[Ads-l] annals of acronymic etymythology

David Wilton dave at WILTON.NET
Thu Aug 2 12:44:57 EDT 2018

Unscientific data point:

When I discuss dictionaries with my students (mostly first or second-year
university students), I always ask what dictionary they use. The answer,
almost universal, is "Google." Most are unaware that online dictionaries

At most, there are only one or two say "Merriam-Webster" or "the OED" (by
which they mean oxforddictionaries.com).

-----Original Message-----
From: American Dialect Society [mailto:ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU] On Behalf Of
Jesse Sheidlower
Sent: Thursday, August 02, 2018 10:16 AM
Subject: Re: [ADS-L] annals of acronymic etymythology

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
> 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
> https://na01.safelinks.protection.outlook.com/?url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.t
> heatlantic.com%2Fentertainment%2Farchive%2F2018%2F08%2Fthat-meme-youre
> -sharing-is-probably-bogus%2F566582%2F&data=02%7C01%7Cfred.shapiro
> %40yale.edu%7Cb0c8396dc2e94aa6d38508d5f87e7570%7Cdd8cbebb21394df8b4114
> e3e87abeb5c%7C0%7C0%7C636688144378969865&sdata=4k1VlDG9Gm00gLRNApC
> w607Zsr16YXnWRIrn7lAgk6c%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.e
> tymonline.com%2Fcolumns%2Fpost%2Facronymphomania&data=02%7C01%7Cfr
> ed.shapiro%40yale.edu%7Cb0c8396dc2e94aa6d38508d5f87e7570%7Cdd8cbebb213
> 94df8b4114e3e87abeb5c%7C0%7C0%7C636688144378969865&sdata=usY8Ss9Mx
> i0W0uAblgKackAxDeYjbU25re5pSYR22OM%3D&reserved=0
> --bgz
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