Alphabet soup

Written by Simon Renfrew

If eating in general and meal times in particular (try to get anyone to do anything between noon and 2pm) are the principal fixations of your average Frenchman – and they probably are – then public sector France has a similar and inexhaustible obsession with acronyms. Every government body (and there are squillions of them - local, departmental, regional and national) feels the need to have a minimum 7 (seemingly random) character title to describe their role. Which it doesn’t.

 The smaller local set ups (for school meals, pta groups and the like) are fine, but many of the larger bodies have a reason for existence which is, at best, unclear. And the principal aim of their chosen acronym seems to be to bolster their ego, confuse the shit out of the population at large and make their actual function as impenetrable as possible. And the proliferation of these organisations (and the sheer number of often deeply unhelpful people they employ) is staggering – there are forty alone whose sole aim (allegedly) is to collect employers and employees NI contributions.

And if you find yourself obliged to call one of these bodies (having tired of sticking knitting needles into your eyes or life in general) be prepared to be passed between departments in perpetual circles until lunchtime, when you’ll be cut off or put on hold for a couple of hours ‘till they come back.

Better still, there’s the thought police’s obsession with placing the noun before the adjective for every named branch of government, which confuses matters further. And it doesn’t stop there. Example - throughout the world, even in countries where cyrillic or mandarin alphabets dominate, everyone uses and understands the AIDS acronym. Except in France, where it becomes SIDA (so be careful to emphasise the ‘r’ in ‘cidre’ when ordering your favorite apple based beverage).

It’s left to people power to fight the corner for commonsense, and it must be particularly galling to the anti American lobby that the world’s largest fast food vendor can buck the trend.

Vive le Big Mac

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