> Don’t even get me started on PIN Numbers.
New Scientist ran a series of correspondence last year about what it chose
to call ‘RAS syndrome’ (RAS standing for ‘Redundant Acronym Syndrome’).
It started with the observation that the Windows 2000 splash screen states
“Built on NT technology”.
It then carried on with the likes of:
We advise readers against making clever-clever responses to police who
demand to see their ID document. Otherwise they may find themselves looking
down the wrong end of an SLR rifle (self-loading, that is).
Less dangerously, many of you have to deal daily with LIMS systems
(laboratory information management. . .) and some may have been prescribed
HRT therapy (hormone replacement. . .).
In the air, HUD displays (head-up…) and under water, scraping the bottom
of what looks like being a large barrel, SCUBA apparatus (self-contained
ATM machines (automatic teller . . .), ISBN numbers (international standard
book . . .), PCR reaction (polymerase chain . . .) and, in Britain, the ITN
news (independent television . . .).
In Britain you can save with Lloyds TSB bank (trustee savings . . .), while
in Australia you can put your money into the ASB bank (Auckland savings . .
…). Then there’s DAT tape (digital audio . . .), EIN number (employee
identification . . .) LCD display (liquid crystal . . .), PAT testing
(portable appliance . . .), FIRE engine (fully integrated robotised . . .),
DERV vehicle (diesel- engine road . . .), PATS scheme (patient assistance
travel . . .), laser amplification (light amplification by stimulated
emission of radiation . . .) and, something of a special case, Op-Amp
amplifier (operational amplifier . . .). Meanwhile, a recent edition of The
Guardian featured an article about HIPC and non-HIPC countries", (highly
indebted poor …).
Reader Keith Huggett has even found two examples of what he calls
second-order RAS syndrome. One is the ABS braking system (automatic . . .).
The second is a Sussex-based company called MEL Equipment Limited. Its
previous name, Mullard Equipment Limited, was shortened to the snappier MEL
and then expanded again in the spirit of RAS syndrome. In similar vein,
Judith Price points out NCP car parks (national . . .).
If you think all that’s bad enough, spare a thought for reader John Haward,
whose life is positively swamped by RAS syndrome. Haward works for an IT
development project called Project Felix, in Australia, which involves the
following: APN number (Australian product . . .), TAC code (type area . .
…), EAN number (European article . . .), UPC code (universal product . . .),
SWET team (special world-class enablement . . .), WBS structure (work
breakdown . . .), PAWS system (production and warehouse . . .), TIBS system
(Telstra interface broker . . .), ELADS system (electronic lodgment and
delivery . . .), MBS system (masterpack business . . .). He also faces a
whole raft of redundant testings: IST testing (integrated system . . .),
BUAT testing (business unit acceptance . . .), CAT testing (which refers to
both corporate and customer acceptance . . .), PAT testing (production
acceptance . . .) and ETET testing (end-to-end . . .).
SAM missile (surface to air . . . ), AC current (alternating . . . ), DC
Comics (detective . . . ), RISC computers (reduced instruction set . . . )
and, in Britain, the annual TUC congress (trades union . . . ).
Examples of double RAS syndrome, such as Microsoft’s NTFS file system, and
one which many readers remember from the 1960s, Rhodesia’s unilateral
declaration of UDI ( . . . independence). Those same readers, incidentally,
will also remember the eminent British politician of the time, Rab Butler
(Richard Austen . . . ), who is our only human example of RAS syndrome.
Meanwhile, reader Debbie Rudder swears she heard someone say “personal PIN
number” recently, while Rachel Padman says that in her laboratory people
habitually refer to “liquid LPG gas” (the “P” stands for petroleum) and
Anthony Massam heard an American TV commentator refer to the “British BBC
So far, the only example of triple RAS syndrome we have is a company called
NZI Insurance New Zealand Ltd.
Reader John Murray reminds us that an ultimate example of RAS syndrome
occurs in Scott Adams’s Dilbert strip, where Dilbert finds himself in charge
of “the TTP project”. The TTP here stands for “the TTP project”, where the
TTP in turn stands for . . . and so on to infinity.
Some readers have pointed to a related syndrome involving whole words. It
usually occurs where different languages meet, as in salsa sauce, Rio Grande
River, River Avon and the Ecole School of Classical Ballet in Sydney. Trevor
Magnusson has an especially fine example: he recalls that during the
conflict in Bosnia, reporters commented on the destruction of Mostar’s “old
Stary Most bridge”. Stary means “old” in the local language and most means
And another example of triple RAS syndrome (redundant acronym syndrome . .
… ) pass without comment - the “MPC mobile protection chip”.
Danny Colyer (remove safety to reply) ( http://www.juggler.net/danny )
Recumbent cycle page: http://www.speedy5.freeserve.co.uk/recumbents/
“He who dares not offend cannot be honest.” - Thomas Paine