Understanding Acronyms

Understanding Acronyms

Often when reading or listening to a news report, words are used that have no meaning, but are repeated as if everyone is supposed to know them.  You may hear:

  • “NATO will send troops into the area.”

  • “OPEC claims high oil prices reflect their costs.”

  • “The Mayor opened talks with AFSCME before the contract expired.”

Who are NATO, OPEC and AFSCME?

These words are really abbreviations formed from the initial letters of a name or phrase that are sounded out like a word.  NATO is the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, founded in 1949 for common defense.  The US is a member.

OPEC is the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, founded in 1960 by Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and Venezuela.  Not all members of OPEC have been Middle East countries.

AFSCME is the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, which is a very large civil service and hospital worker union.  AFSCME is a part of the AFL-CIO.  (Please note that “AFL-CIO” is not an acronym, because the letters do not form a word!  We say, “A-F-L–C-I-O)

Acronyms are so common, we sometimes make real words out of them! Can you find the acronyms in this paragraph?

  • The pop group ABBA held a concert in Pakistan to raise money for victims of the Russian gulags and Gestapo concentration camps.  The music was accompanied by a laser show.  Security was tight, with radar installations posted around the area and scuba divers patrolling the river.  To avoid any terrorist threat, ABBA arrived on a special jet leased from QANTAS fitted with AWACS equipment.  Over $10 million was raised to send Care packages to the victims’ families.

ABBA – Swedish pop group formed in 1972 by Anni-Frid Lyngstad, Benny Andersson, Björn Ulvaeus and Agnetha Fältskog

Pakistan – supposedly, the five Northern Units of British Raj — Punjab, North-West Frontier Province,(NWFP), Kashmir, Sindh, and Balochistan

Gulag – Glavnoe upravlenie lagerei, Russian for “Chief Administration of Corrective Labor Camps”

Gestapo – Geheime Staatspolizei, German for “Secret State Police”

Laser – light amplification by stimulated emission of radiation

Radar – radio detection and ranging

Scuba – self contained underwater breathing apparatus

QANTAS – Queensland and Northern Territory Aerial Services

AWACS – a military aircraft that provides surveillance, command, control and communications

CARE – Cooperative for Assistance and Relief Everywhere

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