As in other circuses, where clowns sometimes cry poignant tears, humor in the U.S. Congress can be tinged with a certain sadness. Under the actual Big Top the irony is deliberate.

To wit, it appears to have occurred to a number of lobbyists, Hill staffers, Members, and other drafters of legislation that there is something to be gained rhetorically in our American institution of “popular” statute names. Those of us outside the Beltway have only begun to notice, as not many of us are in the habit of reading the Popular Names Table for fun, but the gimmick is to specify a short name in a given bill whose initials spell out some clever acronym. Though one might have expected less levity from Congress at a time when it is less popular than cockroaches, root canals, colonoscopies, Communism, Richard Nixon, and gonorrhea, they have started doing this a lot, and they’re doing it despite failure to accomplish much else. There appear to have been only three of these things in the entire history of the United States prior to 1988. In the twenty-seven years since then, there have been nearly one hundred. . . .