Olympic linguistic games

Olympic RingsThe organisers of the 2012 Olympic Games are making a big effort to ensure that the whole of the United Kingdom feels included in the event. There was a great fuss on the BBC news yesterday (18 May) about the arrival and planned relay — covering the length and breadth of the UK, with a dip down to Dublin too — of the Olympic flame.

But if that effort is to be successful, they need to watch their language. Again on the BBC news, David Beckham expressed his delight that the Games were not just about England but also about east London, where he grew up. Erm, England, David?

And the news presenter made numerous — and very annoying, to anyone who hates inappropriate use of acronyms and initialisms — mentions of LOCOG. If you want an event to be inclusive, then the language you use needs to be inclusive too. Acronyms and initialisms are not inclusive. LOCOG stands for the “London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games”, which admittedly is a bit of a mouthful. So why not just use “organising committee”? We’d all get the message. With LOCOG, we don’t.

Glad I’ve got that off my chest.

Photo courtesy of Rareclass

By Marian Dougan

Published by Marian Dougan

Marian is a translator and editor (specialising in web content) currently based in Glasgow, Scotland. Marian previously lived in Italy for over 20 years, working as a language teacher, translator and policy analyst with the British Embassy in Rome. A qualified member of the Institute of Translation and Interpreting (ITI) and its Italian-language and ITI Scotnet networks, she is currently Scotnet's Convenor and Deputy Webmaster. From 2003 to 2006 Marian taught translation skills at the Italian Department of Glasgow University and now gives Master Classes as part of the new Masters in Translation Studies course. She also conducts web-writing and usability workshops to help people improve their websites and communicate more effectively with their readers, users and customers. In September 2014 Marian obtained User Experience Certification, with specialisation in Web Design, from the Nielsen Norman Group. She loves language, especially English, and is convinced that learning languages opens up people’s minds and horizons (and increases their brainpower!). To share her enthusiasm, she advises schools and educational authorities on language skills and enterprise. She gives talks to pupils on how to combine language studies with other subjects and so enhance their potential and increase their career options. Marian is an active member of organisations such as: Scottish Council Development and Industry (SCDI); Association of Scottish Businesswomen; Dunbartonshire Chamber of Commerce and the Italian Chamber of Commerce in Scotland. She also loves architecture, design, fashion (British Vogue!), cities and chocolate. She’s a great fan of Twitter and you can also find her on Linkedin.

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  1. Dear Marian, great insights, and I definitely share your point of view. I have attended a training for Language Services of the Olympics, and I was irritated by all these unnecessary acronyms and initials. A couple more of them for you:
    Any guesses?

  2. My acronym dictionary suggests

    VAPP Visual and Auditory Presentation Package (computer based psychological experiments)
    VAPP Volunteers for Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention
    VAPP Virginia Alliance for Potbellied Pigs
    VAPP Ventilator Associated Pneumonia Prevention
    VAPP Vaccine-associated Paralytic Poliomyelitis (neurological damage)
    VAPP Vector and Parallel Processing (conference)

    and I can imagine the Olympics people needing some of these suggestions, but strongly suspect they meant something else entirely

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