Acronyms vs. Abbreviations

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Fri Feb 24 15:49:49 UTC 2006

At 6:11 PM -0500 2/23/06, Mark A. Mandel wrote:
>     >>>>>
>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

I would take issue with this; blends, as least as currently used, are
the heirs of Carroll's (or Humpty Dumpty's) portmanteau words, which
combine the _meaning_ of the two sources along with their _forms_
(smog, sexploitation, motel, cremains, etc.).  Acronyms/initialisms
and whatever Amvets/Nabisco are (see below) don't do that, they just
truncate the form while preserving the meaning.  If anything, they're
much closer to clippings than to 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.

But precision would lead us to prefer a distinction between the
"NATO" type and the "Nabisco" type.  Can I interest anyone in
"telescoponym"?  Didn't think so.


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