Add "orphan acronyms" to the list of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia's pet peeves. Those are acronyms that used to stand for something -- like BP, formerly known as British Petroleum, or KFC, once Kentucky Fried Chicken -- but now stand without explanation as official names.
The acronym Scalia went after in a footnote on Monday was CTIA - The Wireless Association. That is the official name of the trade group that once used the acronym to stand for Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association, then the Cellular Telecommunications & Internet Association. But in 2004, as explained on the association's blog in 2009, the group went with CTIA - The Wireless Association, which it said "better represents our diverse membership of service providers, manufacturers, wireless data and Internet companies, as well as other contributors to the wireless universe."
But Scalia would have none of that in his majority opinion in City of Arlington, Texas v. FCC. He mentioned the group as an early participant in the dispute before the court, then dropped this footnote:
"This is not a typographical error. CTIA—The Wireless Association was the name of the petitioner. CTIA is presumably an (unpronounceable) acronym, but even the organization’s website does not say what it stands for. That secret, known only to wireless-service-provider insiders, we will not disclose here."
We could not get an official comment from CTIA - the Wireless Association about the Scalia footnote, or the apparent failure of the justice or his clerks to find the acronym's origins on the association's web site. But on its Twitter account this afternoon, the association helpfully noted that "CTIA isn't an acronym," and linked to the blog post explaining the name.