What’s the one thing that drives some meeting planners (especially those new to the industry) insane? All the jargon, of course! Like any industry, meeting planning is chock-full of phrases and acronyms. Enough that you need a dedicated PDA to keep them all in check.

(PDA … that’s personal data assistant. A Palm Pilot, for example.)

"I hate ’em," says Lisa J. Mitka, CMP, speaking about acronyms. Mitka is assistant director of conference and meetings for the Association of Legal Administrators, Vernon Hills, Ill. "I am a firm believer in spelling everything out. My biggest pet peeve is trying to get planners and suppliers to speak the same language."

So why do we do it? Why do we salt our speech with slang?

Because we’re human, that’s why.

"Every group fashions its own language," says Geoff Nunberg, a senior researcher at the Center for the Study of Language and Information at Stanford University, a consulting professor in the Stanford Department of Linguistics, and chair of the usage panel of the American Heritage Dictionary. He also has a regular feature on language on National Public Radio’s "Fresh Air."

"Sometimes a group uses jargon because of its peculiar interests—barbers, investment bankers, and molecular biologists all have things they need to say only to each other—and sometimes simply to reinforce group solidarity, in the same way that street gangs or preppies will all arrive at the same hairstyle," he says. "Slang marks us as ‘in’ and marks others as ‘out.’ A good thing or a bad one? It depends who’s listening."

Think you’ve got it all down? Try this short quiz. Then check out the June issue of CMI for more about jargon and why we use it.

What do these acronyms stand for?

a) Center for Exhibition Industry Research (formerly the Trade Show Bureau);
b) Corporation for Economic Industrial Research;
c) Computer-Enhanced Infrared;
d) All of the above

2. CMM
a) Certificate in Meeting Management;
b) Certified Medical Manager;
c) Comfrey, Marshmallow, Marigold (ointment);
d) All of the above

3. CME
a) Certified Manager of Exhibits;
b) Chicago Mercantile Exchange;
c) Configuration Management Engineer;
d) All of the above

Answers 1d; 2d; 3d

Source: APEX Terminology Initiative; www.acronymnfinder.com