Initialization is a major literary addition to the ever-burgeoning glossary of popular culture. From the mean and horribly destructive IEDs to the highly praised MVPs, it’s all a huge bowl of alphabet soup.
In many instances, the initials have quickly elided into acronyms that stand the test of time: NATO and RADAR, for instance; or most sinister of the lot: NAZI.
Earlier than any of these stamps was the initial as a prominent feature in the personal names of scholars and literary figures, notably those in England. We all know C.S. Lewis (nicknamed Jack, by the way) but now should nod deferentially before the eminent historian A. J. P. Taylor; the early 20th century essayist G. K. Chesterton; and, of course, the man from St. Louis who, settled in England, became one of the most significant 20th century poets: T. S. Eliot. On the distaff side, add the novelist P.D. James.
At the end of the 19th century, the most famous initialized figure was HRH, as his ardent followers called him: His Royal Highness, the Prince of Wales and soon to be King Edward VII.
Sometime in Missouri, the future President of the United States, Harry Truman, decided to add the initial “S” to his name. It signified nothing; it only provided a little balance to a name that could not otherwise approach that of the eminent Classics scholar I once knew: T. Robert S. Broughton.