another orphan

Arnold M. Zwicky zwicky at CSLI.STANFORD.EDU
Thu Sep 14 18:21:34 UTC 2006

On Sep 10, 2006, at 2:20 PM, Charlie Doyle wrote:

> I'd say the most commonly-heard reduplicated "orphan" is "ATM
> machine."

this one's status is complicated.  there are probably people who no
longer appreciate the origin of "ATM" in "automated/automatic teller
machine"; for them, the initialism has been orphaned.  other people
clearly still do recognize the origin, but still want a head noun to
identify the type of thing denoted.

the larger point is that abbreviations can (and frequently do) take
on a life of their own, and no longer stand in for the unabbreviated
material (even for people who know the history).  so we can get the
magazine with the name "TV Guide", which is not an abbreviation of
"Television Guide", even though everyone recognizes that "TV" is a
synonym of "television" and is derived from it historically.


The American Dialect Society -

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