The world is full of stupid acronyms.
The enlightened technocrats on Capitol Hill seem to take a perverse pleasure in crafting unbearably self-satisfied backronyms — shoehorned abbrevatiations in which, to borrow a phrase from the Los Angeles Times, you torture the English language until you come up with an acronym that matches your word of choice. From “Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism,” for example, we’re rewarded with “USA PATRIOT Act.”
The Trump “resistance” era pushed this practice of flippant pun-geneering to new heights of delirium, from Rep. Mike Quigley’s Making Access Records Available to Lead American Government Openness (MAR-A-LAGO) Act to his Communications Over Various Feeds Electronically For Engagement (COVFEFE) Act. Did you know the orange president once tweeted something incomprehensible? Huh huh huh.
It’s upsettingly easy to come up with a bad name. It’s rare to happen upon a good one. So I’m leveraging my fleeting credibility as a cruciverbalist to make a modest proposal that wordsmiths everywhere have long accepted: When the universe hands you a decent pun, you take it.
Pomona College’s reconstructed Center for Athletics, Recreation and Wellness opens Friday, and regretfully, administrators have already started shamelessly referring to it in written correspondence as CARW.
Reader, a $57 million gym deserves a $57 million name. Instead, this campus is expected to be buzzing about the opening of something that would most charitably be pronounced as “CAR-wuh.”
I won’t engage in the rumor mill about why this gym’s moniker doesn’t have a donor attached, a significant school figure or even a cute pet name. I’ve heard “the Roost” or “the Nest” tossed around as potential fowl-adjacent epithets, and I don’t disagree.
Let me be precise: Because for the time being, for whatever reason, the administration has chosen not to bestow this facility with anything remotely unique to which it should be referred, we could at least work with what’s right in front of us and switch around a single letter. Hence, the CRAW.
‘Craw’ is not a word most of us tend to use. Its most common appearance in daily life probably comes through the phrase “stick in (one’s) craw,” which means “to cause considerable or abiding resentment.” In fairness, not a sentiment we’d likely prefer to attach to a building that’s replacing the “troubled” Rains Center.
But at Pomona, we’re sticklers for accuracy at all social costs. So it’s my turn to tell you that biologically, the craw actually has its own avian attachment. Also known as the crop, it’s the portion of a bird’s digestive system that temporarily stores food before it’s digested or dispersed to one’s young. You know what has a craw? The greater sage-grouse.
In many ways, the craw feels like an appropriate metaphor for college in general, and maybe even this building in particular. The world is full of daunting inputs for our young minds — the hard nuts and seeds of complex academic jargon, misinformation and vitriol. It’s the role of the institution to grind up and process these provisions into the coherent, nutritious products of a Pomona education.
More specifically, like baby chicks, we’re helpless to decide for ourselves the resources that our mother institution will choose to offer. But sometimes, when she comes flying back to drop a massive capital investment like this gym into our gullets, all we can do is open up and be grateful.
Allow me once more to underscore the only real reason I’m writing today: It’s one flipped letter. You go from calling it the Center for Athletics, Recreation and Wellness to the Center for Recreation, Athletics and Wellness. Would the athletes be so offended to lose top billing? I hope they’d understand. We just bought them a $57 million gym.
(On the other hand, if we were willing to do away with ‘recreation’ and lump it under ‘athletics’ — which by one definition are simply “sports and physical activities of any type” — we could achieve CAW, which is indisputably a great bird reference though more crow-like then hen-ish. But I digress.)
Let’s be honest: This proposal’s tongue is so deeply in its cheek that the moment we’re gifted with an actual name for the building, people would be more than happy to take it up. It only took a couple months to sell “Estella.”
Until then, we have to call this thing something. It just can’t be a loose assemblage of letters so incomprehensible that the mental gymnastics to figure out their pronunciation surpass any workout the CARW’s new tenants could offer.
Guest writer Jasper Davidoff PO ’23 is TSL’s crossword constructor. He preemptively apologizes to the biology department for the inevitable errors.