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Oh-SHA, Ah-SHA; potayto, potahto?

February 6, 2014

In the occupational safety world, we swim in a sea of abbreviations. But is there a proper way to pronounce them?

During a recent House Workforce Protections Subcommittee hearing, I was slightly distracted by Rep. Richard Hudson (R-NC) pronunciation of OSHA as “Ah-Sha.”

This differed from every other witness’s and representative’s pronunciation of the acronym as “Oh-Sha.” Indeed, I can’t think of any other person who has pronounced the safety agency as “Ah-Sha.”

Photo: Education and the Workforce Committee

Now, I could quip here about how a congressional member cares so little about occupational safety that he can’t even bother to pronounce the agency name correctly, but I don’t think that would be fair.

After all, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration begins with an “Ah” sound, so it makes sense if Hudson is keeping the full name in mind when he pronounces the acronym.

This got me thinking: How do people pronounce the acronym for the Mine Safety and Health Administration? Most people I’ve heard say “Em-Sha,” but I suppose it could be pronounced “My-Sha.”

Some agencies have so many letters that it could at first seem impossible to make a pronounceable abbreviation, such as the Federal Mine Safety and Health Review Commission. Or maybe not – “Fem-Shric”? Does that work, or should we consider FMSHRC and other similarly letter-happy agencies as initialisms, a non-pronounceable abbreviation?

At any rate, it’s times like these I’m glad I work in print and not radio.

What do you think? How do you pronounce the various state or federal agencies you deal with? Are there “correct” ways to pronounce their abbreviations? Let me know in the comments.

The opinions expressed in "On Safety" do not necessarily reflect those of the National Safety Council or affiliated local Chapters.

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