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Abbreviative Dissonance 10 April 2014

Posted by Dr Moose in Church, Humour, Language, Life, Ponderings, Time.
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(Or the consequences of similarity.)

I suspect many of us have had the experience of being confronted with an abbreviation or acronym that is new to us. There’s the moment where the mind races: what’s the context? Do we have the information available to solve the linguistic puzzle? And so on. Once we know, then life is so much easier and it becomes second nature. Still buried within my memory are those I picked up as a child of the Cold War, combined with those lavishly illustrated fact books of military forces from WW2 and beyond, plus a few Role-Playing Games books: SAM, SLBM, HEAP etc (that’s Surface to Air Missile, Submarine Launched Ballistic Missile and High Explosive, Armour Piercing, in case you wondered). Added to this alphabetti spaghetti soup are those terms picked up from the growth of technology and the brevity of text messaging: DVD, ROFL etc. The education system throws in a few more, GCSE, NVQ, HND (not to be confused with WMD…) Then, through exposure to the arcane world of the Church of England, some yet more: NSM, MSE (Non-Stipendiary Minister, Minister in Secular Employment), neither of which yet have any proven links to MS or ME (and that’s not Microsoft or Middle Earth…)

So imagine my confusion of late in encountering three different uses of the same abbreviation: SSM. Bishop Donald has the target of 150 SSMs being deployed across the Diocese of Peterborough. 150 Same Sex Marriages? 150 Self-Supporting Ministers? 150 Surface to Surface Missiles? Or possibly all three as the 150 SSMs each target an SSM with an SSM….

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