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Re: PRI-10 Abbreviations and acronyms

From: Chris Kreussling <CHRIS.KREUSSLING@ny.frb.org>
Date: Wed, 28 Apr 1999 12:07:26 -0400
To: A.Flavell@physics.gla.ac.uk, w3c-wai-gl@w3.org
Message-id: <s726fa55.076@ny.frb.org>
>>> <w3c-wai-gl@w3.org> 04/27 7:23 PM >>>
The problem with ACRONYM is that there is no longer any agreement on
what the term means, as was brought home to me only too clearly when
the drafts for HTML4.0 were being discussed.

According to Modern English Usage 2nd edition, an acronym is a
pronounceable word formed from the initial letters of a phrase.  
Thus, a speaking machine presented with <ACRONYM>UNESCO</> knows that
it is expected to pronounce these initials as a word, instead of
spelling them out as initial letters as with <ABBREV>IBM</>.

Do authors agree?  Absolutely not.  They now use the term "acronym" to
refer to any kind of initialism, whether normally pronounced or
whether spelled out.

And so, the markup seems to have become useless.

Best regards

The emphasis on "pronouncable" acronyms is news to me. In the computing field, at least, there are many acronyms which may be annunciated as a single word or individual letters, depending on the speaker's preference. For example "SQL," the acronym/abbreviation for "Structured Query Language," may be pronouced as the English word "sequel" or spelled out aloud as "S Q L." The preference seems to have more to do with syllable conservation than anything else. I would never consider "IBM" to be an abbreviation, only an acronym, pronouncable as a word or not.

What of "words" which are formed from only part of the full word, such as "Co." for "Copyright," or "Mr." for "Mister?" This is clearly an abbreviation, not an acronym. And these abbreviations are never spelled out, but pronounced in full! The opposite of "Modern English Usage."

<author>Chris Kreussling</author>
<disclaimer>The views expressed are 
those of the author and do not necessarily 
reflect the position of the Federal Reserve 
Bank of New York or the Federal Reserve 
Received on Wednesday, 28 April 1999 12:10:08 UTC

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