Sunday, August 19, 2007

The acronyms strike again!

It is one of the often amusing, occasionally charming quirks of the use of English in China that no consideration ever seems to be given to the possible connotations of the combinations of letters they choose for acronyms.

For example, staff and students at the Beijing University of Science & Technology are invariably baffled that their school does not seem to command quite as much respect from foreigners as the capital's other seats of higher learning.

I've just come across a real beauty over on China Law Blog (yes, this is my recommendation of the month for people who might be looking for a more "serious" China blog), in a story about price-fixing in the instant noodle business. The price-fixing cabal goes by the delightful name of the International Ramen Manufacturers' Association - IRMA.


Sorry. I fell off my chair. I read this about 10 minutes ago, and I still have tears streaming down my face.

Emendation: OK, so the China Law Blog dude came all the way over here to tell me that actually IRMA is an international organisation, not just a Chinese one. That's lawyers for you - vigilant, meticulous, nit-picky. That's why I gave it up. It's still a pretty funny acronym, though, huh? (I just can't get the image of Shirley MacLaine in green stockings out of my head!)

Further Emendation:
The point I should emphasise here (becoming overcome with lawyerly guilt about my previous sloppiness!) is that it was not
IRMA that was recently busted for price-fixing, but certain Chinese members of IRMA. As far as I know, after further researches, IRMA is an entirely respectable and worthy trade organisation which does not condone or facilitate price-fixing. There.

Further note:
The problem with IRMA as an acronym is not only its inherent risibility (and, for some of us, a provoking erotic reminiscence of Billy Wilder's very silly but very sexy comedy 'Irma La Douce', in which a young and gorgeous Shirley MacLaine played a Parisian hooker of that name), but that it is so overused. There are dozens of IRMAs out there (and thus, dozens of organizations that might want to sue me for libel!), and the poor old Ramen Manufacturers are well down the list; the Irish Recorded Music Association has far better Google positioning. Of course, anything with 'International' and 'Association' in its title has a good headstart in trying to achieve that particular combination of letters for its acronym, but the first page of Google results also includes such exotica as L'Institut de Recherche Mathématique Avancée and Interreg Rhine-Meuse Activities. And the Australian Institute of Myotherapists (bit of a cheat - 'A' in the wrong place, and where's the 'R'?? Well, it's actually the Insitute of Registered Myotherapists of Australia.).


China Law Blog said...

First off, thanks for the rec. Always appreciated, particularly from an "escaped lawyer."

But, believe it or not, IRMA (I think) is an international association and the Chinese group is just the China section.

Froog said...

Oh, shame!

"Print the legend," I say.

The British Cowboy said...

Huge urban legend here but what the hell. It is always reported that Newcastle Poly when it became a Uni decided to call itself City University of Newcastle-upon-Tyne. Until they tried to design a logo, that is...

Froog said...

Ah, yes, the South Humberside Institute of Technology ran into similar problems, I think.

Tulsa said...

RFLOL! Okay, IRMA didn't get me but this did:

"That's lawyers for you - vigilant, meticulous, nit-picky. That's why I gave it up."

umm, you want to qualify that statement?? Emendation, Further Emendation and Further Note???

Tulsa said...

Oh, I realize I should've bolded the "That's why I gave it up." part. but surely you understood what I meant?? (or maybe not...)