As you may know, government in general and the State Department in particular are a little obsessed with acronyms. I still maintain that we’re not anywhere near the insane level of acronymization as our military counterparts, but learning to break the code is a key rite of passage in the transition from callow new hire to One Of Us (OOU?). We take our acronyms seriously.

Perhaps a little too seriously.

FSOs in their first two tours have a unique status in human resources terms. The rules for assignments, overtime, etc. are different for this group than they are for officers who are further along in their careers, so it’s handy to have a term to refer to them by. An acronym, of course.

Originally this acronym was JO, for “junior officer.” But the 2000s brought a new wave of midcareer new hires who felt that the term “junior” was insulting, lumping them in with a bunch of snot-nosed twentysomethings. Or worse – they could be called “junior” by a snot-nosed twentysomething boss. The horror. Enough people felt strongly enough about this to get the acronym changed. When I came in a few years ago it was ELO, for “entry-level officer,” though the de jure change had partly but not fully made it to de facto, as there were plenty of crusty career diplomats around who had been saying JO for the last 30 years and by god they weren’t about to change now.

This adjustment may have satisfied the second-career curmudgeons, but it didn’t satisfy everyone. I don’t know why. Perhaps second-tour officers resented being referred to as “entry-level,” when they had in fact been in the Service for TWO WHOLE YEARS and were therefore seasoned veterans with nothing in common with those idiot first-tour officers, who really were “entry-level.” Maybe people didn’t like being associated with a mediocre 1970s rock band. So, incredibly, meetings were held, memos were written, consensus was arrived upon, and a new acronym arose to coexist awkwardly with the previous one.

Now in addition to being an ELO I am also FAST, which stands for “first and second tour.” Fine, whatever, though as a woman it does make me wonder – is the State Department calling me a slut? And in noun form I would be a FASTO, which clearly means “obese person who can’t spell.” We’ll see how long this one lasts before the rage of those uncomfortable with their sexuality and/or insecure about their weight rises up and overwhelms whoever the poor sods are who are responsible for such things. Remind me never to bid on that job.