Earlier this month the French government signed into law the controversial reform that raised the retirement age from 60 to 62. A few days after a letter came in the mail outlining my pension status based on the number of years I've contributed to Social Security (not many).
And what I saw frightened me.
It wasn't the fact that I'd have to work nearly a quarter of a century more in this system before I can stop, but that it will probably take me that long to wade through and understand that murky world of the RSO (retirement system organizations) and their equivalent acronyms.
Here's just a sampling from the letter I received.
AGIRC ARRCO CARCDSF CARMF
CARPIMKO CARPV CAVAMAC
CAVEC CAVIMAC CAVOM CAVP
CIPAV CNAV CNAVPL CNBF
CNIEG CNRACL CPRN CRN
CRPCEN CRPCF ENIM
FSPOEIE IRCANTEC IRCED MSA
Say that 10 times as fast as you can.
The French certainly have a knack for reducing government organizations to a few letters. What's even more frightening is that I too have been infected. After 10 years the acronym virus has taken root.
It's quite common now, even in casual conversation, for me to comfortably use abbreviations like HT and TTC (when talking about the price of good and services), RTT (for days off), TVA (for value added tax), VO (generally used for movies in their 'original version'), VF (movies in French), PDG (the president of a company), OVNI (French for UFO), EDF (the French electric company), CNED (for distance learning) and DIF (employee's right to training).
In some cases it's definitely more practical to say CNRACL rather than the Caisse Nationale De Retraites Des Agents Des Collectivités Locales.
The downside of course can be a loss of energy and power when we replace a real word with an acronym. The 'President' certainly carries more oomph than PDG. The mere mention of 'mountain bike' has me humming over rock and tracking through thick mud at 30mph with the scent of pine-filled air swirling about me, while the French abbreviation, VTT (vélo tout terrain), well, doesn't really take me anywhere.
SDF (sans domicile fixe) is a sterile, politically correct euphemism that just doesn't conjure up the same image as 'bum' or 'homeless' or even 'street urchin'.
While I agree that they can sometimes be useful, the overuse of acronyms can run disturbingly close to double speak. So when I receive a letter with an entire page of insanely long abbreviations, the temptation is too strong to hold my tongue.
I open my mouth and out flies, 'WTF!'