Bigging up the O in MOT

Almost exactly what happened at Which? today

Here’s a little post for everyone who joined me in getting excited about MoTs and MOTs earlier.

This morning I settled down to a nice couple of pages of motoring news. Incidentally, I’ve spent the last three days working on six pages of digital TV services (I don’t have a TV), three pages of child car seat reviews (I don’t have a child) and two pages of motoring (I don’t have a car), and bringing my unique brand of clueless wisdom to each. Poor Which?ers. They do only have to put up with me for another four weeks, though.

The first thing I noticed when I opened the document was that it was peppered with MoTs. They kind of leapt off the page. But it wasn’t just their ugliness that jarred, it was also the sense of it. We know them as MOTs. MOT tests. We don’t think about what it stands for – and yet that little ‘o’ implies that we do.

MoT, in case you weren’t aware, stands for Ministry of Transport. Now, if the Ministry of Transport were still in existence, I would have no issue with the department itself being abbreviated to MoT. (But it doesn’t – it’s currently the Department for Transport.)

However, when people say “the car’s going in for an MOT”, they’re not referring to the department, they’re referring to the test. Largely they don’t even know what it stands for. MOT has come to mean “annual test of roadworthiness”. The meaning is direct, and the middle-man spell-out has become obsolete.

(I’m sounding a bit protestant here, aren’t I. Totally accidental, I swear. But if I were being militantly protestant, which I’m not, then I’d say the Ministry of Transport was like the Pope. I’m stopping now.*)

So, if ‘MOT’ now carries the direct meaning, I think that ‘O’ deserves to be upper cased. Those who insist it should be lower case should go the whole hog and make it a DfT test.

And you know what? A minor miracle occured this morning: I made this case here at Which?, and… the style guide has been changed. HURRAH!

*Atheist, if you’re wondering.

UPDATE: the Guardian has just changed its style accordingly. WOOP! Here it is.

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