RAS syndrome: Sainsbury's organic

Sainsbury's Organic SO logoRAS syndrome: I am sure you know what this is even if you have never heard the term before. Let me give you some examples and see whether you can work it out (and sorry if this is patronising!).

  • PIN number
  • HIV virus
  • ATM machine
  • CNN network

Got it? Well, 'PIN' stands for 'personal identification number' so it is tautologous to say 'PIN number' - you are in effect saying 'personal identification number number'. The same is true for the other examples (swiped off Wikipedia).

In fact, Wikipedia has some good information on RAS syndrome, including why the name 'RAS syndrome' is itself an example of RAS syndrome.

Anyway, the reason I am talking about RAS syndrome today is because I came across a good example myself recently (as you can see from the image): 'Sainsbury's SO Organic' range of food – the SO itself stands for 'Sainsbury's Organic'. Is this a double RAS?

If you come across any further examples of RAS syndrome, double or not, do send them into us. Cheers.


Anonymous said...

This reminded me of a disagreement we used to have in my previous work place. We had a large key ring with many keys on it which was refered to as "The Big Bunch of Keys".

The issue came when we abbreviated this, now for me logically since it was one big bunch of keys it was shortened to "The BBK" but others believed it should have been "The BBKs". Their argument was that as it was many keys on the big bunch of keys you need to add the s to the end.

So the question is should we have used "The BBK" or "The BBKs"?

Dan said...

I'm with you, gingerous: BBK. Plurals don't need to be marked in initialisms - I mean, we don't write USsA. And what if you needed to refer to multiple big bunches of keys? (But then we get into BBsK vs. BBKs, the old WMD debate.)

RAS syndrome is a headache: I edit text with "PIN number" and "ATM machine" everyday, in direct quotes. It's your prototypical conflict between quote purity and making the speaker look "stupid."

Apus said...

I'm with you too, ghm. I agree with Dan's comment and would add that with regular use BBK becomes a word in its own right. However, to follow this to its illogical conclusion, if you'd acquired another bunch you would have had to refer to "the other BBK" or "both BBKs". There's much to be said for combination locks.

And with direct quotes I regularly make changes to stop the speaker sounding stupid. A transcript of a recorded conversation generally looks pretty weird simply because we don't express ourselves the same in print as we do verbally.

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