[Ads-l] annals of acronymic etymythology

Jesse Sheidlower jester at PANIX.COM
Thu Aug 2 11:16:15 EDT 2018


As Larry and Ben say elsethread, the use of dictionaries has not declined for this purpose. However, I don't think this matters anyway: people generally dismiss what dictionaries say when they look up entries like this. If the etymology is given as "unknown" or something less interesting than the purported acronymic origin (which is pretty much a given), people will assume that the dictionary is either wrong or ignorant. This is similar to usage issues: whatever authority the person decides to accept, whether their grade-school teacher or some guy on the Internet, is given more weight than the dictionary.

Jesse Sheidlower

On Thu, Aug 02, 2018 at 02:42:31PM +0000, Shapiro, Fred wrote:
> Here's an interesting question:  Etymythology has been a very strong phenomenon for centuries.  Even etymological scholars have long been attracted to colorful, unfounded etymological theories.  But now, in a society where right-wing media and even the President of the United States are mounting an enormous assault on concepts of education, science, accuracy, truth, etc., is etymythology growing in popularity?  I am not asserting that it is growing in popularity, but it seems logical that it would in the aforementioned environment.  Another factor that might contribute to such growth is the decline in use of dictionaries.
> 
> Fred Shapiro
> 
> 
> 
> ________________________________
> From: American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU> on behalf of Ben Zimmer <bgzimmer at GMAIL.COM>
> Sent: Thursday, August 2, 2018 9:47 AM
> To: ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU
> Subject: annals of acronymic etymythology
> 
> For The Atlantic, I take a look at the latest bogus etymology meme to sweep
> the Internet, asserting that "tag" (the game) stands for "touch and go."
> 
> https://na01.safelinks.protection.outlook.com/?url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.theatlantic.com%2Fentertainment%2Farchive%2F2018%2F08%2Fthat-meme-youre-sharing-is-probably-bogus%2F566582%2F&data=02%7C01%7Cfred.shapiro%40yale.edu%7Cb0c8396dc2e94aa6d38508d5f87e7570%7Cdd8cbebb21394df8b4114e3e87abeb5c%7C0%7C0%7C636688144378969865&sdata=4k1VlDG9Gm00gLRNApCw607Zsr16YXnWRIrn7lAgk6c%3D&reserved=0
> 
> I'm hoping that if I keep repeating Larry Horn's term "etymythology" it'll
> get some traction. Douglas Harper of the Online Etymology Dictionary chips
> in with his own blend, "acronymphomania."
> 
> https://na01.safelinks.protection.outlook.com/?url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.etymonline.com%2Fcolumns%2Fpost%2Facronymphomania&data=02%7C01%7Cfred.shapiro%40yale.edu%7Cb0c8396dc2e94aa6d38508d5f87e7570%7Cdd8cbebb21394df8b4114e3e87abeb5c%7C0%7C0%7C636688144378969865&sdata=usY8Ss9Mxi0W0uAblgKackAxDeYjbU25re5pSYR22OM%3D&reserved=0
> 
> --bgz
> 
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