Interesting Acronyms

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Interesting Acronyms

Post by Ken Greenwald » Sun Apr 01, 2012 2:42 am

aaa
I ran across two acronyms today, one of which I didn’t know was an acronym and the other which I knew had to be an acronym, but didn’t know what it stood for.

ACRONYM (ăk′ rə nĭm′) [1940]

1) A word formed from the initial letters of a name, such as WAC for Women’s Army Corps.

2) A word formed by combining initial letters or parts of a series of words, such as radar for radio detecting and ranging.

Etymology: From acro-, relating to height, or to the highest or foremost part of something + -onym, word. After German Akronym (1921 or earlier).
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The first acronym came up in a nonfiction book I’m reading, placed in Berlin in 1933, when William Dodd, a University of Chicago professor of history, became America’s first ambassador to Hitler’s Nazi Germany:
<2011 “. . . the newly founded Geheime Staatspolizei, only just becoming known by its acronym, Gestapo (GEheime STAatsPOlizei) [[Secret State Police]], coined by a post office clerk seeking a less cumbersome way of identifying the agency.”—In the Garden of Beasts by Erik Larson, page 57>

The second acronym, I found in a book of acronyms which I was flipping through, once I got my curiosity up on the subject:
TASER (1972) is a nonlethal stun gun that fires electrified barbs. The inventor coined the word, on the model of laser, by juggling the letters of the imaginary (and imaginative) Tom Swift’s and his electric rifle. (Sometimes it’s the more elegant expansion Thomas A. Swift’s electric rifle.) The name is a trademark.”—Acronymania by D. Hauptman, page 101>
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Feel free to use this posting to list any other interesting acronyms you are aware of or may come across.
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Ken G – March 31, 2012
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Re: Interesting Acronyms

Post by Garanhir » Sun Apr 01, 2012 10:16 pm

In my local Builders' Merchant (and I imagine in many others) it is possible to buy various items of hardware, designed for wrecking and demolishing, which go by the trade name Fubar. I hadn't realised that this was an acronym until put wise by a young acquaintance: the equipment is so called, very aptly, because it leaves a structure 'F****d up beyond all recognition'.

There y'go
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Re: Interesting Acronyms

Post by tony h » Fri Apr 06, 2012 6:14 pm

In early computer manuals many sample programmes (in England they still called them programmes rather than the now ubiquitous programs) were called FUBAR and with derivations of foobar, or foo.

I also remember seeing a sushi restaurant called The Fu Bar which did amuse me.
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With the right context almost anything can sound appropriate.

Re: Interesting Acronyms

Post by hsargent » Tue Apr 10, 2012 2:54 pm

We had SPEBSQSA..... which is Society for the Preservation and Encouragement of BarberShop Quartet Singing in America.

But after decades of fun and going international, a focus group changed it to the Harmony Society. So sad!
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Re: Interesting Acronyms

Post by Edwin F Ashworth » Tue Apr 10, 2012 6:12 pm

Ken Greenwald wrote: ACRONYM (ăk′ rə nĭm′) [1940]

1) A word formed from the initial letters of a name, such as WAC for Women’s Army Corps.

2) A word formed by combining initial letters or parts of a series of words, such as radar for radio detecting and ranging.
I've found the reference I mentioned in the 'Full Stops' thread; it's from The Wordsworth Book of Intriguing Words (Paul Hellweg).

'After exhaustive research, I have been able to come up with only fourteen true acronyms (words that are accepted as uncapitalized entries by most standard dictionaries.) (1993:

alnico; gestapo; jato; laser; loran; maser; radar; rem; rep; scuba; sofar; snafu; tokamak.'

I always thought asdic was another claimant.

The debate over whether capitalised similarly-constructed terms ('words?') such as ISA, which are pronounced as / as if they were words, is one I'm not sure has been resolved.
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Re: Interesting Acronyms

Post by Garanhir » Tue Apr 10, 2012 11:24 pm

Sonar has made it into the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary: certainly an acronym, whether or not interesting . . .
Edwin F Ashworth wrote: The debate over whether capitalised similarly-constructed terms ('words?') such as ISA, which are pronounced as / as if they were words, is one I'm not sure has been resolved.
I think that only usage will determine the outcome of this debate; if the ISA disappears from the financial services market then the term will fall out of use (wasn't there also a TESSA? That too was used like a word but I haven't heard it for a while - maybe the product has vanished). Whether we call it a word or not, it'll be used as long as it's useful.
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Re: Interesting Acronyms

Post by trolley » Tue Apr 10, 2012 11:52 pm

A "bogo" is fairly common in the retail world. It's also known as a "twofer". It's a buy one get one (free).
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Re: Interesting Acronyms

Post by Edwin F Ashworth » Tue Apr 10, 2012 11:59 pm

Sorry, Chris - my mistake (tea was ready - goose stew at that!); sonar was in the list (of 14) I was trying to type.

BBC is considered a word by nobody. The solid string constitutes an initialism.
But radar is considered a word by everybody.

Is ISA a word? I think most people would say not. Does this mean we should call it a hemi- or quasi-acronym, rather than an acronym, then?
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Re: Interesting Acronyms

Post by Ken Greenwald » Wed Apr 11, 2012 12:46 am

aaa
Edwin wrote: The debate over whether capitalised similarly-constructed terms ('words?') such as ISA, which are pronounced as / as if they were words, is one I'm not sure has been resolved.
Edwin, I agree with you in wondering if abbreviations such as ISA (Individual Savings Account, WAC (Women’s Army Corp), SALT (Strategic Arms Limitation Talks), NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement), etc. are actually considered words, which is a requirement of my above definition #1 (American Heritage Dictionary). And what does it mean to be a word – is it pronounceableness? And I suppose the fact that these ‘abbreviations’ are listed in dictionaries doesn’t necessarily mean that they are considered ‘words.’

However, in checking the OXFORD ENGLISH DICTIONARY I found that it offered the following:

ACRONYM noun

1) [1940] A group of initial letters used as an abbreviation for a name or expression, each letter or part being pronounced separately; an initialism (such as ATM, TLS). [[ATM: automatic teller machine; TLS (Times Literary Supplement); and American Heritage Dictionary includes in initialisms such forms as ESP (extrasensory perception) and TNT (trinitrotoluene)]]

2) [1943] A word formed from the initial letters of other words or (occasionally) from the initial parts of syllables taken from other words, the whole being pronounced as a single word (such as NATO, RADA). [[NATO: North Atlantic Treaty Organization. RADA: The Royal Academy of Dramatic Art]]
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Definition #1 here is certainly a departure from my original #1 of the American Heritage Dictionary (and others). It says nothing about having to be a word, nothing about having to be pronounceable (e.g. ATM and TLS)! However, category #2 (in both sources) does require it to be a pronounceable word.

So, I suppose that the question is debatable since perfectly respectable dictionaries are in disagreement.

As far as those 14 ‘true’ acronyms go, Hellweg seems to have adopted a very restricted definition, which is at odds with all sources I have checked, including several dictionaries and a book on acronyms (Acronymania by D. Hauptman) – he apparently is living in a world of his own. And I wonder why he didn’t include anzac (Australian and New Zealand Army Corps), sitcom (situation comedy), and scuba (self-contained underwater breathing apparatus), which makes me wonder, even by his definition, what else he has excluded. And, personally, I like to include, as many sources do, words such as modem: mo(dulator) + dem(odulator), hazmat (hazardous materials), moped (motor and pedal), etc.

Well, I suppose in the world of acronyms, it’s each to his own.
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Ken – April 10, 2012
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Re: Interesting Acronyms

Post by Erik_Kowal » Wed Apr 11, 2012 4:04 am

It's odd that though ESP is pronounceable as written, people always spell it out letter by letter. The same goes for OB/GYN (an American contraction meaning 'obstetrician/gyn(a)ecologist').
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Re: Interesting Acronyms

Post by Wizard of Oz » Wed Apr 11, 2012 7:52 am

.. I often hear in US TV/movies the pronunciation of AsSoonAsPossible (asap) as ay/sap .. qualify ? ..

.. with reference to your quoted list Ken they are certainly not common words >> "alnico; gestapo; jato; laser; loran; maser; radar; rem; rep; scuba; sofar; snafu; tokamak." .. most are jargon words with an extremely limited usage .. for instance rep to me is an common Aussie abbreviation for "representative" and I couldn't find it as an acronym .. awol (all lower case) is another Army acronym that would easily be understood both in print and in speaking ..

WoZ at Mount Isa
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Re: Interesting Acronyms

Post by Edwin F Ashworth » Wed Apr 11, 2012 9:01 am

Interesting points, gents - and thanks for the expanded research, Ken.

The Wikipedia article at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Acronym_and_initialism , while not offering unarguable terminology, does categorise these various beasts under descriptor (in MW's general sense) headings very well.
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Re: Interesting Acronyms

Post by Ken Greenwald » Thu Jun 06, 2013 5:13 am

aaa
<2013 (headline) “FLOTUS to heckler: ‘You can take the mic, but I'm leaving’”—Politico 44, 4 June>
FLOTUS (also flotus or Flotus) [1986?] Acronym for First Lady of the United States. [Note: ‘First Lady’ dates from 1861 and in full was ‘the first lady in the land’ (Mary Todd Lincoln).]

POTUS (also potus or Potus) slang originally and chiefly U.S. [1879]: Acronym for President of the United States. [Originally a newspaper wire and telegraph code word; later used especially among White House staff before passing into more general use.]

The following is from Safire’s Political Dictionary (2008):
Potus has been used for many years among White House Staffers and Secret Service Agents to refer to the President, while flotus for the ‘first lady’ is relatively recent. As a Clinton White House aid, Brian Bailey, noted in 1994 in connection with the collection of names of potential donors to political campaigns: ‘POTUS and FLOTUS have expressed interest in having these names added to the data base.’. . .

Potus was devised in 1879 by Walter P. Phillips, then a telegraph operator for the United Press Association, as part of a shorthand code for expressions that frequently appeared in news reports. . . . By the 1950s, Potus was employed by those who surround the President [[Eisenhower]] and travel in his wake. . . Subsequent administrations embraced the usage. . .

As a novelist [[William Safire]], the lexicographer helped popularize the term beyond the White House. In the 1977 novel [[2001 film]] Full Disclosure, the fictional President’s inamorata-photographer felt awkward addressing the Chief Executive by his first name. At the same time, ‘Mr. President’ seemed overly formal on intimate occasions. She solved the problem by adopting potus as a pet name for her lover. . . . By 1983, the frequency with which potus was cropping up in the press led an editorial writer for the New York Times to protest: Is no Washington name exempt from shorthand [[President (potus), Supreme Court (Scotus), . . .]] . . .
The following quotes are from archived sources:
<1895 “In addition the more frequent phrases are skeletonized to the limit of safety. ‘Scotus’ is ‘supreme court of the United States’; ‘potus’, ‘president of the United States’.”—Birmingham Age-Herald (Alabama), 14 April, page 21/3>

<1983 “To their Secret Service shadows they may be ‘potus’ and ‘flotus,’but to each other . . . he's still her ‘Ronnie’ and she's still his ‘Nancy.’”—Washington Post (D.C.) (Nexus), 20 September, page c1>

<1986 “One can get a better sense of the place by reading The White House Mess than by tackling most Presidential memoirs. I learned, for example, that a new direct phone line called FLOTUS has been added to the White House. . . FLOTUS stands for First Lady of the United States. It was installed by Nancy Reagan.”—The New Leader (New York), 24 February>

<1994 “Chelsea's up front with her folks, the Big Guy and First Lady - affectionately known to the traveling media "pool" as POTUS and FLOTUS.”—Washington Post (D.C.), 28 April>

<2003 “No one ever referred to the President as Bush, not even in private conversation, and certainly never as Potus, the ironically pompous acronym for President of the United States that President Clinton liked to use. Bush was 'the President' even when we kidded around in corridors.”—The Mail on Sunday (London), 19 January>

<2010 “Michelle Obama's Twitter Debut: Read FLOTUS’ First Tweet – from flotus: here at dinner this is officially my first Tweet. I am looking forward to some good laughs from potus and jay [[Leno]],’ 4 July>

<2013 “Belts are back, but just because FLOTUS favors waist-cinching accessories from J. Crew doesn't mean you have to, too.”—Footwear Plus Magazine (New York), 28 March>
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Ken G – June 5, 2013
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Re: Interesting Acronyms

Post by Erik_Kowal » Thu Jun 06, 2013 8:12 am

I propose SCROTUS -- 'Scaremongering Congressional Republicans Opposing Traditional Union Solidarity'.
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Re: Interesting Acronyms

Post by Wizard of Oz » Thu Jun 06, 2013 5:45 pm

.. in Aus it doesn't quite work out but if we think of Premiers being the heads of the states we do a glimpse into their way of seeing themselves >>

Premier of West Australia has the POWA to make changes ..
Premier of South Australia is up himself as a POSA ..
Premier of Tasmania, POT, often calls the kettle black ..
Premier of Northern Territory, PONT, sees himself as a bridge over troubled political waters ..
.. and in the Australian Capitol Territory the PACT will make a deal with anybody ..

WoZ feeling lettered out
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Signature: "The question is," said Alice, "whether you can make words mean so many different things."

End of topic.
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