2 of 3
2
PIN Number
Posted: 28 February 2007 06:11 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 16 ]
Avatar
Rank
Total Posts:  24
Joined  2007-02-25

Radar , Sonar ?

 Signature 

Tool Talk
PapawsImages

Profile
 
 
Posted: 28 February 2007 07:11 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 17 ]
Administrator
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  4478
Joined  2007-01-03

Any examples of acronyms that have become words, though, anyone?

Acronyms can’t “become” words; they already are words. You might argue that initialisms aren’t pronounced like a single word, but they are distinct lexical units and are found in dictionaries.

Two things strike me about the RAP list. The first is that most aren’t acronyms by the strict definition, but rather initialisms. Normally I wouldn’t quibble on this point, but there are differences in how people tend to treat initialisms v. acronyms, so not making the distinction on page like this is an oversimplification.

The second is the inclusion of “SALT talks” in the “commonly used” section. Surely “SALT talks” has not been in common use for at least 25 years. The SALT process died when the Soviets invaded Afghanistan. A case of mindlessly copying what someone else has written, I’ll bet.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 28 February 2007 07:42 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 18 ]
RankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  590
Joined  2007-02-22

Please explain the difference between an initialism (not a word I’ve come across before) and an acronym.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 28 February 2007 08:53 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 19 ]
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  2745
Joined  2007-01-31

Among those who make the distinction (which is not universally observed), “initialism” refers to the ones that are pronunced by naming the letters (FBI, ATM, UK, EU) and “acronym” refers to those that are spoken like an ordinary word formed from those letters (NATO, radar, UNICEF, laser).

Profile
 
 
Posted: 28 February 2007 12:25 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 20 ]
RankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  590
Joined  2007-02-22

I think you’ve just answered my original query, which should have read “which acronyms are no longer written in upper case, i.e. are indistinguishable from non-acronym words?”.  I accept that the expression “becoming words” was wrong, but it wasn’t what I really wanted to say.  Radar and laser are excellent examples.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 28 February 2007 09:00 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 21 ]
Avatar
Rank
Total Posts:  5
Joined  2007-02-17

How about “snafu?” I think most people I hear use it aren’t even aware it began life as an acronym.

By the way, at work (municipal government), we recently formed a Permits Compliance Group section, which immediately became known as the PCG Group.  It’s as though people can’t help themselves.  I guess that fits in with our CIP Plan (Capital Improvement Plan).

Profile
 
 
Posted: 28 February 2007 09:14 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 22 ]
RankRankRank
Total Posts:  282
Joined  2007-02-23

Scuba. Radar. Laser. Jato. Gestapo. Awol.

Snafu [I’m not 100% sure about this one etymologically].

There are more.

Oops, I responded to the last message on page 1 and didn’t notice page 2; the new format is still unfamiliar to me.

Anyway, it’s hard to draw a clear line between ‘honest’ acronyms and “bac[k]ronyms” (retrospective acronyms) in which the expansion is invented to fit the predetermined ‘acronym’. Probably “NATO” and “SALT” are ‘honest’ acronyms. But if you want to call something, say, a “USA-PATRIOT act” or a “CARE package” and invent some tortured phrase which gives the appropriate pre-chosen ‘acronym’, well, ....

[ Edited: 28 February 2007 09:29 PM by D Wilson ]
Profile
 
 
Posted: 28 February 2007 09:25 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 23 ]
Avatar
Rank
Total Posts:  15
Joined  2007-02-17

Laser and radar, come to mind.

Rich

Edit:  That’s what happens when you get a phone call while posting.

[ Edited: 01 March 2007 07:29 AM by HZ7N ]
Profile
 
 
Posted: 01 March 2007 06:35 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 24 ]
RankRankRank
Total Posts:  236
Joined  2007-02-13
Eclecticist - 28 February 2007 09:00 PM

By the way, at work (municipal government), we recently formed a Permits Compliance Group section, which immediately became known as the PCG Group.  It’s as though people can’t help themselves.

This is my point exactly.  People who complain about things like PIN number and ATM machine have a model of how English works.  In this case it is that initialisms are treated identically as their expanded forms.  So they look at “PCG Group” and point out that this expands to “Permits Compliance Group Group” and therefore conclude the “PCG Group” is an error.

The thing is, when the data stubbornly refuses to fit the model, it isn’t the data’s fault.  It is time to re-examine the model.  A better model might be along the lines that constructions of this sort call, in some contexts, for some sort of designator:  an explicit statement that we are talking about a number or a machine of a group; this designator will be used regardless of whether or not it was used in constructing the initialism.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 01 March 2007 06:45 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 25 ]
Administrator
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  4478
Joined  2007-01-03

Probably “NATO” and “SALT” are ‘honest’ acronyms.

NATO certainly, but SALT (Strategic Arms Limitations Talks, for you young ‘uns) almost certainly falls into the backronym category. While it’s not a “tortured” phrase and the mineral salt is metaphorically unrelated to nuclear arms control, the fact that it matched an existing word was a big plus in its initial use and popularity. SALT’s successor START (Strategic Arms Reduction Talks) is into the tortured phrase category.

I know of one case where an acronym was deliberately eschewed in favor of a more obscure initialism. Again from the world of arms control. The Conventional Armed Forces in Europe talks, which were held in Vienna in the late 1980s-1990, were dubbed the CFE talks and treaty. The diplomats, at least on the American side, avoided calling them CAFE talks, which would have been the natural acronym, because CAFE talks in Vienna sounded like a major boondoggle.

[edit: date corrected—dw]

[ Edited: 01 March 2007 06:50 AM by Dave Wilton ]
Profile
 
 
Posted: 01 March 2007 07:24 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 26 ]
RankRankRank
Total Posts:  236
Joined  2007-02-13
Dave Wilton - 01 March 2007 06:45 AM

CAFE talks in Vienna sounded like a major boondoggle.

Oh, I don’t know.  It sounds quite lovely and civilized.  I imagine diplomats sitting at a sidewalk table sipping their coffee and nibbling on pastries, with Mozart playing in the background.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 01 March 2007 08:08 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 27 ]
RankRankRank
Total Posts:  311
Joined  2007-02-17
Eclecticist - 28 February 2007 09:00 PM

By the way, at work (municipal government), we recently formed a Permits Compliance Group section, ...

A group section?  You just did it yourself while complaining about others doing it. (^_^)

Profile
 
 
Posted: 01 March 2007 08:55 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 28 ]
Avatar
Rank
Total Posts:  4
Joined  2007-02-13

Re: Snafu. It is an old U.S. Army expression for “Situation normal. All fucked up.”

Profile
 
 
Posted: 01 March 2007 11:24 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 29 ]
RankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  590
Joined  2007-02-22
Richard Hershberger - 01 March 2007 06:35 AM

A better model might be along the lines that constructions of this sort call, in some contexts, for some sort of designator:  an explicit statement that we are talking about a number or a machine of a group; this designator will be used regardless of whether or not it was used in constructing the initialism.

It does rather imply that the people who coin expressions like PIN number and ATM machine don’t actually know what PIN and ATM stand for, like the successive waves of peoples who produced the name Pendledon Hill (or is that a mythical place?)

Profile
 
 
Posted: 01 March 2007 11:41 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 30 ]
RankRankRank
Total Posts:  236
Joined  2007-02-13
bayard - 01 March 2007 11:24 AM

Richard Hershberger - 01 March 2007 06:35 AM
A better model might be along the lines that constructions of this sort call, in some contexts, for some sort of designator:  an explicit statement that we are talking about a number or a machine of a group; this designator will be used regardless of whether or not it was used in constructing the initialism.

It does rather imply that the people who coin expressions like PIN number and ATM machine don’t actually know what PIN and ATM stand for, like the successive waves of peoples who produced the name Pendledon Hill (or is that a mythical place?)

I’m trying and failing to find this implication.  Is your point that people could say things like “AT machine” and “PI number”?  This doesn’t imply ignorance of the expanded form, merely that the expanded form is irrelevent.

But we fuzzy-minded descriptivists can modify our model to better describe the evidence.  Let us add a provision:  “...this designator will be used, and the initialism will be used unchanged, regardless of whether or not the designator was used in constructing the initialism.”

Profile
 
 
   
2 of 3
2
 
‹‹ Gender      Have a nice day ››