Evolution of an Acronym

The Freedom of Information Act is a law that allows people to request (and get) information from the government by filling out a form. It doesn’t apply to classified info, but it does apply to a lot of information that, perhaps, the people who own the information would prefer stayed out of the news.

This law is commonly abbreviated “FOIA,” and people who deal with the law, either as dispensers or requesters of the information, pronounce the acronym “foy-uh.” Two syllables for eight, not a bad trade.

The linguistic rule in English is that if you can pronounce an acronym, it’s a word. Another rule, less popular with grammarians, is that if a word is a noun, you can make it into a verb by putting it into a verbal situation, such as putting it after “to,” making it an infinitive, or putting “-ed” on the end, making it past tense.

All that to say I recently ran into my first example of the acronym for the Freedom of Information Act being, um, verbed:

This blog post will address, first, the widespread nature of this misunderstanding; second, how I came to FOIA certain documents trying to figure out whether the numbers really added up; third, what those documents show; and fourth, what I further learned in talking to an intelligence official.

In fact, he did it twice:

That prompted me to FOIA the NSA for the other documents from the docket that led to the Bates rulings.

See? You can do it, and no one will stop you. Worse, everyone will understand you perfectly. This is from an information security blog called War Powers, by the way.

PS—If you read my recent post about future and present tense usage, you’d immediately recognize that the quote above should have started “This blog post addresses…”