LINGUIST List 4.502

Sun 27 Jun 1993

Disc: Acronyms

Editor for this issue: <>


  1. , Re: 4.494 Acronyms
  2. "don l. f. nilsen", Re: 4.494 Acronyms
  3. John E. Koontz, Re: 4.494 Acronyms
  4. guy modica, Re: 4.494 Acronyms
  5. Paul Baltes, Re: Acronyms
  6. Larry Horn, Re: 4.494 Acronyms
  7. Alex Monaghan, Re: 4.494 Acronyms

Message 1: Re: 4.494 Acronyms

Date: Wed, 23 Jun 93 14:15:27 EDRe: 4.494 Acronyms
From: <>
Subject: Re: 4.494 Acronyms

It is "GuangWai". At the same time, there are "BeiWai" (Beijing
Foreign Language Institute), and "ShangWai" (Shanghai Foreign
Language Institute), etc. However, Sichuan Waiyu Xueyuan
(Sichuan Foreign Language Institute) is not "SiWai", but
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Message 2: Re: 4.494 Acronyms

Date: Wed, 23 Jun 1993 14:17:57 Re: 4.494 Acronyms
From: "don l. f. nilsen" <>
Subject: Re: 4.494 Acronyms

 Whether they are called "initialisms" or "acronyms" the following
 distinctions are important:
NOT PRONOUNCED: e.g. UN (United Nations)
 Breathing Aparatus)
 1). POSITIVE REINFORCING: e.g. ZIP (Zoning Improvement Plan)
 2). NEGATIVE REINFORCING: e.g. BIRP (Beverege Industry Recycling Program)
 3). POSITIVE CONTRADICTORY: e.g. AIDS (Auto-Imune Defenciency Syndrome)
 4). NEGATIVE CONTRADICOTRY: e.g. MASH (Mobile Army Surgical Hospital)
 5). SIMPLE MNEMONIC: e.g. ABC (American Broadcasting Company)
 6). BILINGUAL: e.g. VISTA (Volunteers In Service to America)
These are the eight categories I use, but obviously there could be more.

Don L. F. Nilsen |\/\/\/||
<ATDFNASUACAD.BITNET>, (602) 965-7592 | |
Executive Secretary | |
International Society for Humor Studies | (o)(o)
English Department | _)
Arizona State University | ,____|
Tempe, AZ 85287-0302 | /
 | Anon \
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Message 3: Re: 4.494 Acronyms

Date: Wed, 23 Jun 1993 10:15:14 Re: 4.494 Acronyms
From: John E. Koontz <>
Subject: Re: 4.494 Acronyms

Joel Bradshaw <bradshawuhunix.uhcc.Hawaii.Edu> comments:
> many vowelful acronyms resist resyllabification: DoD, DOE. (I wonder if
> the US Dept of Agriculture ever ends up DOA in print or speech.)

You bet. And the Dept. of Commerce is DOC.
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Message 4: Re: 4.494 Acronyms

Date: THU, 24 JUN 93 13:04:06 JSRe: 4.494 Acronyms
Subject: Re: 4.494 Acronyms

Now that the term ACRONYM has been suitably bifurcated into two subsets:
the true acronyms/sigle and the abbreviations/alphabetisms/initialisms by
the LL subscribers, let me throw an ape into the fan, or a monkey into the
works, a fly into the soup, or whatever.

Borrowings into Japanese are sometimes quite a phonetic challenge to those
speakers. One of the most frustrating encounters for JSL speakers is with
these borrowed words, which have been rendered unrecognizable by being
sifted through the net of the Japanese phonetic inventory. ma-ku-do-na-ru-
do hardly seems like a place to get a Big Mac.

Japanese themselves find the English words they take up to be equally barbaric
to deal with. They have a solution. At the beginning of the century, when the
wonders (sic) of the West were being discovered, many young women adopted
skirts, cigarettes, and the lively social life that their mothers undoubtedly
frowned on. The term "modern girl" was soon shortened to mo-ga. Today we have
dan-pa (dance parties) po-te-chi (potato chips) and en-su-to-pu (engine stop;
when the motor dies).

The coinage of these terms follows a compounding technique long employed:
combine the first ideograph of each word to create the compound. Thus, Tokyo
Daigaku (university) becomes Todai. My query: Given that this technique is
an orthographic one,should these be considered acronyms of some sort, and if
so, what sort? Some might reply that they are simply compounds and not
relevant, but snafu and radar have been mentioned in the discussion, and these
appear little different.

guy modica
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Message 5: Re: Acronyms

Date: Thu, 24 Jun 93 1:04:16 ESTRe: Acronyms
From: Paul Baltes <>
Subject: Re: Acronyms

Although some alphabetizations are not acronyms in one language, they
may become so in another. CIA, for example, in spanish is called "La
CIA" and pronounced as a word as in:

?Es Ud. un miembro de la Cia?

Paul Baltes
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Message 6: Re: 4.494 Acronyms

Date: Thu, 24 Jun 93 10:05:49 EDRe: 4.494 Acronyms
From: Larry Horn <LHORNYaleVM.YCC.Yale.Edu>
Subject: Re: 4.494 Acronyms

On the question of orthographic vs. articulatory convenience in abbreviations,
I think another factor (this may have been mentioned earlier in this thread)
is the argotistic one: the reinforcement of social bonds among those who
share the arcane or even quasi-cabalistic knowledge that permits
recovery of the information lost when the full word or phrase was converted
into an abbreviation (or acronym). This is especially obvious in military and
governmental contexts--the alphabet soup phenomenon--but there are simpler
illustrations. One of my favorite is the pervasive use of "W" in ORAL
communication, sportstalk variety, to refer to 'win'. One citation from a
while back was that of a teammate of pitcher Bobby Ojeda expressing
satisfaction that the outcome of a game was such as to "earn a W for Bobby O".
 The "O" of course is phonologically as well as orthographically motivated,
but the trisyllabic "W" as an 'abbreviation' for the monosyllabic "win" is
hardly an instance of articulatory economy. What's crucial here is the
economy of information, not of expression (as well as the reference to the
statistical rendering of wins as 'W' in the box score, another bit of
community-specific arcana). The phrase 'rack up some W's' is also quite
 Larry Horn
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Message 7: Re: 4.494 Acronyms

Date: Fri, 25 Jun 93 09:02:04 BSRe: 4.494 Acronyms
From: Alex Monaghan <>
Subject: Re: 4.494 Acronyms

just to complicate matters, there are some perfectly plausible abbreviations
which resist acronymisation: compare NEC with DEC (both manufacturers of
electronic boxes), CAP (common agricultural policy) with GAT, etc. it is
clearly not just a case of pronounceability: a better definition would be
"abbreviations which are pronounced as normal orthographic words".

also, the constraints on pronounceability may be relaxed for acronyms: the
Frenck are quite happy to have CNET and PSOLA as acronyms, although neither
form would be permissible as an ordinary lexical item!
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