ESP for extra-sensory perception).”

A rule-of-thumb thing here: all acronyms are forms of ab­bre­vi­a­tion and ini­tialism, but all ab­bre­vi­a­tions and ini­tialisms are NOT acronyms.

To en his, I will coin a new acronym: LUGTOW, pro­nounced as it looks, lug-tow. And it means:






With . . .



HEADER IMAGE: Harvey Kurtzman in his heyday as creator/editor/writer of EC’s Mad, a 10¢ four-color comic book be­fore it was turned into a 25¢ black & white mag­a­zine. Aside from pop­u­lar­izing such al­most non­sen­sical words as fur­sh­lug­giner (Yid­dish) and poterzebie (Polish), he prac­ti­cally wrote the book on what was hu­morous for the Baby Boomer gen­er­a­tion. Much has been written of Harvey and I have nothing to add ex­cept that I met him at the EC Fan Ad­dict Con­ven­tion in 1972 and he was de­lightful, friendly, and flir­ta­tious with my girl­friend in a manner that made her com­fort­able in a largely male environment.



1   About the title of this post: the cor­rect pro­nun­ci­a­tion of fur­sh­lug­giner is fur-shluh-guy’-nur with the second syl­lable pro­nounced like slush and the ac­cent on the third syl­lable. But that’s for pedantic gram­mar­pussies! Real gram­marmen say fur-shloog’-eh-nur, with the second syl­lable ac­cented and rhyming with shook. So, if you’re in a fur­shug­giner way, you can think of your­self as being all shooged up. The word fur­sh­lug­giner “comes from the German word shlogn, which means ‘to hit,’ and the prefix ‘far-,’ which in­di­cates a self-referencial (sic) quality. It was pop­u­lar­ized in MAD Mag­a­zine in the 1950s. It can be used to de­scribe any­thing that you don’t trust or un­der­stand. “What the hell is that fur­sh­lug­giner thing?” (Yid­dish Slang Dic­tio­nary)

2  Mey­er’s ar­ticle orig­i­nally ap­peared in The At­lantic, whose ed­i­tors should know a hel­lu­valot better! I am not doing any fur­ther re­search on the au­thor and I am going to run with an as­sump­tion: Mr Meyer is a rea­son­ably youngish man! I say this as he is far from the first person under, let’s say, fortysome­thing with an ed­u­ca­tion that did not teach the dif­fer­ence be­tween a mere ab­bre­vi­a­tion and the more in­ter­esting acronym.

3   Of course, is those plucky United Na­tions folk pro­nounce it as un­fuck—then it qual­i­fies. (Of course, it then changes the way that I use the word; e.g., “My ex has is so in de­nial about the plea­sure that she had in the years of carnal bliss we knew to­gether that she might as well have un­fucked me a few thou­sand times.” But that’s an­other story . . .)

4  If I were forced to give CBDRILONCWRC a pro­nun­ci­a­tion, I see it as cab-drill-onk-wreck. Robinson of­fers cab­drilon­cw­erck, which is sim­ilar but his final syl­lable makes more sense than mine.


Notify of
Rate this article:
Please rate this article with your comment.
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

WTF! W’as dis fubared snafu gottadowitit?

Hold on... Cli­mate change, oui? Non?

Would love your thoughts, please comment.x