James A. Landau JJJRLandau at AOL.COM
Wed Apr 3 03:52:30 UTC 2002

In a message dated 04/02/2002 6:08:17 PM Eastern Standard Time,
avgilbert at PRODIGY.NET writes:

> Linguistically, it could well be a backronym.  *But* I have actually heard
>  unwanted e-mail of the type called "spam" defined as "self-propelled
>  advertising mechanism".

This merely means you have encountered a SUCCESSFUL backronym.

The only context in which I have heard "self-propelled" is referring to
artillery---big guns that have their own engines built in so they can move
unassisted are "self-propeled guns" (unless they are fully armored, in which
case they are, thanks to Winston Churchill, "tanks").  The antonym of
"self-propelled gun" is "towed gun".

By analogy, you would have to worry about your mailbox filling up with TAMs
(Towed Advertising Messages).  Or would TAM be an acronym for junk snail-mail?

     - Jim Landau

P.S. The US Army has what is almost a secret language for referring to

"gun" is used only for artillery, except in the phrases "machine
gun","submachine gun", and "Gatling gun".  (Darned if I know what a
"submachine" might be---ask a man who wears dolphins).  Calling a rifle a
"gun" is good for at least a give-me-ten.

"rifle" is used only to refer to naval artillery, or in the phrase
"recoilless rifle" which is never a "recoilless gun" although it is part of
the artillery.  What the infantryman carries is his "weapon".  (See below
however on "automatic rifle" and "assault rifle").

"cannon" is not used for artillery but only for machine guns firing rounds
large enough to contain explosive charges (generally this means 20 mm or
larger, up to 75 mm).  I think "cannon" in this sense is used only for
airplane weapons.  However, the so-called "Gatling gun", although some
versions are cannon-sized, is never a "Gatling cannon".

"pistol" has the same meaning as it does for civilians, and is never used to
refer to a revolver.  That thing you wear around your waist to carry a
canteen and possibly a pistol holster is a "pistol belt", never a "gun belt".
 And of course General Patton never carried a pistol in his pistol belt, but
rather pearl-handled revolvers.  Yes, it is possible to have a pearl-handed
pistol, but they have never been fashionable.

An automatic rifle, an assault rifle, and a submachine gun are distinguished
only by the type of ammunition they use.  An automatic rifle uses fill-sized
rifle rounds, a submachine gun uses pistol ammunition (the Europeans call it
by the more descriptive term "machine pistol"), and an assault rifle uses an
intermediate-sized round.  A "carbine" however is either an automatic rifle
or an assault rifle which has a shorter-than-usual barrel.

The term "assault rifle" is used only by firearms designers, and by
politicians discussing gun control.

     over hill
     over dale
     up the hot and dusty trail...

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