What We Talk About When We Talk About "DUIs"

“That's all we have, finally, the words, and they had better be the right ones.” –Raymond Carver

Those barely decipherable letters you occasionally have to discern and type into boxes to prove you’re a human are called “captchas.” And “Captcha,” it turns out, is an acronym, a word composed of the initial parts of other words. “Captcha” joins the illustrious company of “scuba,” “laser,” and “radar.” Words people tend to forget are actually acronyms. After all what are the words that comprise “Captcha”? Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart.

Simple.

Drunk DrivingAcronyms are interesting because they’re used to simplify and streamline proceedings. “DUI” stands for “driving under the influence,” but it’s shorthand for a thoroughly dangerous and irresponsible decision someone makes to imperil those around them. But how someone can earn a DUI is changing, which means that the terminology might have to shift around it.  

“Drunk driving,” for instance, is a self-evident term. If you’re under the influence of alcohol* and behind the wheel of a car then you’re driving drunk. Obviously. Anyone who was saying “drunk driving” wouldn’t even think it was a “term,” per se. Except that it’s called “drink driving” in the UK. The difference is a quirk of coinage, but it underlines a linguistic truth: words don’t have meaning unless society acknowledges them having that meaning, and obvious names aren’t always obvious.

Which is why “DUI” is such a nimble acronym. What precisely is the “influence” someone is driving under? Doesn’t matter—they’re under it. Driving drunk, on the other hand, is used to describe a wide range of states of “impaired driving,” which stretches the word “drunk” a bit.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has provided the term “drugged driving” to represent marijuana DUIs and DUIs caused by abuse of prescription medication. This gives us the flexible “DD” initialism, which could apply to all sorts of irresponsible, dangerous driving habits. It can even refer to a sleepless driver—a “drowsy driver.”

Acronyms like this are called “orphan initialisms.” These words refer to a process that no longer applies to their origin. Think Kentucky Fried Chicken shifting to “KFC.” DD representing any type of impaired driving creates awareness that there is a variety of ways to net a DUI.

Here’s a takeaway equation after all this talk of words and it’s pretty simple:

DD = DUI.

And the Davis Law Group won’t help you with either. But if you were harmed by someone who was too cavalier about their alcohol consumption and your safety the Davis Law Group will work tirelessly to help.

 

*Alcohol itself has a fascinating etymology. The word comes from an Arabic term for a type of eye-liner (“al-kohl”) used in the ancient Near East. The connection between these two substances, one cosmetic and the other intoxicant, isn’t immediate, but English merchants from the 1600s saw a similarity between modes of production. The eye-liner was made by heating the metalloid antimony into a vapor and allowing it to condense. Alcohol was likewise produced by a process of heating and condensation.

Chris Davis
Top-rated, award-winning, attorney practicing wrongful death & serious injury law in Seattle.
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