How (Not) to Name Government Departments

When I worked in the Department of Communications, Information Technology and the Arts, there was always conjecture over how to pronounce the acronym, DCITA.  Was it with a hard C or soft C?  Was it dockeeta, deseeta, dockita, deckeeta, etc?  The deseeta pronunciation never sat comfortably as it sounded too much like deceit which was definitely not what we were on about.

I’ve been watching closely the name changes to the recent Federal Government departments, particularly the renaming of the Department of Immigration and Multicultural Affairs to the Department of Immigration and Citizenship.  The obvious acronym here then would be DIC – with the Secretary of the department being the DIC-head.  Wisely, they have decided to abbreviate the department to the acronym of DIAC.

But this may not be that much better.  A diac is a little known electronic term.  This from wikipedia:

The DIAC, or DIode for Alternating Current, is a bidirectional trigger diode that conducts current only after its breakdown voltage has been exceeded momentarily. When this occurs, the resistance of the diode abruptly decreases, leading to a sharp decrease in the voltage drop across the diode and, usually, a sharp increase in current flow through the diode. The diode remains “in conduction” until the current flow through it drops below a value characteristic for the device, called the holding current. Below this value, the diode switches back to its high-resistance (non-conducting) state.

In public service speak, this means

Resist for as long as possible until a crisis or an overwhelming flood of public opinion is reached and then conduct your work as fast as possible until the crisis or flood abates below a certain level then go back to the standard operating state (ie resist for as long as possible).  

Note that a DIAC does not conduct (except for a small leakage current) until the breakover voltage is reached.  I guess that means you always need to have a minimum amount of leaks coming from the department to keep the media current. 

A rule to follow:  Never name a department without checking its acronym against Google, wikipedia and the common sense library.  And secondly, try and avoid duplicating the acronym of another government department (why create the Department of Environment and Water Resources to match the DEWR of the existing Department of Employment and Workplace Relations). 

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4 Responses to How (Not) to Name Government Departments

  1. Poor bastards! Two name changes in less than 6 months, that’s got to cause a reasonable level of chaos…

  2. Nerida Hart says:

    Luke – try being on the receiving end and working in one of the DEWRs. Most public servants use acronyms daily to identify agencies – this one has caused some interesting discussion

  3. I read today in the Fin Review that the new DEWR is actually DTEWR for Department of The Environment and Water Resources. Thank goodness for being able to include the T of “the” or the A of “and” in departments’ acronyms. I’d like to know how they are going to pronounce DTEWR.

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