An acronym within an acronym? What’s that called?

Jul 13, 2020

I am often intrigued by TLAs… or Three-Letter Acronyms. (Did you see what I did then?)

There are times when an apt TLA is extremely handy, either to make something more memorable or simply to shorten an otherwise clumsy string of words. The BBC could not easily be called the British Broadcasting Corporation today, nor could KFC be called Kentucky Fried Chicken. Their acronyms have entered the common vernacular and it just wouldn’t sound right to use their full, or former, names.

But there are also times when an acroynm-rich piece of text becomes unreadable. There are times when using the full name of something helps to break up the jargonised tone of a piece of writing. I am in the middle of writing just such a job, and in an attempt to clean up a jargon-rich section of text that had been supplied to me by a client, I just Googled the acronym ‘AVCIS’ to discover something truly unholy – an acronym within an acronym!

Yes. I kid you not. Incredible, I know. A TLA within a TLA. Or more precisely, a Four-Letter Acronym (FLA) within a five-letter acronym (FLA). No, that doesn’t work.

Anyway, AVCIS apparently stands for the APCO Vehicle Crime Intelligence Service, in which APCO apparently stands for the Association of Chief Police Officers.

Why am I writing about this illustrious body? Don’t ask.

Why on earth did anyone tasked with naming the AVCIS think that it would be alright to do this? I think you would be quite right to ask.

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David Merrifield is Managing & Creative Director of Just Us Agency.