Marolt: SADNWIM (Silly Acronyms Do Not Work In Marketing)
August 29, 2013
I don't know a lot about dinosaurs, but I do know that they are extinct. Things changed, they failed to adapt, and now they are gone.
That would be enough for me not to name my mass-transit system after them. But if anyone needed more reasons, they aren't hard to Google. There is evidence that dinosaurs had tiny brains, which has led scientists to conclude that they were pretty stupid. The word "dinosaur" is of Greek origin and, as far as Prometheus can tell, means "terrible lizard." You can't put stuff like this in a brochure and expect to entice people into riding your buses proudly named after these beasts.
To be fair, though, our Roaring Fork Transportation Authority (RFTA) buses aren't named after all dinosaurs, so I shouldn't generalize. The new buses are named "VelociRFTA" after the velociraptor, which means "speedy thief." Even this is misleading, though, because this creature wasn't all that fast. It had short legs about the size of turkey drumsticks, and that surely would have kept its top-end speed down.
Of course, the fact that it strutted around on legs that small begs the question about proportion in its body. How could those little legs support a majestic prehistoric sculpted muscular body of a fierce natural warrior? Well, the truth is that, while it might have indeed been more of a fighter than a lover, the velociraptor was, on average, about the size of a big chicken. Lots of scientists believe it had feathers. Bok, bok.
There's plenty of irony in naming a bus after a dinosaur, too. You can almost imagine archaeologists 70 million years from now unearthing the fossilized remains of a VelociRFTA bus and, after thoroughly examining and studying it, concluding that it was an instrument of prehistoric religious ceremony. The contraption was designed to burn the liquefied remains of the dinosaurs and then roll around the land converting it into smoke so that the great creatures could be reincarnated into the superheated atmosphere that led to their own extinction — like revenge incense or something.
I don't know — in the grand scheme of things, it's not a big deal, but I think it's kind of silly to name a bus system after a relatively unimpressive, long-extinct creature just because an acronym for the bus system's name happens to work pretty neatly into the animal's name.
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Granted, acronyms are a tricky thing. If you do the thinking about them upfront, your work is pretty much finished. Take the Aspen Recreation Center, for example: ARC. It conjures images of perfectly symmetrical turns on the ski slopes. That's a great acronym in a place like this. Compare that with the Snowmass Village Recreation Center, or SVRC. That's a tough one to work with. In my family, we affectionately refer to it as The Sverk. That kind of fits into our Slovenian heritage but probably doesn't do much for anyone else around here.
It's not even like they ever found velociraptor remains anywhere near Colorado. Most of their fossils have been dug up in China and Russia. I mean, if you are going to name a bus system after an animal, even one that's extinct, why not try to jerry-rig it from one that actually lived around here like the rest of us working slobs? How about RFTAdon after the mastodon that got stuck in the mud above Snowmass Village? Heck, we could just quit struggling with the awkward acronym altogether and call the bus system Lynx, for that matter.
More to the point, would it be preposterous to call the animal theme extinct and move on to something else? Look what they did in San Francisco. They have BART for Bay Area Rapid Transit. It works because it fits as well as Kip, Lance or Maurice. What about a name that says a little bit about what we do in modern times up here in the mountains? How about RFTA Rapid?
Obviously RFTA was never intended to be used as a clever marketing tool. The chicken came first and laid that egg of an acronym. The point is that there is no point in trying to pretend it is anything more than four random letters that don't sound much like any natural word or phrase in any language known to mankind. Perhaps monkeys could make something of it — naw.
My prediction is that VelociRFTA is not a name for the ages. I think it will last about as long as this generation of buses. The name and dinosaur painted on their sides will wear out faster than they do. In the meantime, I'll enjoy the mental imagery of a Prius being chased down Highway 82 by a dinosaur the size of a large chicken.
Roger Marolt is betting on the Prius. Contact him at email@example.com.
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