Verb to describe when an acronym becomes a word in its own right?

Discussion in 'After Hours Lounge (Off Topic)' started by Dennis Nicholls, Apr 13, 2005.

  1. Dennis Nicholls

    Dennis Nicholls Lead Actor

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    I'm trying to figure out if there is a verb that describes the process by which an acronym becomes a word in its own right. So many words today started out as acronyms, but the underlying acronym has been forgotten by all but a few.

    For example:

    Radar - radio direction and ranging
    Laser - light amplification by stimulated emission of radiation
    Scuba - self-contained underwater breathing apparatus
    FIAT - fabricators, italian, of autos in turin
    ALFA - association of lombardy for the fabrication of autos

    I would guess many younger people did not realize that these words arose as acronyms.

    So what would the verb be that describes this process? "Wordification"? "Wordalizm"? [​IMG] Or is the time ripe to coin a new entry into the English language?
     
  2. Kyle McKnight

    Kyle McKnight Cinematographer

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    The only one I knew was an acronym is scuba. Age 24
     
  3. andrew markworthy

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    Dennis, a newly-created word is a neologism. Hence, creation of new words (whether slang, acronyms, or whatever) is neologising (or 'neologizing' as you Americans probably want to spell it).

    To the best of my knowledge, there is not a specific word to describe when neologisms become part of everyday speech. However, based on descriptions of pieces of slang that have become mainstream, the two verbs most often used in this context are to accept and to assimilate.

    Acronyms of course abound, and not all have word-like forms and yet are spoken without people often realising they are spelling out intitials. E.g.

    BMW (Bavarian Motor Works is the nearest English transliteration)
    WYSIWYG (I met someone recently who honestly thought this was spelt 'wizzywig')

    Plus there are many more which are either word-like or actually have the spelling of a real word:

    PLUTO (Pipeline Under The Ocean - the fuel supply under the English Channel supplying the Allies post-D-Day).
    TESCO (Enormously powerful Brit supermarket chain named after its founder, T.E.S. Cohen)
    ESSO (a phonemic acronym - it represents the pronunciation of its original parent company 'S.O.' which in turn was the acronym of Standard Oil)
    IKEA (a complex acronym based on the initial letters of the founder's name and birthplace)
     
  4. Holadem

    Holadem Lead Actor

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    Is "to google" in the dictionary yet?

    --
    H
     
  5. Dennis Nicholls

    Dennis Nicholls Lead Actor

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    Andrew, just making up a new word is adequately covered by the existing verb "to coin". I was interested in a special verb to cover the de-acronymization (de-acronymisation for you Brits) process, where the original roots of the acronym are lost in the fog of history.

    Do you think I can get Kyle to believe that "Ford" is from "found on road dead"?
     
  6. MarkHastings

    MarkHastings Executive Producer

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    The word MONY (in the song "MONY MONY") stands for "Mutual of Omaha of New York".
     
  7. Garrett Lundy

    Garrett Lundy Producer

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    Snafu, Fubar, and Bohica are all military acronyms turned regular usage
     
  8. Joseph DeMartino

    Joseph DeMartino Lead Actor

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    An acronym, by definition, is a set of initials that can be pronounced as a word, so WYSIWYG is an acronym, a word made up of the initial letters of a series of words, but BMW is not. It is just a set of initials, even if people have long since forgotten what the initials stand for.

    I'm not aware of any word to describe the process of an acronym (like "scuba", which is virtually never written as "SCUBA" anymore) becoming accepted as an everyday word. Not terribly surprising, given that the phenomenon is quite recent, not much more than 60 years old or so. Prior to the 20th century it was very unusual for words to be formed from initials at all, and there were hardly any acronyms. (Which is why almost any story about an acronymic origin for older words like "posh" and "f*ck" can be dismissed out of hand.) Acronyms didn't really become common until WWII and the immediate post-war period, when the recent military habit of abbreviation and acronym was carried into the civilian sector by millions of demobilized soldiers, sailors airmen and marines.

    I'm going to drop a line to one of my favorite web sites, The Word Detective, and see if Evan Morris can shed any light on the subject.

    Regards,

    Joe
     
  9. Joseph DeMartino

    Joseph DeMartino Lead Actor

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    OK, 'snafu' and 'fubar' I know, have heard and have used. But WTF is a 'bohica'? It sounds like some terribly trendy neighborhood in lower Manhattan filled with galleries, warehouse lofts-turned-aparments and over-priced restaurants owned by Hollywood actors. [​IMG]

    Regards,

    Joe
     
  10. Lynda-Marie

    Lynda-Marie Supporting Actor

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    Joseph, BOHICA stands for "Bend over, here it comes again," and it pretty much means you are either going to get into a lot of trouble or cheated.
     
  11. Yee-Ming

    Yee-Ming Producer

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    Bayerische Motoren Werke. "Fortunately" the initials are exactly the same in the original German.

    Around here, there are so many acronyms for various governmental agencies, schemes, companies etc that it's borderline ridiculous. Sometimes, the acronyms get turned into "names", and then form part of the new name. E.g. The Development Bank of Singapore Ltd was commonly known as DBS. Now it's called DBS Bank Ltd, which as you can see technically repeats the word "bank". Similarly, Singapore Armed Forces Training Institute was known as "SAFTI", now they've gone and renamed it Safti Military Institute (or something along those lines).

    Personal pet peeve: PIN number. "PIN" already stands for "personal identification number"...
     
  12. andrew markworthy

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    I still think 'Bought My Wife' is a better explanation [​IMG]
     
  13. MarkHastings

    MarkHastings Executive Producer

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    Which is used at the ATM Machine [​IMG]

    p.s. andrew, do you really hate America THAT much? [​IMG]
     
  14. Jim_F

    Jim_F Screenwriter

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    From now on, I'm gonna call 'em ADNEs ("add·nee") for Acronym Derived Neologisms.
     
  15. John Spencer

    John Spencer Supporting Actor

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    Why not just describe the words as "acronymous", and the process "acronymizing".

    And I don't think Andrew hates America as much as he does dumb Americans. At least, I don't think he hates me.
    [​IMG]
     
  16. LewB

    LewB Screenwriter

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    Not an acronym but, what do you call it when a name becomes synonymous with a thing ?
    Kleenex = Tissue
    Vasleline = Petroleum Jelly
    My personal favorite, Uecker = Good seats or prime location. I use it as a verb some time also if I get a good parking place, "Oh baby, I Eukered !"
     
  17. John Watson

    John Watson Screenwriter

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    When I worked in government, I had to cope with a lot of cronyism [​IMG]

    The acceptance of acronyms as words, with no understanding of origin, let alone meaning, is very common.

    About much or our communication, "Everybody lies but it doesn't matter, because nobody listens." is all too close to reality.

    Politicians and marketing types are brick layers in our modern Towers of Babel. [​IMG]
     
  18. MarkHastings

    MarkHastings Executive Producer

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    oh sorry, it sounded like he was upset over the usage of the word in another culture and not stupidity (unless you consider anothers cultural usage to be stupid [​IMG])


    On a slightly similar topic, is there a term for a word that becomes the standard usage for a particular item. Like when everyone calls a tissue a "Kleenex"...or when people order "Coke" and don't specifically mean that brand.
     
  19. andrew markworthy

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    Actually, John, I've been meaning to tell you ... [​IMG]

    I don't hate dumb Americans per se; rather, dumb people of any nationality annoy me [as in not bothering to think/inconsiderate asshole dumb - not, I hasten to add, people who are mentally disadvantaged]. But I don't think that's unique to me or the Brits.

    Just to expand on the specific point about use of 'alternate' - the original use of the word (to mean two or more items repeating in sequence) is useful, and it seems illogical to make it carry the meaning of 'alternative' as well when 'alternative' is already available. I just find American usage in this specific case baffling rather than dumb.
     
  20. Greg Morse

    Greg Morse Stunt Coordinator

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    the inconsiderate assholes who can speak tend to annoy me more than those who are silent in their assholery (sorry couldn't resist). [​IMG]
     

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