400 North Capitol Street, NW
Washington, DC 20001
- Toll Free 1.888.564.6273
- Local 202.783.3870
Last week, high school students calling themselves the Pittsburgh
Association of Peaceful and Proactive Youth rallied outside the
headquarters of the city school district in support of peace.
Whatever the merits of their cause -- and I am for peace, even if
it doesn't do much to boost newspaper circulation -- surely we can
all agree that the student group has come up with an inspired name.
Given the amount that most teens sleep, most young people could
lay claim to being peaceful, at least in calculus class, but being
proactive is a greater challenge. In my experience, many kids are
not proactive enough to shovel snow off the sidewalk, much less save
the world from militarism.
As it happens, I have always appreciated good names for groups or
organizations promoting a cause or public interest. The best names
declare what the groups are about in bold and unambiguous fashion.
For example, there's no confusing the Peaceful and Proactive
Youth with any group styling itself the Rowdy and Inactive Young
People, and that may prove helpful.
My love of simple, defining names can be traced to Citizens for a
Sound Economy, which has been in business since 1984. At that time,
it is not clear what opposition the group faced and whether there
was a Citizens for a Screwed-Up Economy from which it needed to
differentiate itself. Actually, if memory serves, the person
screwing up the economy most in 1984 was Ronald Reagan with his
budget deficits, but I am not sure the Citizens had him in mind.
I confess to having a soft spot for the term "concerned
citizens," which you often hear on the local TV news, as in
"Concerned citizens brought a petition to the school board meeting
tonight ...." This puts the viewer on notice that the fuss wasn't
being made by aliens, or even by citizens who really couldn't give a
darn but were just there to raise heck and have some fun.
Because so many concerned citizens exist, and they have so many
concerns, the political landscape today is adorned with groups and
organizations, and many of them have pleasing, no-nonsense names.
I have begun to keep a little list of groups to cheer myself up
in these depressing times. While I am not sure what the
organizations do, when I read the names I know better than to
confuse them with anybody else. For example, the Center for
Responsive Politics won't be confused with the Association of
Unresponsive Politicians, which, if it exists, is likely to have a
Likewise, the Council for Affordable Health Insurance is clearly
not the Organization of Expensive Health Insurance. Nor is the
Center for Public Integrity in any way linked to the American
Association of Crookedness in Public Life, which, in truth, may have
another name, and not necessarily the Congress of the United States.
By the same token, Accuracy in Media is not related to those
rascals from Inaccuracy in Media and the Institute for Peace and
Justice is not the Group for War and Injustice.
A particular favorite of mine is the Committee of Concerned
Journalists. This is a rebuff to many in the profession who, if only
they had enough initiative, would organize themselves as the
Unconcerned Reporters Who Watch the Clock for the Shift to End.
Sometimes a group will have an appealing name that is
nevertheless misleading. Take, for example, The Wisdom Fund. At
first blush, it seems that it might be a fund to underwrite wisdom,
which would be excellent, given that there's so little of it around.
Moreover, citizens -- concerned or otherwise -- would know not to
confuse The Wisdom Fund with The Stupidity Fund.
As it turns out, The Wisdom Fund has been set up to promote an
understanding of Islam, which is doubtless a worthy purpose in
today's world, but nevertheless a disappointment to people like
myself (wise guys looking for a handout).
It sounds like a job for the Colorado Center for Chaos &
Complexity, which you know better than to confuse with the
McKeesport Center for Order & Simplicity.
If you have any other examples of aptly named organizations, you
could always forward them to me. As it happens, I have re-organized
myself as the Pittsburgh Association of Snoozing and Inactive Older
Persons, not to be confused with any of the above.