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PIN Number
Posted: 01 March 2007 01:46 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 31 ]
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"laser” and “maser” are such thorough examples of acronyms-become-words that most people haven’t any idea that they’re acronyms, let alone what the letters stand for. Well, I suppose a laser is a kind of thingummy that lases, isn’t it? Isn’t it?

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Posted: 01 March 2007 03:18 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 32 ]
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Yes it is.  A good example of back-formation, which, based on OED2 citations, only took about 2 years to appear (laser 1960, lase 1962).

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Posted: 01 March 2007 04:59 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 33 ]
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Richard Hershberger - 01 March 2007 11:41 AM

I’m trying and failing to find this implication.  Is your point that people could say things like “AT machine” and “PI number”?

Well, they could, but I’ve never heard that usage FWTW.  What I was trying to say was that the sayer of “PIN number” know it is a number they are referring to, but is unaware that PIN means Personal Identity Number, only that a PIN, or it could be written pin in this case, is a four-figure number that has to be used to validate a credit card, say.  So they know a pin is a number, so they call it a number, hence pin number.  I can’t cite any evidence, but ignorance seems a more likely reason to me for producing redundancy than any other cause.

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Posted: 01 March 2007 09:21 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 34 ]
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A group section?  You just did it yourself while complaining about others doing it. (^_^)

I really didn’t mean to sound cavillous.  I was just sharing an experience.  My emotional reaction to hearing “PCG Group” is much more one of amusement than irritation.

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Posted: 02 March 2007 12:05 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 35 ]
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Even I find myself thinking, and occasionally saying “PIN number”, but that’s because everyone else says it, now.  What I was thinking was that those who started the rot possibly did it out of ignorance, not those who are sucked into it (to mix metaphors) by the natural imitativeness of the human species.

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Posted: 02 March 2007 12:59 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 36 ]
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PIN has always seemed to me a poorly chosen and needless acronym. 
Back in the early 80’s when I got my first checking account with an ATM card, I was sitting across from a woman filling out a form when she says “You need to select a pen.” Huh? I guess I get a free writing instrument for opening the account.  “I’ll take a blue one.” “No, you need to pick a pen.” You can see where this conversation’s going.  We say pin and pen the same around here and in a filling-out-forms situation pen seems obvious.  People who can distinguish between pen and pin might expect to receive a lapel pin or a hat pin.

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Posted: 02 March 2007 06:35 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 37 ]
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bayard - 02 March 2007 12:05 AM

Even I find myself thinking, and occasionally saying “PIN number”, but that’s because everyone else says it, now.  What I was thinking was that those who started the rot possibly did it out of ignorance, not those who are sucked into it (to mix metaphors) by the natural imitativeness of the human species.

I can’t prove you are wrong, but I also don’t think it particularly important.  When I look at “PIN number” or “ATM machine” or whatever, I see a broad pattern.  This is how English works.  It could be that the first person to say “PIN number” didn’t know what “PIN” stood for, but the fact remains that the usage fit the pattern.  It sounds like natural English, so users of natural English took to it.

There is the idea out there in prescriptivist circles that if a usage arose out of ignorance this makes the new usage automatically bad.  They aren’t serious about this, of course.  Modern English, including of the most strict prescriptivist-approved sort, is built from layers upon layers of ignorant usages.  As is usually the case, the cry of “ignorance” is a rationalization to justify a prejudice:  not an actual strategy for analyzing language.

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Posted: 02 March 2007 07:42 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 38 ]
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Agreed.  Count me among the ignorant masses who initially said “PIN number” without having a clue what the letters stood for.  Now that the phrase is established, it’s pointless to cavil.

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Posted: 02 March 2007 08:10 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 39 ]
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I like cavilling. Besides, most of my life is pointless.

I can’t remember whether I’ve related this before, but there are always new people around, and this is a new board and all. Spurred on by a challenge to come up with something that didn’t sound forced, some undergraduates at Cambridge decided to see if they could get a new university society to be called the New Testament Society past the people who were in charge of vetting these things. It almost got through.

(It may help to know that any university society at Cambridge would be entitled to preface its name with ‘Cambridge University’.)

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Posted: 02 March 2007 08:15 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 40 ]
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I suppose, the way these things go, that PIN will eventually lose its capitalisation and become pin, then people will start to confuse this pin with the type with the pointy end and an urban legend will arise linking the number to the sewing aid.  Finally Dave will have to debunk the myth by including it in the Big List.

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Posted: 02 March 2007 08:19 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 41 ]
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kurwamac - 02 March 2007 08:10 AM

I can’t remember whether I’ve related this before, but there are always new people around, and this is a new board and all. Spurred on by a challenge to come up with something that didn’t sound forced, some undergraduates at Cambridge decided to see if they could get a new university society to be called the New Testament Society past the people who were in charge of vetting these things. It almost got through.

Like the Seaham Harbour Improvement Trust, that likewise was stopped at the eleventh hour and Microsoft’s Critical Update Notification Tool, which wasn’t.

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Posted: 08 March 2007 11:42 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 42 ]
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That’s made my day. I’ve noticed that later references to it have taken to replacing ‘Tool’ with ‘Utility’, though.

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