Concerned That a Good Name Is Hard To Find

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

large membership.

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.