Lynne Murphy m.l.murphy at SUSSEX.AC.UK
Fri Aug 13 11:35:04 UTC 2010

--On den 12 augusti 2010 14:26 +0000 Charles C Doyle <cdoyle at UGA.EDU> wrote:

> As the frequency of the redundant term "PIN number" also suggests, the
> basis of the acronym, pretty recently coined, has become opaque.

Rather than concluding that it's become opaque, I'd hazard a guess that
it's always been opaque.  When banks introduced them, they wanted to
introduce the acronym, but to use it in their materials would be confusing,
since the reader couldn't be expected to know what it meant, and an acronym
for an unfamiliar concept is probably doubly hard to learn.

The OED backs this up.  The first example they have for PIN is:
1976 Lincoln (Nebraska) Star 14 July 2 (advt.) Personal Identification
Number (P.I.N.)..(any 4 numbers of your choosing).

And the first example for PIN number comes from an earlier advert:
1976 Lincoln (Nebraska) Star 2 May 11A/2 (advt.) Choose your own *PIN
number when you establish your Money Service account.

So, it seems to have been bound for pleonasm from its birth...


Dr M Lynne Murphy
Senior Lecturer in Linguistics
Director of English Language and Linguistics
School of English
Arts B348
University of Sussex
Brighton BN1 9QN

phone: +44-(0)1273-678844

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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