Acronyms and acrimony

Ann Atzberger Ann.Atzberger at
Thu Aug 13 07:02:13 EST 1998

>I too was going to avoid this discussion, but Frank Traganos' comments
>pushed me
>right off the edge.
>First of all, I use the term FACS quite frequently.  And I think, Frank, that
>would break your proposed correlation that my usage correlates with my
>of  "all things having to do with flow cytometry."  Of course, perhaps you
>argue that I know nothing about flow cytometry.
>The fact is, FACS is an easy-to-use acronym that has become common usage.  This
>is not a first in the english language, and, in fact, it is not even the most
>egregious in flow cytometry!  How many of you refer to your fluorescein
>conjugated antibodies as FITC?  I'll bet dollars to doughnuts that >90% of
>who complain about the term "FACS" have published papers that are littered
>generously with the mis-used acronym FITC, such as "We stained these cells with
>FITC CD3 and solved the grand unified field theory."
>FITC stands for fluorescein isothiocyanate.  There is no isothiocyanate in the
>conjugate; it is cleaved during the conjugation reaction.  We NEVER
>measure FITC
>fluorescence by flow cytometry.  And yet, I hear no complaints about the use of
>the term FITC, which is probably used one or two orders of magnitude more than
>the term FACS!
>So, why the great big hubbub about the acronym FACS?  Perhaps it's because BD
>trademarked the term.  (As Len Herzenberg is fond of pointing out, BD did this
>without his permission--Len coined the term many years ago in a publication; BD
>liked it and used it for their excellent line of sorters... as well as
>nonsorting analyzers).
>As others have pointed out though, the term has become so commonplace that we
>might as well accept it as a term for "flow cytometry analysis".  And
>anyone who
>disagrees with this better not have published a paper with the acronym "FITC",
>lest they be considered hypocritical.
>(PS.  The discussion about the word "activated" is inane.  Of course the
>is fluorescence activated.  Often it is scatter-light activated as well (or
>instead).  No one ever claimed that every acronym needs to be completely,
>scientifically precise in order to be used:  it need only convey information
>that everyone comprehends.)


99% of my users know what a FACS is and does, talk constantly about
analysing in the FITC channel, know how to use the MACS and MODs, BUT, most
of them do not know what BeeDee is and that's a FACT.

As for Frank Tragonos' message; read closely and you will see, as we say at
home - "there goes the pan calling the kettle black".

getting the last word

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