The Top 10: Commonly confused abbreviations

John Rentoul

Thanks to Tom Freeman for this list. He drew my attention to The Jerusalem Post’s apology for getting the wrong ICC. “The International Cricket Council … did not accuse Israel of war crimes, but rather the International Criminal Court.” Here are 10 more.

1. BNP “My wife was working for Banque Nationale de Paris nearly 20 years ago, and we quickly learned to use the full name rather than BNP,” said Robert Boston. The bank is now called BNP Paribas, and its sports sponsorship still sometimes prompts people to think of the British National Party, as Dave Gordon, Tim and Richard Morris pointed out.

2. BSE Recently stood for Britain Stronger in Europe, but in the 1990s it was bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or “mad cow disease”. Nominated by Elliot Kane.

3. CCHQ Conservative Campaign HQ, recently confused with GCHQ, Government Communications HQ, in the debate about moving the Tory HQ out of London. Thanks to Gareth Flynn.

4. ECB England and Wales Cricket Board, or European Central Bank. Nominated by Ian.

5. FSA Food Standards Agency, or Financial Services Authority. The second was created in 2001, a year after the first, but was broken up in 2013. The confusion was even raised at a Treasury select committee hearing in 2005, said Jonathan Isaby.

6. IPCC Independent Police Complaints Commission (of England and Wales), or Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (of the United Nations). Could also be the Independent Police Complaints Council, of Hong Kong.

7. LOL David Cameron thought it meant “lots of love” and signed his texts to Rebekah Brooks, editor of The Sun, thus. The rest of us laughed out loud. Thanks to Star Man and Star Woman.

8. LSE London School of Economics (and Political Science, although nobody gives it its full name, which would be LSEPS), or the London Stock Exchange.

9. SAC In the Royal Air Force alone it can refer to Senior Aircraftman, Strategic Air Command, or Supreme Allied Commander. Thanks to Tim O’Kane.

10. WWF World Wildlife Fund, or, until it was sued for trademark infringement, the World Wrestling Federation. The wrestlers are now called WWE, for “Entertainment”, while the original WWF now stands for World Wide Fund for Nature because “wildlife” doesn’t include trees. Thanks to Bill Walsh, Paul T Horgan and Blair McDougall.

No room, then, for spad, which stands for special adviser, or on the railways for “signal passed at danger”, nominated by Tony Stafford.

An honourable mention for Graham Kirby, who said when he was young he confused MI5 and MFI, who sold flat pack furniture, “a fact that hampered me in my interview” (he didn’t say with which organisation). And for Alan Robertson, who notes that smh can be “shake my head” on the internet or, in capitals, The Sydney Morning Herald in Australia – “although I don’t think anyone has confused the two; similarly I am not sure if anyone has actually confused US attorney General William Barr (AG Barr) with the company that makes Irn Bru (AG Barr)”.

Next week: Moments when campaigns were supposedly lost but weren’t (because they were already lost), such as Neil Kinnock’s “We’re all right!” at the Sheffield rally in 1992 and Kevin Keegan’s “I will love it!” rant in 1996.

Coming soon: Mistaken identities, after John Williams, who wrote the music for Star Wars, Schindler’s List and Harry Potter, was congratulated on his 88th birthday by the record label of another John Williams, the Australian classical guitarist, who is 78.

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