How Antonin Scalia Lost His ASSoL

George Mason University recently coined this embarrassing new acronym for its law school, no doubt in haste and out of gratitude for $30 million in donations that flowed in after Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia died.

It may be another example of a simple failure to proofread.

When the new name, “Antonin Scalia School of Law,” leaked, people were quick to realize it could form the acronyms ASSoL or ASSLaw. Apt for those who consider the description fitting for Scalia and his profession, but probably not what the deep-pocketed donors had in mind.

I lay some of the blame on academia’s devotion to passive voice, with its ability to add wind to almost anything.

Take, for example, the University of Richmond School of Professional and Continuing Studies. Since it’s understood a university is a school, they could drop “School of” and lose no meaning.

Similarly, GMU couldn’t resist “School of Law.”

The quick fix was to eliminate the passive and create the abbreviation ASLS — Antonin Scalia Law School.

It’s common to call everything an acronym these days, but the subtle difference with abbreviations is that an acronym creates a word you can say, and an abbreviation doesn’t. For example, you must pronounce each letter of these abbreviations: FBI, IBM, CIA, and TSA.

But comedians could still make an acronym of ASLS. It would be pronounced “assless,” which isn’t much of an improvement.

In the end (pun intended), Scalia in death has managed to put George Mason between a $30 million rock and hard place.

 

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