Acronyms and pronouncability

Arnold Zwicky zwicky at STANFORD.EDU
Fri Dec 3 14:59:41 UTC 2010

On Dec 3, 2010, at 5:52 AM, Joel S. Berson wrote:

> ---------------------- Information from the mail header -----------------------
> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       "Joel S. Berson" <Berson at ATT.NET>
> Subject:      Re: Acronyms and pronouncability
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> At 12/2/2010 08:12 PM, Laurence Horn wrote:
>> At 5:23 PM -0500 12/2/10, Joel S. Berson wrote:
>>> What about the 18th century "texting" abbreviations?  Do those not
>>> count as acronyms?
>>> Joel
>> Initialisms, if one makes the distinction. Is there any evidence that
>> any of them were pronounced as a word, a la "SCOTUS" (or, for
>> pre-English ones, "ICHTHYS", inspiring bumper stickers millennia
>> later).
>> LH
> Aha!  Misled by the OED?  acronym: "A word formed from the initial
> letters of other words."  Must a "word" be pronouncable?  I see
> "initialism" does make half of the distinction: "each letter or part
> being pronounced separately (contrasted with acronym n.).  Perhaps
> the OED definition of "acronym" should add "the whole being pronounced".

indeed.  some discussion here:

(with links to other postings)

further complexities (in particular, "eye initialisms", like FWIW) here:


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