Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Acronym fun

One thing that the British seem strangely good at (or at least very keen on) is manufacturing acronyms for the names of science projects. I'm involved in the GENIE project, which is now reborn as GENIEfy, Jules was also in PROMISE several years ago. Japanese names seem more prosaic: K1, K2, K3...I'll not list them all :-)

Here are a few more UK climate-related acronyms, culled by my mother from a recent English Nature magazine:

ACCELERATES: Assessing Climate Change Effects on Land use and Ecosystems; from Regional Analysis to the European Scale.

AUDACIOUS: Adaptable Urban Drainage - Addressing Changes in Intensity, Occurence and Uncertainty of Stormwater

BESEECH: Building Economic and Social information for Examining the Effects of Climate Change

CRANIUM: Climate change Risk Assessment; New Impact and Uncertainty Methods.

POPPYCOCK: Promoting Oceanic Policy Preparation for Youth Council On Climate Kinetics


William M. Connolley said...

Not to mention HI-HO, HI-HO which was some australian sea ice thingy I think. We *nearly* had SEMTEX till it got vetoed by those high up. I've always wanted something like West Antarctic Normal Katabatic Yearly or something :-)

Anonymous said...

John Fleck says -

I recently ran across an annually updated compendium of acronyms in use at Sandia National Laboratories. It was 170 pages long. 170 pages of acronyms. I am pursuing the poor sod whose job it is to compile this, imagining a fun newspaper feature that could ensue.

CapitalistImperialistPig said...

I once made the mistake of titling a wind measuring project Aeolis. It drove people crazy when they wanted me to explain the Acronym and kept saying it was just a name, not an acronym. I guess that's why I never got quite the funding I wanted.

Anonymous said...

I am amazed at how rich the English vocaburary is. Probably they are good for British projects. But most of them do not seem to stick in the minds of Asians. Among the examples you showed, "promise" is familiar among the Japanese (though we misspell it very often), and "accelerates" is understood by scientists and engineers, but other words are largely unknown.

Our GAME (http://www.hyarc.nagoya-u.ac.jp/game/) was good, since that word had been penetrated in Asian everyday life.
It is hard to find such an internationally popular name!

A candidate name of the scientific program to follow on GAME, which I am suggesting, is MAHASRI, an acronym of English matching a Sanskrit word (My explanation of the word is in my web site at FRCGC). This is a familiar word to South Asians, but actually not so much to Japanese. I think I need to persuade my compatriots with the fact that the Hindu goddess it represents is well known here by another name. By the way, my suggestion was somewhat (though not so much) influenced by European DEMETER.

Now let me explain how acronyms are made and used in Japan.

In the context of the Japanese language, most formal words are composed of elements of classic Chinese (each represented by a Chinese character). Thus, Japanese "acronyms" are made of a few selected Chinese elements concatenated. For example, Mon-bu Ka-gaku Sho (Ministry of Education, ..., Science and Technology) may be shortened to Mon-Ka-Sho. Sometimes the elements are originating not from Chinese but Western languages. In such cases such fragments which have length comparable to Chinese elements are taken. For example, "Chi-kyu Kan-kyo Frontier Ken-kyu Center" is sometimes abbreviated as "Chi-Fro".

Acronyms based on representations of Japanese words in Latin letters are rare. One very popular exception is NHK (Nihon Hoso Kyokai), the Japanese counterpart of BBC.

Japanese organizations often have English names too long to spell out. Then they use the initials just concatenated without considering whether they can be pronounced like words. FRCGC, the name of our institution, is a typical example of this way (though its full name may not be typical of Japanese organizations). Mon-Ka-Sho should be MECSST following the rule, but its officers thought it too cumbersome and decided to spell it MEXT.

Our K-1 etc. are abbreviations of Japanese Chinese-character-based acronyms "Kyo-sei 1" etc.
But "K-1" (just this, not "K-2" etc.) has another connotation. See http://www.k-1.co.jp/ . That is something deliberately trans-national, thus it does not follow the pattern of acronyms in Japanese contexts. And the leader of our "K-1" likes the pun of "K-1 Japan National Team".

Anonymous said...

Yesterday I missed to mention that some Japanese (mainly scientists) try to make acronyms of English phrases which are meaningful in Japanese.

An example is MIROC, the CCSR/NIES/FRCGC coupled ocean-atmosphere GCM. Some documents say that it is an acronym meaning "Model for Interdisciplinary Research On Climate". It is sure that the name was chosen mainly by Japanese connotation. The word, normally spelled Miroku in Japanese (Maitreya in Sanskrit) is the name of "the next Buddha". According to some Buddhist theology, he will come to this world after 5.67 thousand million years from now.

The name of the previous version of the model, Ku-Kai (I am not sure how it is spelled in the English contest) is an example of Chinese-character-based acronyms. Kukai (with long "u") is the name of a Buddhist monk famous in Japanese history (better known as "Kobo Daishi"). Also "ku" (with long "u") may mean the sky (though in Buddhist contexts it usually means "emptiness"), and "kai" means the sea. It has become very difficult to invent a better name than this for coupled ocean-atmosphere models.

The land surface model which has been incorporated to MIROC is MATSIRO, Minimum Advanced Treatments of Surface Interaction and RunOff. I think that it is somewhat awkward as an English phrase, but the acronym sounds good in Japanese. The word in a name of place usually spelled Matsushiro. I heard that it is the name of part of Tsukuba City where the authors met, rather than another place better known (at least to seismologists) in Nagano.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, I think the Brits are experts on developing acronyms. Some of th acronyms sounds weird or far from what they actually stand for.

James Annan said...


I think I was a bit unfair about Japanese acronyms. I was also reminded of KISSME and SPRINTARS in the workshop yesterday, and Kimoto-sensei mentioned the K-1 "pun" which I wasn't previously aware of.

But I am most amused that no-one has realised that one of the acronyms in my post is actually a spoof :-)

William M. Connolley said...

I'm guessing its the last one. I did half-guess that before...

James Annan said...

Yes, POPPYCOCK is a load of...poppycock. Even with my jaded and cynical mind, that one stuck out a bit. But it wasn't until I'd googled the others that I was convinced that they were real.