Columns » Words


by and


 Robert W. Fureigh writes: “It seems the traditional abbreviation, Ark., is gradually going by the wayside. Unfortunately, the postal abbreviation, AR, seems to have supplanted Ark. in common usage. Lately, aberrations such as AR., Ar and Ar. are increasing in usage. I suppose I need to learn not to cringe.”

Between the terrorists and the e. coli, between global warming and government wire-tappers, a chronic cringe might be appropriate in this modern world. As for state abbreviations, it may comfort Mr. Fureigh to know that there are still conservative publications like the Arkansas Times that uphold the old ways. OK is not OK with us; the proper abbreviation is Okla. Tennessee is still Tenn. in the Times, not TN. California is Calif., not CA.

The old abbreviations are not only prettier, they’re clearer. Who can remember whether MI is Michigan or Minnesota, Mississippi or Missouri? Not me. Is MS Mississippi or Massachusetts or none of the above? With the old abbreviations — Mich., Minn., Miss., Mass. — there was no doubt. Under the new system, AK might be Alaska or Arkansas. AR could be either Arkansas or Arizona. (In the old days, Alaska was one of a handful of states — along with Texas, Ohio et al — that were never abbreviated.)

The Times has not been thrown in jail for its defiance, nor will anyone else. Use of the two-letter abbreviations is not mandatory, though it might be advisable in the case of correspondence, since it was the postal service that promoted the two-letter system.

 Median well:
“ ‘TV is huge,’ Vaughan said. ‘For this generation, TV is such a large median for exposure.’ ”

 Better to ramp up than to cramp up:
“The United States ramped up its evacuation of citizens from Lebanon as a luxury cruise ship carrying 1,000 Americans arrived in Cyprus early today, a week after the Israeli bombardment began.”
This use of the verb ramp is not in my dictionary, but it seems to be everywhere else these days. Evidently it means the same as stepped up — that is, “heightened, increased.”

Add a comment