Tuesday, September 20, 2016


It is a relatively recent American journalistic tradition to
make the initials of the U.S. president a shorthand form in
mentioning the chief executive.

Teddy Roosevelt (TR) was perhaps among the earlier examples,
followed by his cousin Franklin (FDR), Harry Truman (HST),
Dwight Eisenhower (DDE), John Kennedy (JFK), Lyndon
Johnson (LBJ), and George Bush, the son (W). Not all recent
presidents received this treatment, including Calvin Coolidge,
Herbert Hoover, Richard Nixon (although RMN occasionally
appeared), Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan

(sometimes RR) , Bill Clinton, and now Barack Obama. George
Bush, the father (HW), received the treatment after his
presidency to distinguish him from his son.

In 2017, with a new president, it appears that the practice will
be revived, no matter who wins. Already, Hillary Clinton (HRC)
is in common use, and I think, should he win, Donald Trump
will often be named as DJT, although a more unprecedented
(non-initialed) shorthand (“The Donald”) has been more in use
until now.

We take these shorthand devices for granted because we have
read or heard them so often, but it is curious how suddenly they
appear and come into widespread use.

This is one of the least substantive aspects of a presidential
campaign. No public policy issues are involved. No partisan
matters are at stake. But it is interesting how the initials,
serving as acronyms, often last long beyond the careers and
lifetimes of the persons they are meant to describe.

Copyright (c) 2016 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

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