Which came first, the chicken or the egg? The question for which there is no one right answer. In most situations, of course, it is usually more clear-cut.
In the case of acronyms, logic would suggest that, as they are supposed to be derived from the title of the organisation, product or whatever they represent, they would be a secondary consideration, not a starting point in the process.
But I am not sure that always applies. Take, for example, the name of the public health charity that works to eliminate the harm caused by tobacco: Action on Smoking and Health.
Was it really fortuitous the main letters in their title spelt out and produced the acronym ASH? Or did ASH come first with the title of the organisation made to fit afterwards?
In the world of pensions, we have the National Employment Savings Trust – itself a bit of a mouthful, but very conveniently translating into NEST, with its connotations of a nest-egg savings plan. Did the same thing happen here?
There is probably nothing wrong with this approach. It is a bit disingenuous, but if a catchy acronym helps promote the service and makes people more aware of it, so much the better.
I did wonder, however, about the latest arrival on to the scene – the Money and Pensions Service, which replaces the hitherto provisionally named Single Financial Guidance Body.
To its credit, the new merged body, which combines Pension Wise, the Money Advice Service and The Pensions Advisory Service, has avoided the treacherous word “advice” in its name. There seems to be agreement that doing so, as
its predecessors did, would only have added to confusion over what advice is.
But the new title is a bit bland and extremely vague in respect of what it is and what it actually does. Because of that, it seems unlikely it would immediately resonate with the public and that could be a problem.
This is perhaps why the title was decided upon with the acronym MAPS in mind – or, as in other examples, the acronym came first. MAPS is quite clever. It symbolises the sort of thing you might use as a guide to get you where you want to be.
Will that be enough, though? I can’t help feeling its full title might have benefited from words such as “help” or “assistance” being included to amplify what the service is there to do.
But, at the end of the day, what is in a name? The new body needs to sell itself, of course, but it’s how it performs and the results that it achieves that matter, and we shall only be able to judge that when it gets off the ground and becomes operational over a period of time.
Malcolm McLean is senior consultant at Barnett Waddingham