Acronyms vs. Abbreviations

Mark A. Mandel mamandel at LDC.UPENN.EDU
Thu Feb 23 23:11:39 UTC 2006

Larry writ:


P.S. In case it wasn't clear, I was proposing that "initialism" be
restricted so that (narrow sense) acronyms like "NATO" and "NASA" are
*not* initialisms; 


That's the One True Way. 

Back when I worked at Dragon Systems, I'm pretty sure that one of our 
references was a Dictionary of Initialisms and Acronyms. I don't remember 
who published it.

Another category we didn't discuss though is that instantiated by
"Comintern" or "Gestapo" or (more innocently, except to the
waistline) "Nabisco".  Nominees?

A subclass of acronyms. I recall the definition of "acronym" referring not 
to the first letter, but to the beginning of a component word.

The earlier examples from OED Online support this:

1943 Amer. N. & Q. Feb. 167/1 Words made up of the initial letters or 
syllables of other words..I have seen..called by the name acronym. 

1947 Word Study 6 (title) Acronym Talk, or ‘Tomorrow's English’. 1947 Word 
Study May 6/2 Some new forms combine the initial syllables (resembling 
blends) instead of initial letters, as in the case of Amvets (American 
Veterans' Association)..but they still are in the spirit of acronyming. 
Ibid. 7/2 There has definitely been a speed-up in ‘acronyming’. 

1950 S. POTTER Our Language 163 Acronyms or telescoped names like nabisco 
from National Biscuit Company. 

1954 Britannica Bk. of Yr. 1954 638/1 Typical of acronymic coinages, or 
words based on initials, were..MASH (Mobile Army Surgical Hospital). 

1956 R. WELLS in M. Halle et al. For Roman Jakobson 665 Take the WE 
counterpart of the SE expression to be acronymized (North Atlantic Treaty 
Organization), and select from each word the first one or two or three 
letters in such a way that the selected letters, assembled and regarded as 
one word, will have a normal, pronounceable SE counterpart. 

1967 Sci. News 19 Aug. 177/1 The TacSatCom, as it is acronymed, is a 
small-scale system which should be in the field soon. 

-- Mark A. Mandel
[This text prepared with Dragon NaturallySpeaking.]

More information about the Ads-l mailing list