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Special Article
April 2002

It's Acronymania All Over Again: With Due Reference to YB Yogi Berra

Author Affiliations

From St Louis University School of Medicine, St Louis, Mo.

Arch Surg. 2002;137(4):486-489. doi:10.1001/archsurg.137.4.486

The chief merit of language is clearness and we know that nothing detracts so much from this as do unfamiliar terms.—Galen on the Natural Faculties

The beginning of wisdom is to call things by their right names.—Chinese proverb

Does everything have to be reduced to an acronym? Is it to save space or is it just a cute way to develop an expression? Whether you call it acronymia, as the late William Beck1 did, or acronymitis, as Bernard Jaffe2 did, it is the same.

When I read a scientific article, I look for the definitions of the acronyms at the beginning. All respectable journals will insist on ICAM (intracellular adhesion molecule) being defined the first time it is used and also all other acronyms. Failure to do so leaves readers hanging. The purpose of writing is education. Tell us what you are acronyming about. In a recent issue of Critical Care Medicine, I found 52 acronyms, many of which were never defined. Some of them are familiar. They are listed in Table 1. Check how many you know. There are many that I did not know.