It’s called RAS syndrome (Redundant Acronym Syndrome syndrome), and if you’re a little obsessive and start thinking too hard it can be excruciatingly annoying. The actual syndrome wasn’t something I’d heard of until I tweeted the following…
Why do we write "EHIC card" when it stands for European Health Insurance CARD, and "PIN number" (Personal Identification NUMBER) – any others?"
My Twitter inbox (@martinslewis) quickly started to overflow with bile, as similar pedants started to shoot over RASs that grate. Here are my top 10 – thanks to all those who sent suggestions.
- PIN number / Personal Identification Number number. It’s so unnecessary, but so easy to do. It should just be called your "PIN", or at least your "PIN code".
- ATM machine / Automated Teller Machine machine. Even as a pedant I’m guilty of this. I must try harder, I must try harder.
- LCD display / Liquid Crystal Display display. LCD TV, fine. LCD panel, fine. LCD display – wrong.
- Please RSVP / Please répondez s’il vous plaît. Very annoying this one. Even people with pidgin French should realise it stands for ‘respond if you please’, so the first please is unnecessary – but bad habits are tough to overcome.
- The VAT tax / The Value Added Tax tax. I’ve not heard this one, but it annoys Joe Rowsell and if I heard it, it’d annoy me.
- EHIC card / European Health Insurance Card card. This is the one that started me off. The problem is the EHIC replaced the E111 card, and it just feels right to write the word ‘card’ on the end. In fact it was writing this week’s email that caused me to do the original tweet, yet even having done so I still ended up writing "EHIC card", as without the ‘card’ on the end, the sentence just felt wrong, and I worried it wouldn’t make sense to people.
- GPS system / Global Positioning System system. I wonder if this one happens because people think the ‘s’ stands for satellite?
- PAC code / Porting Authorisation Code code. This is what you ask for when you want to switch mobile phone number. Though I’m getting to the more easy-to-forgive ones now, as I suspect most people don’t know what PAC stands for.
- KERS system / Kinetic Energy Recovery System system. One for F1 fans. This is easy to do as it feels like KER is pluralised. Yet if we wanted to be accurate, it would be the KER system.
- MAC code/ Migration Authorisation Code code. If you Google ‘MAC’, the makeup counter comes up first. But Google ‘MAC code’, and information about this code used for changing broadband supplier pops up top. So the RAS syndrome here is ubiquitous.
In amongst all this, James Moore also tweeted me about his annoyance of the reverse problem, a missing letter in an acronym; "Having an MOT is actually saying you’re having a Ministry of Transport. Should be MOTT!"
Any more good ones? Do let me know below.
Related past blogs
Update from the MSE team: Martin did write ‘pidgin’ originally in point 4, but it got changed to ‘pigeon’, we’ve now changed it back. Whoops, sorry Martin.