1 of 3
1
Old topic - Acronym
Posted: 01 April 2009 01:59 PM   [ Ignore ]
Rank
Total Posts:  1
Joined  2009-04-01

Acronyms

I am a new member so bear with me. I don’t want to break any rules here..so here goes. I looked up the word “fuck” in the dictionary to find out the origin. My mother told me that the origin of this acronym was a 17th century legal term for dealing with prostitute cases in early Britain meaning “file under carnal knowledge” and since then its meaning has been altered to fit into the modern jargon of the era. I.E. The lawyer would tell his intern to “fuck it.” Please confirm why this is not the origin of the word. To me it makes sense..just like the military acronym—snafu...situation normal all fouled up.

Thanks for your attention to anyone who replies.
Eeyore1968

Profile
 
 
Posted: 01 April 2009 02:31 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
RankRankRank
Total Posts:  236
Joined  2007-02-23

Note that in the Big List, link at the top of the page, “ ... Acronyms such as these are unknown before the late-19th century ... “

Profile
 
 
Posted: 01 April 2009 05:14 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  2807
Joined  2007-01-31

Sorry to break this to you, but mom has fallen for one of the most notorious etymological urban legends. 

Among the ways we know this to be true (in addition to the point droogie raises) is that the use of the word fuck is documented back to and probably before the 16th century, so any claim that it originated in the 17th century is certainly wrong.  It has cognates in many other Germanic languages.  In addition, the phrase “carnal knowledge” is only dated back to 1686, and “file” as a verb meaning “to put papers in a file” only to 1601 ("file under” I think is far more modern still, but the OED has no cites at all for that construction), so the word “fuck” [is] attested [earlier] than the phrase “file under carnal knowledge” could plausibly have been in use. And finally, nobody has ever produced contemporary evidence of the supposed phrase that gave rise to the acronym (more often, but equally wrongly, claimed to be “for unlawful carnal knowledge").

edit: added missing words

[ Edited: 16 August 2009 06:18 PM by Dr. Techie ]
Profile
 
 
Posted: 01 April 2009 07:13 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
RankRankRank
Total Posts:  282
Joined  2007-02-23

Simple generalizations: acronymic etymologies in English were rare before WW II, very rare before WW I, apparently nonexistent before the 1890’s. I would be happy to hear of _documented_ earlier ones.

Example: “AWOL” = “absent without leave” was a conventional abbreviation from the early 19th century or earlier, but I believe it was always/usually pronounced either as “absent without leave” or as “A, W, O, L” (but NOT like “A-wall") until about 1900-1920. It apparently was not natural to make acronymic [in the narrow sense] pronunciations in English in earlier times. I may be wrong: but show me the evidence.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 01 April 2009 08:46 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
Avatar
RankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  2310
Joined  2007-01-30

There is, of course, Smectymnuus from 1641, a pen name derived from the initials of five Puritan divines, Stephen Marshall, Edmund Calamy, Thomas Young, Matthew Newcomen, and William Spurstow. (OED lists the derived noun and adjective Smectymnuan). Specialized, certainly, but it is nevertheless an acronym.

The word cabal is sometimes offered as an acronym derived from the initials of Restoration statesmen, but this is based on a false etymology as the term predates the Restoration. (It’s actually from medieval Latin cabbala, adapted from Hebrew qabbalah, ‘tradition’)

Profile
 
 
Posted: 02 April 2009 06:12 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
Administrator
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  4658
Joined  2007-01-03

Example: “AWOL” = “absent without leave” was a conventional abbreviation from the early 19th century or earlier, but I believe it was always/usually pronounced either as “absent without leave” or as “A, W, O, L” (but NOT like “A-wall") until about 1900-1920.

AWOL is commonly stated to be a US Civil War-era acronym, but as far as I know there is absolutely no credible evidence to support this. The phrase “absent without leave” does indeed date to the Civil War, but the abbreviation and acronym do not. The abbreviation does not appear until WWI. Mencken includes a footnote that mentions the claim, but provides no evidence for it; this is apparently the source for the mistaken belief; a belief that is repeated uncritically by many reputable scholars who should know better--when you follow the trail of citations it goes either nowhere or in a circle. Details can be found in Word Myths.

Of course, I’d be happy to hear of any actual Civil War-era citations for the abbreviation/acronym.

Smectymnuus is a real outlier, a single instance of acronymic word formation that is not repeated for centuries. The earliest of the modern acronymic etymologies that I know of is colinderies or colinda, from the 1886 Colonial and Indian Exposition. And there are occasional (but still rare) instances of word play where an existing word is assigned acronymic significance, like cabal or ichthys--backronyms, if you will.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 02 April 2009 04:48 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
RankRankRank
Total Posts:  282
Joined  2007-02-23

Oops, I thought I had a couple of pre-1850 examples of “A.W.O.L.” but now I can find only one and it appears to be a dating error. Sorry.

There is however an apparently genuine example of this abbreviation dated 1895 at Google Books.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 03 April 2009 05:35 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
RankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  3449
Joined  2007-01-29

Link?

Profile
 
 
Posted: 03 April 2009 03:36 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
RankRankRank
Total Posts:  282
Joined  2007-02-23

http://tinyurl.com/ckmw7k

Profile
 
 
Posted: 04 April 2009 03:37 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
Avatar
RankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  1161
Joined  2007-02-14

Existence of an abbreviation does not imply an acronym.  In fact, the inclusion of periods and spaces would, in this example, argue against it.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 04 April 2009 05:45 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
RankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  3449
Joined  2007-01-29

Yes, it’s a great find, but it’s an example of an abbreviation that (all unbeknownst to it and its users) was to have a glorious future as an acronym.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 04 April 2009 03:39 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
RankRank
Total Posts:  47
Joined  2008-03-07

I’m not sure if I’ve contributed this to discussion before.

I contributed to the ADS-listserv a citing of to insure promptness being the origin of the word tip as early as 1895.  http://listserv.linguistlist.org/cgi-bin/wa?A2=ind0503C&L=ADS-L&D=0&I=-3&P=20655. This is only to indicate that some thought the word was an acronym as early as 1895.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 04 April 2009 05:34 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
RankRankRank
Total Posts:  282
Joined  2007-02-23

The idea of acronym-etymologies in the modern sense was alive in English publications from pre-1850 for sure. I’m still waiting for a very early ‘clean’ genuine one, but I don’t doubt that some may exist.

Purported letter-acronym-etymologies found at a glance at G-Books:

Whig < We hope in God (1873)
News < North, east, west, south (1842)

English ‘year’ < Latin ‘aera’ < ab exordio regni Augusti (1860)
German ‘hep’ [anti-Semitic rallying cry] < Latin ‘Hierosolyma est perdita’ (1845)
‘Papa’ (Pope) < Latin ‘Petrus, Apostolus, Princeps apostolorum’ (1845)
In Sanskrit or something similar: ‘aum’ [mystic syllable] < Agni, Vayu, Mitra (1877)
In (old) Scandinavian: Snaps[thing] < Latin ‘Sessionis novi anni primae’ (1881)
(Also many in Hebrew, at least some genuine AFAIK: these are not so comparable IMHO since the alphabet is not comparable to the Latin one)

I don’t vouch for any of these.

The following appear likely genuine although perhaps ephemeral:

“Bags” = “Buenos Ayres Great Southern [Railway bonds]” in Farmer & Henley (1890)
“Ibea” [geographical name applied to British East Africa] = “Imperial British East Africa [Company]” (1892)

[ Edited: 04 April 2009 05:37 PM by D Wilson ]
Profile
 
 
Posted: 05 April 2009 02:36 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  3026
Joined  2007-02-26

"I don’t vouch for any of these.”

Phew!

Most of those are obvious backronyms whose true etymology is known.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 05 April 2009 03:58 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]
Avatar
RankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  1161
Joined  2007-02-14
OP Tipping - 05 April 2009 02:36 PM

“I don’t vouch for any of these.”

Phew!

Most of those are obvious backronyms whose true etymology is known.

While the fact that they are backronyms with known true etymologies doesn’t change that fact that if they had reputed acronymic origins in the good old days that would imply that acronyms were known at the time.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 05 April 2009 04:40 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  3026
Joined  2007-02-26

"While the fact that they are backronyms with known true etymologies doesn’t change that fact that if they had reputed acronymic origins in the good old days that would imply that acronyms were known at the time.”

I need a good lie down now.

Profile
 
 
   
1 of 3
1
 
‹‹ Toodleoo      A couple guesses ››