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RAT things

Do the words "Could you just enter your PIN number please, sir or madam?" cause your hackles to rise? Would you be disappointed to hear talk of an article in "FHM Magazine"? Have you bristled at being asked to "RSVP please"? If so, you've come to the right place or, to put it another way, the wrong place.

To explain the problem, if "PIN" stands for "personal identification number", then a "PIN number" is a "personal identification number number", so why not just refer to it as a "PIN"? Isn't the whole point of an abbreviation to save time? In a similar vein, "FHM magazine" expands to "For Him Magazine magazine" and "RSVP please" translates as "répondez s'il vous plaît please" or "respond please s'il vous plaît". Grrr.

Now, you might justifiably point out that if this is the only thing we've got to worry about, then on balance life has been pretty kind to us, so allow us to make it clear that we're in no way equating this little niggle with major issues like world hunger, global warming or the continued presence of Ferrari on the Formula One grid; it's merely another example of the kind of sloppy thinking that just grates a bit and, should you happen to run your own web site, it's the sort of grievance that you're quite likely to feel inclined to air on it.

We decided that the name we'd give to examples of this phenomenon should also serve to highlight the problem, so we refer to them as "redundant abbreviation things" or "RAT things" for short. That's biting wit, that is.

RAT thing expanded version description
ABS system Anti-lock Braking System system (actually "Antiblockiersystem system", since it was named in Germany) An electro-mechanical system used to stop your Mercedes' wheels locking under heavy braking when you suddenly encounter a traffic jam on the autobahn.
AC current Alternating Current current An electric current that reverses direction sinusoidally, for people who want energy sources that can be fitted nasally.
AOB business Any Other Business business The kind of people who get all arsey about what the plural of agenda is don't seem, in your correspondent's experience, to care much about asking "Is there any AOB business?" when they reach the last agendum. Bloody management consultants! Where's a 'B'-Ark when you need one?
ATM machine Automated Teller Machine machine An American term for a hole-in-the-wall cash dispenser or cashpoint. In certain circles, ATM means something quite different from trying to get money out of your bank when you're overdrawn, although both experiences can leave a nasty taste in the mouth.
CRC check Cyclic Redundancy Check check A quick error check used in computing during file transmissions. If the CRC value of the file before it was sent matches that of the file after it was received, it is highly likely that the two files are exactly the same. Of course, a more thorough check could be performed by calculating the CRC value of the CRC value, which we'll call a "cyclic redundancy CRC check" and if you wanted to be really sure, you could [this entry has been abridged on grounds of deviation, repetition and hesitation - Ed.]
DC current Direct Current current An electric current that flows in one direction only, presumably downhill.
ECU unit Electronic Control Unit unit That part of a terminator you have to destroy to stop them all taking over the world.
FHM magazine For Him Magazine magazine Pseudo-upmarket wipe-clean lads' mag.
GIS system Geographic Information System system Software that connects a database to a map: the tool on multimap.co.uk that shows you where the nearest cashpoint is is basically a GIS.
GPS system Global Positioning System system A satellite-based navigation system. We used to think this was an example of a highly evolved RAT thing as we thought that "GPS" once stood for "Global Positioning Satellite", and was therefore a WATER RAT thing, but apparently it never did, which shows what we know.
HGV lorries Heavy Goods Vehicle lorries I was so incensed on seeing a sign by the side of the road declaring "Caution: HGV lorries turning", I nearly drove into a PSV bus.
HGV Vehicle Heavy Goods Vehicle Vehicle I overheard this in a meeting of an All Party Parliamentary Group on fracking of all things, and laughed inwardly, forgetting we already had 'HGV Lorry' (qv.) up here. On the other hand, it might be a false RAT Thing on account of the term possibly applying to one of those big low loaders you see on the motorway with a fuck-off great big broken down truck on the back. Could be one to look out for on IRT Truckers.
HIV virus Human Immunodeficiency Virus virus The virus that causes the AIDS syndrome.
ISBN number International Standard Book Number number A unique number assigned to every printed book, to save you having to remember the name when you ask for it in a shop.
JIM meeting Joint Institutes Meeting meeting This is probably only of interest to policy and public affairs employees of the UK's various built environment-related professional bodies. To be honest, it's not much interest to them either, but we need to stamp out RAT things wherever we find them.
KERS system Kinetic Energy Recovery System system A way of recovering some of the energy expended in getting a vehicle moving by harnessing that same movement or, more simply, another excitingly expensive way for F1 teams to spend their dwindling budgets.
LAN network Local Area Network network A computer network covering a local area, such as an office, a school or the home of a sad, sad geek.
LCD display Liquid Crystal Display display A display technology in which liquid crystals are activated by electric fields to produce images of naked women when the wife's out.
NVQ qualification National Vocational Qualification qualification It seems a good education doesn't necessarily stop you being stupid. Even civil servants aren't immune. If you don't believe me, look here.
PID documents Project Initiation Document document That part of a project plan produced at the initiation of a project, as set out in the project management tool formerly known as PRINCE. Management consultancy is full of RATs. Ain't that the truth.
PIN number Personal Identification Number number The easily discovered number used to validate your stolen debit and credit cards, while you mistakenly believe that this wonderful new security measure is keeping you fully protected.
RSVP please Répondez S'il Vous Plaît please to [...,], i.e. please reply please to [...,] On an invitation, the letters "RSVP" are a request for a response to the invitation. "RSVP please" is therefore that rare thing: la français-English RAT chose.
SAM missile Surface-to-Air Missile missile A missile fired at an airborne target from the land or sea. By that definition, of course, lobbing stones at pigeons would count as a SAM launch but we doubt that the UN would be too concerned.
SCUBA gear Self-Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus gear We might be scraping barnacles off the underside of the barrel here, but since "apparatus" basically means "gear", a RAT may as well just say, "I'll just get me SCUBA" before leaving the sinking ship.
TTF font TrueType Font font A format used for describing vector fonts on personal computers. "Yep, it's definitely an F" - that kind of thing.
TUC Congress Trades Union Congress Congress Possibly unique in its status as an Official RAT Thing, or possibly ORT thing, the TUC Congress is, officially, the annual jamboree of the body known as the Trades Union Congress. If any one issue should show you just how crap unions are in Britain, that should be it. Except that they aren't crap at all, comrade.
UAT testing User Acceptance Testing testing One of the final stages of a software project, performed before a new system is deemed acceptable to the customer. We tried phoning Microsoft for their definition of the term but apparently they'd never heard of it.
VCR recorder Video Cassette Recorder recorder A video recording device that uses magnetic tape for storage and, when it gets bored, for flossing its teeth.
VIN number Vehicle Identification Number number A page that justified its haughty criticism of those who object to PIN number (qv.) on the grounds that "PIN" sounds like "pin" also listed this. We imagine that you're just as likely to be asked to enter a small metal fastener into a card payment machine as you are to be asked by the DVLA what your badly-pronounced french wine is. For fuck's sake.
WATER RAT thing* expanded version description
CHP plant Combined Heat and Power plant Some dozy people call it a Central Heating Plant. But they're either (a) stupid, or (2) American.
LM magazine LM magazine LM was a pre-Loaded lads' mag which ran to four issues way ahead of its time in 1986. Despite many interpretations (Leisure Monthly, Lively Magazine, Lloyd Mangram...,) its publishers claim that the letters didn't stand for anything. Nor did the magazine. By the way, despite the fact that, if the letters page was anything to go by, there weren't enough nudes for the readership, it was ten times better than Loaded, Maxim or FHM magazine. Especially the latter, obviously.
MOT test Ministry of Transport test In the UK, a compulsory annual vehicle roadworthiness test, to which the 15-year-old Nissan taxi you always seem to get has very obviously never been submitted.
QVC channel, The Quality, Value and Convenience channel, The A TV shopping channel which you sometimes catch yourself watching, drunk, at 2am. Of the "Quality, Value and Convenience" claims, at most one would seem to be justified.
*What Appears To Erroneously Resemble a Redundant Abbreviation Thing, i.e. phrases that initially look like RAT things but, on closer inspection, prove not to be

Do you have a pet RAT?
If you've noticed one of these that we missed (either a true RAT or a WATER RAT), please contact the subeditor and get it off your chest.

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