Baseball lingo

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Tue Jun 3 16:12:53 UTC 2008

At 11:14 AM -0400 6/3/08, Benjamin Zimmer wrote:
>On Tue, Jun 3, 2008 at 10:47 AM, Laurence Horn <laurence.horn at> wrote:
>>  At 9:04 AM -0400 6/3/08, Charles Doyle wrote:
>>>In last night's TV broadcast (Cox SportSouth network) of the
>>>regional championship baseball game between the Univeristy of
>>>Georgia and Georgia Tech, the commentator consistently used the term
>>>"R.B.I." to refer to figures greater than 1--for instance, one
>>>player had "posted ten R.B.I. in the tournament."  I don't recall
>>>having heard that construction before.  I wonder whether the
>>>commentator regards "R.B.I." as a mass noun or interpretes the
>>>initialism to represent "runs batted in" as well as "run batted in."
>>  I know I've heard that, although it is rarer than RBIs.  (Maybe even
>>  rarer than "ribbies".)  I interpret it in the the latter sense, as an
>>  initialism for 'run(s) batted in' rather than as a mass term.
>This one has come up on alt.usage.english and sci.lang every now and then...
>>  I wonder if there are other examples of this when there's a standard
>>  initialism or acronym for a nominal phrase with internal plural
>>  ("runs batted in" as opposed to "run batted ins" in this case).  For
>>  example, if (counterfactually) a potato au gratin was familiarly
>>  known in the restaurant trade as a "PAG", might an order of two such
>>  potatoes be referred to as either "two PAGs" or "two PAG"?  Or
>>  "BOT"/"BOTs" for 'books on tape' in library lingo?  Real live
>>  examples welcome.  (Of course only regular plurals need apply; the
>>  unmarked-plural form of "MIB" for 'Men In Black" doesn't count.)
>A similar case discussed in the two most recent a.u.e threads is
>"RPM". That's problematic, though, for reasons given by Mark Brader:
>>  The thing is that in this case the unit is rarely used for a
>>  thing revolving as slowly as once per minute.  So it's possible to see
>>  "RPM" as a plural with no singular, thus providing no trace of how it
>  > would have been inflected if formed from a singular.
Curious.  Would there really be a problem with 1 RPM for 'one
revolution per minute', even if it rarely occurs?  Anyway, Ben's
links above do present other instances of what I was looking for,
e.g. "MPs" (for 'Members of Parliament'), "MREs" (for 'Meals Ready to
Eat'), "POWs", and I was "MPGs" ('Miles Per Gallon'). FWIW, my own
intuition is that the zero plural alternant would be possible for all
of these but much less likely for, say "150 MP" and "173 POW".
(Because the latter are people?  Does this suggest that the
mass-conversion possibility is relevant, given that such a conversion
would be less likely in this case?)

And a related question, on the topic of the "MIB" case above: do we
in fact get "MXs" or "WXs" with the overt plural marker, where M/W =
'men/women' and X is any string of initials?  We have no trouble
unpacking "RBIs" as 'Runs Batted In', but at first glance it seemed
like "MOWs" as 'Men Of War', say, if that initialism/acronym existed,
would be less likely.  Come to think of it, though, "BMOCs" is pretty
good and "BMOC" less so for "Big Men On Campus", so that abortive
generalization doesn't actually hold.  There are 1840 g-hits for



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