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Monday, January 16, 2012

got mlk?

So here we are.
Today, I found myself incredibly puzzled by something:
When did Martin Luther King Day become known as MLK Day? 
Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. won a Nobel Peace prize at 35. He was a pivotal figure in American culture and the civil rights movement. He spoke for those who could not speak for themselves, the ones who had been oppressed and silenced by the hoses and the dogs and the ropes, and he himself was arrested dozens of times in the name of justice, equality, and peace. 
So really, for the love of muffins, is everyone seriously now calling it MLK Day? They’re just throwing it off like that? Really? That’s what it’s come to? The casual text-ification of absolutely everything and everyone?

Sure, I understand how handy and necessary abbreviations can be in the Twitterverse, textland, and URL-ville. But I’m even hearing people use that abbreviation when they’re speaking, including news anchors. Are you telling me that people suddenly can’t spare two extra syllables? Are they on some sort of time crunch? Are they afraid they’re going to be played off by an imaginary orchestra, like an actor accepting an Oscar? (By the by, no one used acronyms or abbreviations in their Golden Globes speeches last night, where they would have surely come in handy since almost everyone went over their allotted time.)
Turning a name into initials is the sort of thing that a franchise does to make itself seem younger and hipper. Kentucky Fried Chicken became KFC. Saturday Night Live became SNL. 
But this is not chicken or sketch comedy. This is a historical figure. 
And yes, Franklin Delano Roosevelt was called FDR and John F. Kennedy was called JFK in their respective lifetimes, but did you ever hear anyone refer to Dr. King as MLK before now? 
I have a feeling that it’s really not about the abbreviation, but rather about making something sound cuter. I never understood why society decided that a rather horrific day in American history would be forever referred to as 9/11 rather than September 11th. It seems so... I don’t know... Catchy? Branded? Important things like that shouldn’t fall prey to the sort of savvy positioning we reserve for soda pop and potato chips. 
Even the Corporation for National and Community Service, the federal agency that leads various service organizations in the country and was essentially charged with leading the efforts of the Martin Luther King Day of Service, refers to it as MLK Day on their website. 
Is it to reach a generation of young ones who have grown up with Bennifers and Li-Los? Is there a need to give the man a newer, hipper moniker? And does this mean we should re-brand other important historical figures in American and world history for the sake of hipness? 
If so, I’m just waiting for:
Winston Churchill = Churchy Wins
Abraham Lincoln = Blink 16
Napoleon Bonaparte = Lil’ Leon
Even the aforementioned presidents already known by their acronyms can be taken a step further:

Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR) = F. Doctor 
John F. Kennedy (JFK) = J. FuK
See kids? That’s why you don’t try to change the world. You’ll just end up with a hideous nickname. 
(Now I have to go wash the sarcasm off. Seriously kids, please try to change the world... and make it a better world, not a “everyone has to be on Facebook or else” world.)
Yes indeed. Welcome to me.

1 comment:

  1. It's the insidious influence of…headlines. At least "9/11" was. I should know. I was there.