For your convenience
Not for the first time, Madonna proved herself to be absolutely right when she sang (in the song “Bedtime Story”) that words have gone out, lost their meaning, and don’t function any more.
Words and their meanings seem to grow further and further apart. When we’re on the phone to the bank, and a recorded voice tells us to choose from an options menu “so we might serve you better”, we know that that’s not what they mean. What they mean is this: choose from the options menu so life is easier for us.
Likewise, when we’re waiting for a train and we’re told that “for your safety and security, transit officers and the police patrol this station”, this is not really for our reassurance. The actual message is this: fuck around, and the cops will get ya.
I’ve been thinking about the gap between words and meanings a bit this week, since reading two items in last week’s Star.
The first was the news that a group of AIDS Councils are joining forces to lobby political parties in the lead-up to the federal election. Smart move. But this federation of AIDS organisations (which is not the Australian Federation of AIDS Organisations, interestingly) has given itself the lovey-dovey title of “The Health Alliance”, which, through its sheer vagueness, seems to undermine the primary aim of the group, which is to increase the visibility of specifically gay and lesbian health issues.
The second story that got me shaking my head was the news that ACON is no longer an acronym. ACON – or rather, acon – is now just a word, a little bit like “acorn”, but without the “r”. As far as I can work out, acon denotes a building in Surry Hills, and an organisation that does some work in acronym-friendly areas like “STDs” and “DV”, as well as something called “rural vulnerability”, but don’t ask me what that entails because I couldn’t begin to guess.
The acon board should reverse this decision about the name, for three reasons. Firstly: outside of our little ghetto, people might know what an “AIDS Council” is, but they are never going to know what an “acon” is. Secondly: HIV and AIDS are still with us, and still bloody scary. And thirdly: because now, the name “acon” hasn’t just lost its meaning: it literally stands for nothing.