Saturday, August 12, 2006

Acronyms: An Update

SPOGG's vice president for technology and precision, Barry L., writes with excellent clarifications on the acronym/abbreviation debate:

1. "An abbreviation is also made from the initial letters of other words, but it's not a separate word. C.I.A., for example. One may use periods with acronyms, or one may leave them out. It is a matter of style." Give that an edit, and change "acronyms" to "abbreviations" in the second sentence. (SPOGG: Yes! D'oh!)

2. "Acronyms are entirely new words made out of the initial letters of other words." That's correct, but most people would read it to be more restrictive than it is. That is, "initial letters" here *can* mean that you may take multiple letters from the same word, but most people would think it means only the first letter of each word. So you might want to clarify. "Radar", for instance, is an acronym taken from "RAdio Detection And Ranging", and military jargon is full of such acronyms ("CINCPAC" for "Commander IN Chief, PACific"; "SEAL" for "SEa, Air, Land", and so on).

And an aside: Some have used the term "backronym" to refer to an acronym that was defined BEFORE the phrase that it represents, and a phrase was then contrived to go behind it. Probably the most obviously ridiculous example of a backronym is in the name of the "USA PATRIOT Act", "Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism".

Thank you, Barry!

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