by Joe Shea
American Reporter Correspondent
November 2, 2008
CHANGE, AND TEARS, AT LAST
PANAMA CITY, Panama, Oct. 31, 2008 -- I'll use Hallowe'en to relate a Panamanian horror story to anyone who is not born and bred in Panama: this is the country where one's "initial" reaction is absolutely incomprehensible. We're talking about acronyms and initials which bypass even Canada's manic imprimatur of the suffix or prefix Canada on every agency, office, and charity you can imagine.
Keep in mind that I am writing from my little office in Panama in a building which is the EDIOACC building. Even the locals have long ago forgotten the exact acronym which is pronounced Ee-day-ockŁ with the rhyme and cadence of Idi-i-ot, but it vaguely means the Credit Union of the (former) Canal Commission Employees.
The water in the building comes from IDAAN (Panama's Institute for National Water Supply and Sewerage Systems), and my Kiwanis Club is part of DACA which is for a division covering Central American and the Andean nations.
I'm not even talking about catchy or just plain strange web site addresses or email names which you can read in every newspaper. This week I suppose I could get a VIP tour of people's bathrooms from a place called conceptourbano.biz or a real estate firm which I suppose had no fear starting up during the Ides of March called simple CaboMarzo.
But it is the plague of acronyms which got me going. Keep in mind that as with old time New Yorkers, when your initial "initial" reaction concerning initials is initially convenient, punchy or positive, it is tough to shake. In fact, they are tough to kill. The Brooklyn Manhattan Transit subways system is still called the BMT, just as the Independent Line was the IND and the Interborough Rapid Transit System was, and is, the I-R-T.
In Panama, I get the feeling no one even attempts to remember the actual, original name of a group. The newspapers which once had stylebooks to explain to readers that a special meeting of the United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund (UNICEF) will collect Trick or Treat money for the world's kids, etc., have given up explaining the initials. I think some folks have just forgotten what they stand for, and where they could even look up the original names.
Lest you think I have entirely too much time on my hand, er, initially, the real catalyst for this confusion was a slick, photo-stacked, newspaper insert in the PanamaAmerican daily paper today, saluting the 50th anniversary of Cooper Duck.
Cooper Duck? A cousin of Donald or Daffy?
Actually, this is how your gringo correspondent would pronounced COOPEDUC, where I guess really sure that as with so many other Panama acronyms the coop means a co-operative enterprise of some sort. (By the way, don't tell me all Latin American countries use acronyms, we know that. It is just that the Panamanians own the franchise.)
You cannot make this stuff up, and my Spanish translation might not win a prize, but keep in mind that nowhere - not one spot - in this expensive six-page foldout section is any abbreviation or acronym ever spelled out in full. So here is what we learn in Panama today about COOPEDUC:
Okay, that is just in one paragraph on one page. You will also be pleased to know that our Cooper Duck friends are: