Once upon a time it was so easy. You knew where you were with the term CIO because the only meaning it had for any of us was ‘chief information officer’ or, in the ancient jest, ‘career is over’. Now it’s not so easy as Fortis’s CIO is a chief investment officer according to a recent report while the CIO of Citigroup could be either Marty Lippert, the much-beleaguered firm’s chief information officer, or Deborah Hopkins, the same firm’s chief innovation officer. Hopkins was previously Citi’s CTO, COO and merger strategy chief (MSF?).

Put ‘CIO’ in your Google news alerts and you get plenty of references to the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO), which is a bit like the UK’s TUC. On the other hand you might get a review of a performance of Puccini’s Madame Butterfly where Cio-cio is the eponymous heroine’s other name.

Confused? You will be because if the people running the internet think they have a problem running out of names, the rest of us have to deal with a world in which the mania for three-letter acronyms and abbreviations (TLAs) – or for that matter two-and four-letter variants -- has gone berserk, leaving all of us running out of sense.

You might blame the web with its profusion of shortened tags such as IMHO, ROFL and RTFM, but the problem predates the WWW. After all, the GUI (gooey) was just another name for the WIMP. IBM had SNA, OS/2 and tons of others. Then Microsoft didn’t help with its love of DDE, OLE and other shortened types. Things got really silly when Borland trumped Microsoft’s Microsoft Office Manager (MOM) with its Desktop Application Director (DAD).

Fast-forward to today with the insane and inane profusion of C-suite executive conventions (CEO, CTO, CO, CFO, CPO, CSO, CISO etc ad nauseam) and you quickly realise that the name game has got to stop. Hands up who’s ready for a single source of truth that rules on these names? You could call it a Naming Official Manual Or Register Emeritus (NO-MORE).

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