I think it was Stephen Fry who pointed out the brilliant redundancy in the Martini advertising slogan ‘any time, any place, anywhere’, wondering out loud what possible difference there could be between the phrase ‘any place’ and ‘anywhere’. That, of course, had been entirely overlooked by the advertising copywriter in search of a more elegant catchline.
And so it should be.
In the same vein, I recently – and I can no longer remember how – stumbled across what I think will always be one of my favourite concepts, and certainly one of my favourite wikipedia entries which is RAS syndrome.
RAS syndrome (Redundant Acronym Syndrome syndrome) is what happens when one letter of an acronym ends up repeated after the acronym and people stop even noticing. Computing and technology are probably home to the most obscure and profligate acronym creators and so boast many of the best examples: ROM memory, BASIC code, LED light, LASER light, XP Programming, CPU unit, GPRS services, GPS System, DOS Operating System, CSS style sheets and so on. New banking terms appear to similarly befuddle: ATM machine, PIN number, ISA account, TESSA account and on and on.
As Wikipedia notes, the circularity can become quasi-obsessive, with RAS syndrome originally dubbed ‘PNS Sydrome’ or ‘PIN Number Syndome syndrome’ or ‘Personal Identificiation Number Number Sydnrome Syndrome’.
I guess what I love about this is the its self-referential nature. But it also reflects how different generations of users learn to suck these new concepts in at such massively accelerated pace. I remember, not so long ago, there being this tinge of slight displeasure when the OED dared admit new words to the dictionary because they had become common usage.
Well they weren’t always pretty: (new words recently), and – a propos of not very much (from that link):
- Why do the Scottish need a new word for buttocks after all this time?
- Don’t they appear to have missed a rather important definition of ‘blow back’?
- Whatever I’m about to say, did we really need the word ‘Yogalates’ (a type of Pilates crossed with yoga)?