Monday, August 13, 2018

Tim Rowland On Adirondack Acronyms

Paul Smiths College VICI was chatting a couple of weeks ago with a town supervisor about a project he was working on, and he told me it had been paid for with a DANSY grant.

“That’s great,” I said, “What’s a DANSY grant?”

“You know, DANSY. D-A-N-S-Y.”

“I get that, but what does DANSY stand for?”

I might as well have asked him his granddaughter’s opinion of rhizomes. It totally threw him off track, and it was pretty clear that in the 30-some years he had been supervisor, no one had ever asked him that question before. He stumbled around a bit before, with a self-satisfied look on his face he pronounced, “It came out of (Sen.) Betty Little’s office.” As if that should settle things.

I figured no matter, it would be easy enough to look up, and it was in the sense that there is a wonderful DANSY website with everything you could possibly want to know about DANSY, including the month it lost its baby teeth, but you cannot find a word about what DANSY stands for. At least I couldn’t.

To a native New Yorker who has never been steeped in the ways of the press and its Doctrine of First Reference, this probably does not seem strange in the least. As a recovering journalist though, we spell out the acronym on first reference unless it is something commonly known and accepted, like CBS or EPA.

But that, maybe you’ve noticed, doesn’t happen here in the Adirondacks. Here, if I might be so bold as to offer some “constructive criticism,” I’ve noticed that people don’t just write acronyms, they speak acronyms one right after the other, which produces these incomprehensible sounds that make you feel as if you’ve just tuned into an early episode of the Mork and Mindy Show.

I’m painfully slow to pick up on trends, so I thought it was just me, until this weekend when we were taking a tour of the Santanoni Great Camp. We had an excellent young volunteer leading the tour, and half way through I triumphantly exclaimed, “You’re not from around here.” She acknowledged she was from Missouri and asked how I could tell, “Because I can understand you,” I said.

She was saying things like Adirondack Park Agency instead of APA and Unit Management Plan instead of UMP, and it just got me all mushy and tearful for back home.

Indeed, it took me about six months of sitting in on APA (it’s OK on second reference) meetings before I could understand a word that they said. It was all stuff like whether or not the SLUMP, not to be confused with the TCUMP, conformed to the SMP, or if the NYCRR might interfere with the APLUDP.

About the second meeting, I walked out and I guess I was looking as if I’d just emerged from a foxhole after the Battle of the Bulge, because a staff member gave a me a friendly smile and said “You’ll get used to it — in time.”

I beg to differ.

I forget where, but sometime in the last few months I was told about a network of nature trails called the PSC VIC. With a small amount of inquiry, PSC was identifiable as Paul Smith’s College. VIC, however, was a nut not so easily cracked, and since it wasn’t really imperative, I knew it was just one of those things that I needed to let go of.

Which I probably should have, but these things tend to get into my head to the point that I determined I would learn what VIC stood for or die. The website, of course, was no help at all. In fact, it seemed to be taunting me, the was everything was VIC this and VIC that, and everyone’s welcome here at the VIC VIC VIC VIC.

On the About page, I learned The VIC is owned and operated by Paul Smith’s. The VIC was created in 1989. There is a sister to the VIC in Newcomb.

This was my first clue. Call me a keen investigative journalist if you must, but at some point in the text I picked up on an explanation of the Paul Smith’s and Newcomb VICs that generically referred to them as “centers.” Aha! It’s a VI Center. A third of the way there.

From verbal interrogations I was pretty sure the V stood for Visitors. That’s because everyone I asked seemed to be in agreement. The would start confidently, but draw out the end of the word as you could see the mental gears begin to strip. “Oh sure, it stands for Visitorrrrrrss …” So it’s a Visitors Center. But I’m still not certain about the “I.” Most people say Interpretive, but I’ve heard just enough Interactives to plant a seed out of doubt.

Either way, it doesn’t matter. It’s a VIC. Let it be a VIC. It sounds like a lovely place, and I plan on getting there ASAP.

Photo of Paul Smith’s College VIC provided by Paul Smith’s College.

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Tim Rowland is a humor columnist for Herald-Mail Media in Hagerstown, Md., and a New York Times bestselling author. His books include High Peaks; A History of Hiking the Adirondacks from Noah to Neoprene and Strange and Unusual Stories of New York City. He has climbed the 46 high peaks, is an avid bicyclist, and trout tremble with fear when they see his approaching shadow. He and his wife Beth are residents of Jay, N.Y.

20 Responses

  1. Paul says:

    On the VIC it has always seemed strange to me to only use the acronym on the sign. Don’t they want travelers passing there to know what the place is and stop to get educated on the area? With just the acronym you kind of have to know ahead of time what you are looking for?

    The all caps “PROTECT” listed as a short for “Protect the Adirondacks!” must also confuse people.

  2. Alphabet Soup says:

    It helps to get the correct acronym…

  3. Obscure Authority Land says:
    The Board of the Dormitory Authority sets DASNY policies

  4. Tim says:

    Then, of course, there’s the AIC in Newcomb which is part of SUNY ESF which also used to known as the VIC.

  5. Justin Farrell says:

    There is also the HRSMA, which is a lot of fun to explore. ?

  6. Tom Philo says:

    I Googled “DANSy” and hit it first try ~ it stands for “Dormitory Authority of State of New York

  7. Curt Austin says:

    Welcome to the ACZ! The Austin Comment Zone.

    I ended my photography business recently and took down my sign, leaving an empty signpost that’s begging for another. I’ve been intrigued by “Centers”, such as when some guest appears on TV representing the “Center for Wombat Rescue”. Does it take anything special to have a Center? Is the CWR just the corner of a spare bedroom? Could I just make one up? I think so. Let’s see – I could create the “Center for Artificial Importance”. The CAI. A logo, business cards, Twitter account and bingo – I could go on TV as an expert commentator.

    Strictly speaking, CAI would not be a true acronym. MADD is a true acronym, since it was created to be a pronounceable word. APA is not – no one says “Ahpa”. No “Slump” for SLMP, either. You’re thinking “He should start the Center for Adirondack Pedantry”, which would form a true acronym.

    “ADK” is intriguing, somehow standing for Adirondack Mountain Club. I wonder who thought of it – genius. I can’t think of another example of this sort of abbreviation.

  8. Frank Paul says:

    PSC VIC for some great hiking and NEWCOMES (Suny) VIC for the old growth forest. Two great places to spend some time.

  9. naomie l whelden says:

    Adk = Adirondack
    Vic= visitors interpetation center, I don’t think they could fit it on the sign so that people could read it. And it’s a popular scool visit site so when you are little all you remember is VIC, after of course the butterflie house. And the trail head through the bog marshes where the sundew and pitcher plants are on display.

  10. Eleanor Sweeney says:

    The actual name is Visitor Interpretive Center (no s on visitor) but it’s always just been called the VIC.

  11. Michael says:

    Im a florida transplant and even i know what a lot of these ADK and NYDEC acronyms stand for.

  12. Tricia says:

    1944: Governor Thomas E. Dewey signed the law that created the Dormitory Authority of the State of New York (DASNY).

  13. Harv Sibley says:

    Funny how roads also get quirky acronyms.
    the TZB is the Tappan Zee Bridge ( for now..)
    the GW is of course the George Washington Bridge, and lets not get into which level, upper or lower, is George or Martha.
    Then again, the Taconic is the Taconic, not the TSP.
    And the Northway is the Northway, not the NW.
    Thank God we still refer to the Town Refuse and Recycling Center in Horicon as simply….the dump. Otherwise it would be the TRARCIH……which looks like remedy for a snake bite.

  14. Love the article on the Alphabet Soup — any of us living in NYS have to understand it to survive. We are working with Taste NY a division of NYS Ag&Mkts on the Adirondacks Welcome Center and that new welcome center is a joint operation of NYSDOT, ILNY, ESD, NYS Ag&Mkts, Nature Conservancy, DEC and more I’m sure. So glad to see so many interested in learning more about the alphabet soup/Adk acronyms!

  15. Thanks for all of the kind remarks about the VIC! When the college took over the facility years ago we moved away from the legacy name Visitor Interpretive Center. The VIC is a fabulous place for visitors, and also so much more. It’s the gathering place for our local community, a living lab for PSC students studying recreation and the environment, a spot for K-12 education, a training ground for regional athletes, and a place to find fresh-made foods prepared in the new commercial kitchen. The brand name has evolved just like KFC and AT&T. The VIC is … simply the VIC.

  16. Dave says:

    So what does DANSY stand for?

  17. David Gibson says:

    Tim, thank you for poking such good fun at acronymbees. I am one. I enjoyed this thoroughly.

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