I just got off the phone with Jay Pfeiffer, the deputy commissioner of education in Florida. He mentioned a counseling program in the state called CHOICES, which stands for -- well, he's not sure exactly.

"I'm terrible with acronyms, so forgive me if I can't remember exactly what it stands for," he said.

Pfeiffer in every other way was a fount of information so I'm sorry to pick on him. I mention it because it was only the latest example of something that has become common. At least three times in the last month, state and local officials have mentioned programs to me with names shortened into acronyms and have been unable to remember what more than two of the letters stand for.

I can understand the impulse to lending new programs some zip by coming up with an upbeat acronym such as CHOICES or HOPE. But sometimes people try too hard to spell out a word, leaving even the program leaders unable to remember the actual names.

If no one can remember that the USA PATRIOT Act, for example, stands for Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism -- and who possibly could? -- why not just call it the Patriot Act and leave it at that?