The astonishingly long history of Ed Markey’s made-up acronyms

The Massachusetts senator didn't invent the idea of using acronyms to make a point. But he may be the best at it — or the worst.

Ed Markey
Senator Ed Markey at a press conference in Bonn, Germany, for the COP 23 Conference. –Lukas Schulze / Getty Images

Former Rep. Barney Frank once called the use of acronyms in Congress “an abuse of the English language.” But don’t tell that to Frank’s fellow former Massachusetts representative, now in Congress’ upper chamber, Sen. Ed Markey.

Just as President Donald Trump concocts nicknames for his opponents, Markey wields acronyms as his weapon of political branding.

“Opening up all of our coastlines to offshore drilling at the expense of our environment and coastal economies is just further confirmation that @GOP really stands for the Gas and Oil Party,” the Democratic senator tweeted early last month, re-upping one of his favorite coinages for the Republican Party, which dates back at least as far as 2005 (alternatively, the GOP has stood for “Gutting Our Privacy,” “Get Old People,” and “Grandma’s Out of Prescriptions”).

Advertisement

The 71-year-old Malden native continues to roll out new politically charged acronyms regularly, whether it’s for the Council on Environmental Quality — which he said last November would have to be dubbed “Crazy Environmental Quackery” under the White House’s since-withdrawn nominee — or DACA.

Congress’ love of acronyms in bill titles is welldocumented. However, Markey’s affinity for wordplay cannot be confined. The junior Bay State senator has coined more than 50 different repurposed acronyms (the number is far greater including duplicates) in social media posts and press releases dating back to the beginning of 2006 (see below).

Reached for comment about the senator’s frequent use of acronyms, Markey’s office noted that the senator had planned to make a floor speech amid Thursday’s immigration votes beside a prop “Deserves A Chance in America” poster. Unfortunately, the speech did not ultimately happen.

Izzy Klein, who worked as an aide for Markey from 1999 to 2005, says the acronyms predated his time in the then-congressman’s office and that they have been part of what makes the senator, who has served in the Capitol for more than four decades, an “excellent communicator.”

“Sen. Markey didn’t invent the idea of using acronyms to explain legislation or to drive home an argument, but he is just better at it than most members of Congress,” Klein told Boston.com.

Advertisement

Now a co-founder of his own lobbying firm, the former press secretary argued that the use of acronyms as a messaging device isn’t uncommon in D.C. — even if Markey’s is a remarkable case.

“The more you can boil down an issue, the more it can be understood by constituents,” he said.

Not everyone is a fan. Boston magazine has repeatedly pleaded for the senator to stop it with the “corny” dad jokes, which they argued at times undermined his message.

“Markey’s acronyms just might push us over the edge,” the magazine wrote last year.

How bad could it actually be? A deep dive into the senator’s social media and press release history revealed an astonishing, if also impressive, online record of his commitment to acronyms spanning back at least a dozen years.

The most frequent targets of Markey’s acronymic fury have of course been the GOP, the National Rifle Association (NRA), and British Petroleum (BP). But he has also used acronyms to champion local causes and communities, such as the Natick Public School PE class.

Here’s the full list, including the most recent version of the acronyms he has used more than once, according to our best attempt at counting them:

Feb. 8: “What DACA really stands for is Deserving A Chance in America.”

Feb 2: “In the Trump administration, NPR stands for Nuclear Proliferation Roadmap

Jan. 19: “@SecretaryZinke might want the parks open, but he isn’t for meetings. NPS needs to stand for No Political Stunts!”

Jan. 4: “Opening up all of our coastlines to offshore drilling at the expense of our environment and coastal economies is just further confirmation that @GOP really stands for the Gas and Oil Party

Nov. 29, 2017: “Under Ms. Hartnett White, CEQ would no longer stand for the Council on Environmental Quality, it would stand for Crazy Environmental Quackery

Nov. 17, 2017: “At COP23, our delegation delivered the message that COP really stands for ‘Can’t Obstruct Progress’ and that we are still in and we will win.

Nov 7, 2017: “CPB doesn’t just stand for Corporation for Public Broadcasting, it also stands for Communities and Parents Benefit

Oct. 27, 2017: “The IoT will also stand for the Internet of Threats unless we put in place appropriate cybersecurity safeguards.”

Oct. 5, 2017: “”It’s time to repeal the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act and take away the gun manufacturers’ immunity from civil liability. We want PLCAA to stand for Protecting Lives, Creating Arms Accountability.”

Oct. 2, 2017: “We need to make NRA stand for ‘Not Relevant Anymore‘ in American politics.”

August 25, 2017: “Trump thinks #LGBT stands for Let’s Go Back in Time.

April 21, 2017: “With today’s vote on business data services, the FCC now stands for Forgetting Choice and Competition.”

April 6, 2017: “Republican roll-back of strong #BroadbandPrivacy rules means ISP now stands for ‘Information Sold for Profit‘”

April 4, 2017: “With Trump signing Republican bill to end #BroadbandPrivacy, GOP now stands for Gutting Our Privacy (and sell it to corporations).”

Feb. 21, 2017: “With new guidelines, @realDonaldTrump wants @DHSgov to stand for Department of Hate & Suspicion.”

Dec. 7, 2016: “.@AGScottPruitt will make EPA stand for Every Polluters Ally

Oct. 3, 2016: “Today in #Lowell, TIGER really stands for Totally Invested in Guaranteeing Excellence for River Hawks.”

Sept. 29, 2016: “As it currently stands, the Trans Pacific Partnership would ship American workers’ rights overseas along with their good paying jobs. TPP really stands for Taking People’s Pay.”

June 14, 2016: “When it comes to oversight of our nation’s oil pipelines by Congress, API doesn’t stand for the American Petroleum Institute, it stands for Avoiding Proper Inspection.”

April 19, 2016: “I’m proud to launch #CysticFibrosis Caucus w Sen. @ChuckGrassley. Let’s work to make CF stand for ‘Cured Forever‘”

Feb. 24, 2016: “#FDA stands for Food & Drug Administration, but over the last 20 yrs it really stands for ‘fostering drug addiction‘”

Feb. 18, 2016: “With today’s announcement, the @FCC stands for Furthering Competition & Choice.”

Oct. 5, 2015: “Following worst environmental disaster in US history, w DOJ settlement #BP finally stands for ‘Biggest Penalty‘”

July 5, 2015: “Five years ago, #BP stood for Bayou Polluter. Today, with this settlement, BP stands for Begin Payments.”

June 9 , 2015: “OCO really stands for Open Checkbook Operation for our budget. And it stands for Outrageous Cop-Out by the GOP.”

May 15, 2012: “U.S.E.C. Stands for United States Earmark Corporation. Congress must stop the $150 mil USEC nuclear bailout.”

April 20, 2015: “5 yrs ago, BP stood for Bayou Polluter. 5 yrs later, it should stand for Best Protections, bc that’s what oil industry should put in place”

Nov. 1, 2014: “What does #KXL really stand for? [Keystone eXport pipeLine]”

Oct. 23, 2014: “WPI is known as Worcester Polytechnic Institute but it also stands for Worcester Pioneers in Innovation.”

Jan. 9, 2013: “AIG used to stand for American International Group, but today it stands for All Integrity Gone.”

Dec. 21, 2012: “With today’s plan for guards with guns in all schools, NRA may as well stand for ‘No Restrictions Allowed‘”

Dec. 20, 2012: “The ‘B’ in the Republican so-called ‘Plan B’ stands for bogus, boondoggle, and bluff.”

Dec. 18, 2012: “Today’s announcement of a study into the practices of data brokers, makes clear that FTC stands for ‘For The Consumer.'”

July 25, 2012: “With this misguided legislation, G.O.P. now stands for Gut Our Protections.”

June 6, 2012: “With this award, Natick Public School PE class also stands for ‘Pursuing Excellence‘”

April 17, 2012: “G.O.P. used to stand for the Grand Old Party. Now it stands for Guaranteed Oil Profits. Now it stands for Get Old People. Now it stands for Greed Over Principle.”

Dec. 13, 2011: “Now it stands for ‘Gang of Polluters;”

July 19, 2011: “NRC shouldn’t stand for No Regulations Contemplated. Some on NRC repeatedly voted against strengthening #nuclear safety”

Sept. 23, 2011: “By filing its first drilling plan a mere week after being cited for multiple violations of federal regulations by the government’s investigation team for the Deepwater Horizon disaster, BP now stands for ‘Being Premature.’”

July 28, 2011: “Commissioners Ostendorff, Magwood and Svinicki have made it all too clear that they believe that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission stands for “No Recommendations Considered.”

July 19, 2011“The NRC’s Commissioners seem to be operating under the impression that NRC really stands for ‘No Regulations Contemplated.'”

April 15, 2011: “GOP used to stand for Grand Old Party – now it stands for Get Old People”

April 6, 2011: “Democrats and the American people want the EPA to stand for End Petroleum Addiction.”

March 17,2011: “GOP used to stand for Grand Old Party. Now it stands for ‘Gut Our Programs.'”

Feb. 24, 2011: “Now it stands for ‘Gut Our Pensions.'”

Jan. 14, 2011: “BP deal with Russian oil co should be examined for effect on American operations. Does BP stand for Bolshoi Petroleum?”

Jan. 7, 2011: “GOP used to stand for ‘Grand Old Party’. With this #HCR repeal effort, it really stands for ‘Grandma’s Out of Prescriptions‘”

May 22, 2008: “Given all the concerns over this administration’s nuclear plans, GNEP ought to stand for Good for Nothing Energy Program.

Nov. 6, 2007: “CPSC used to stand for Consumer Product Safety Commission; today, it stands for the Can’t Protect Safety of Children Commission.”

Sept. 7, 2006: “BP used to stand for Beyond Petroleum, now it stands for Behemoth Profits.”

July 25, 2006: “…now it just stands for Bloated Profits.”

May 16, 2006: “Many of these achievements are due to the hard work and dedication of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation or CFF. But for me, I think CFF really stands for something else as well – CFF is also Courageous Fighting Friends.”

Feb. 20, 2006: “The FDA should not stand for Food Deception Administration.

Jan. 30, 2006: ‘TSA” should stand for ‘Transportation Security Administration,’ not ‘Take your Scissors Aboard!’

This article has been updated to include comment from Markey’s office.