acronyms versus abbreviations

James Landau jjjrlandau at EARTHLINK.NET
Mon Feb 27 00:02:07 UTC 2006

Still another entry in the already-overcrowded acronym-et-al family:

The word created originally by using a set of initials but then spelling
the result phonetically.

emcee---originally Master of Ceremonies
kayo---originally Knock Out (I'm not sure this one is used outside of comic
Esso---originally Standard Oil of new jersey (compare SOCONY for Standard
Oil Company Of New York)
Eminem---I'm guessing this one is "M N M"

this thype of acronym(?) of course goes back to whoever in ancient Greece
first spelled out "alphabet" phonetically

I'm sure this is not the first pronounceable acronym in English, but it is
well documented:
the Confederate general James Ewell Brown Stuart was known to his
contemporaries as "Jeb" Stuart.

When did the stories arise that "posh", "news" and "cabal" were supposed to
be acronyms?  Certainly those stories would not have been invented had
acronyms not already been commonly known.
yet another member of the acronym family:  the one in which a string of
letters which is not pronounceable as stands is rendered into something
pronounceable.  The example that comes to mind is /'nim squat'/ for NMSQT
(National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test).

         - Jim Landau

The American Dialect Society -

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