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on obscure vocabulary learned [Aug. 1st, 2007|07:54 am]

Poll #1031585 Quango?

What is a quango?

A beloved character on the comic strip "Diesel Sweeties"
Thomas the Tank Engine's mortal enemy
An obscure british acronym
A new form of condensed quark matter highlighted in this month's "New Scientist"

It seems odd how a term sometimes gets used in the Economist. This week, in two separate articles, the term "quango" is used. I sometimes wonder about their editorial meetings- do they wind up hearing a term, and then think, "Hey, that's a cool word, I should try and incorporate it in an article!"

I'm all for the colloquial usages. I often like to say that one of the reason I've been a subscriber for the past few years is ever since I read an editorial explaining what an SUV is to the British public, calling it a "tarted-up lorry".

But: quango? WTF!

Me: What's a quango?
Ian: Quasi Non Governmental Organization
Me: OK, but what is that?
Ian: It's an organization that's independent, but set up by the government to study something or another, like why the trains are not running on time.
Me: So, it's not like the Red Cross?
Ian: No, that's more of an NGO.
Me: But not the RAND company, either?
Ian: umm, no.
Me: And it's not like Fannie Mae?
Ian: are they government employees?
Me: no.
Ian: then... no. I don't think so.
Me: Ok, so the quasi- really applies to the N part, then, because they're government employees, but independent?
Ian: ummm... no, it more applies to the NG part.
Me: ...

update 2
me: (catches breath) Apparently, Wikipedia cites as an example of a quango the "Meat Hygiene Service".
Ian: ...
me: is it possible that there are people in Britain that would not find that to be a double entendre?
me: "Sorry- that meat's not hygienic"
Ian: "Here, let me clean that off for you..."

update 3, twenty minutes later
Ian: (snickers)
me: (dies laughing)

[User Picture]From: el_christador
2007-08-01 06:55 pm (UTC)
I've encountered it on the British TV program[s] Yes, [Prime] Minister, which tends to cover subject matter that The Economist would.

I'm tempted to spread malicious falsehoods about British slang. For example, that "lorry" is an epithet meaning "effeminate male" and "to give someone a ring on his/her mobile" is an expression for a brutal act of gangland retaliation, so typical tough guy street talk in England might be, in a menacing voice "Stop feeding me the tea and crumpets, ya bleedin' lorry, or I'll give you a ring on your mobile." Which would of course be an extremely offensive and belligerent thing to say to someone.

Or maybe "I don't think the lift stops at his flat, if you know what I mean..."
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[User Picture]From: el_christador
2007-08-01 06:57 pm (UTC)
Oh, I can't tell if you're puzzled to the origin or not. YPM explains it is a "quasi-non-governmental organization".
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[User Picture]From: hbergeronx
2007-08-01 07:29 pm (UTC)
Having looked it up, I'm still puzzled, which is why my poll pokes fun at it. It *seems* like a word for companies like the Red Cross or possibly Fannie Mae, but then again I'm not entirely sure what a NGO is, for that matter, or how I should pronounce it (kwang-go, qua-n-g-o, kwa-nwah?), or what makes it quasi-. Did we really need a word for this? Is it intended as a kind of epithet, like as something conservatives can hate?

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[User Picture]From: el_christador
2007-08-01 08:07 pm (UTC)
I don't know the answers to any of those. In the context I encountered it in YPM it didn't seem to be an epithet.
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[User Picture]From: el_christador
2007-08-01 08:09 pm (UTC)
FWIW, in case you haven't seen it: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quango
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[User Picture]From: hbergeronx
2007-08-01 08:23 pm (UTC)
damn. I'm too choked up from laughing to actually get the name right. "Meat Hygiene Service".
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[User Picture]From: el_christador
2007-08-01 06:58 pm (UTC)
"Oof! Right in the quangos! Bloody 'ell!"
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