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Re: ABBR vs. ACRONYM

From: Gregory J. Rosmaita <unagi69@concentric.net>
Date: Sun, 20 Feb 2000 02:32:45 -0500
Message-Id: <4.2.2.20000220010638.00bb3b20@pop3.concentric.net>
To: Kynn Bartlett <kynn-hwg@idyllmtn.com>
Cc: WAI Interest Group Emailing List <w3c-wai-ig@w3.org>
aloha, my dear fellow goofball, kynn!

actually, i too double-checked the HTML spec before posting to the list 
earlier this evening, and found its examples extremely unenlightening, 
which is why i didn't reference it in my earlier post...

for example, it lists both GmbH and F.B.I. as acronyms, but i've never 
heard anyone speak either as a word...

the rule of thumb which i was taught by the nuns at notre dame elementary 
school is that an abbreviation is a shortening of a single word, whilst an 
acronym is a new word composed of parts of more than one (usually several) 
words (or, in linguist-speak, a compound term), and need not be 
pronounceable in order to merit designation as an acronym...

World Wide Web is a compound term, therefore, it is logical to call WWW 
(that's 3 double-ewes without spaces) an ACRONYM, and i would therefore 
submit that, in using WWW as an example of an abbreviation, the HTML 4x 
spec is in error...

and, i think that the following paragraph, taken from the HTML4 spec, 
supports that contention:

quote
The ABBR and ACRONYM elements allow authors to clearly indicate occurrences 
of abbreviations and acronyms. Western languages make extensive use of 
acronyms such as "GmbH", "NATO", and "F.B.I.", as well as abbreviations 
like "M.", "Inc.", "et al.", "etc.". Both Chinese and Japanese use 
analogous abbreviation mechanisms, wherein a long name is referred to 
subsequently with a subset of the Han characters from the original 
occurrence. Marking up these constructs provides useful information to user 
agents and tools such as spell checkers, speech synthesizers, translation 
systems and search-engine indexers.
unquote

it is this paragraph (coupled with linguistic usage) which justifies the 
usage contained in the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG)

and, as the GmbH and F.B.I. examples cited above indicate, there is no 
expectation (linguistically or in the HTML4x spec) that an ACRONYM _must_ 
be pronounceable as a word,

as a matter of fact, i'd like to hear anyone (other than my screen-reader) 
attempt to pronounce what is listed in the guinness book of world records 
as the longest valid acronym:

NIIOMTPLABOPARMBETZHELBETRABSBOMONIMONKONOTDTEKHSTROMONT

which is quote short unquote for the transliteration of the initial letters 
of the name of the quote Laboratory for Shuttering, Reinforcement, Concrete 
and Ferroconcrete Operations for Composite-monolithic and Monolithic 
Constructions of the Department of Technology of Building Assembly 
Operations of the Scientific Research Institute of the Organization for 
Building Mechanization and Technical Aid of the Academy of Building and 
Architecture of the USSR unquote

yours acronymoniously,
         GJR

At 07:47 PM 2/19/00 -0800, Kynn wrote:
>A diversion, wherein Gregory and Kynn, two web goofballs, argue
>pointlessly about trivia related to markup.
>
>At 07:20 PM 2/19/2000 , Gregory J. Rosmaita wrote:
> >with all due respect, terms such as HTML, WAI, W3C, MIT, HWG, and other 
> similar conflations cited in your reply to ann on the WAI-IG list are 
> acronyms, not abbreviations, and should be marked up accordingly...
>
>This is a point of contention. :)  I don't know if there is an
>official ruling on what constitutes an ACRONYM and what constitutes
>an ABBR, is there?
>
>In my opinion, something that is pronounced as a word is an ACRONYM,
>something that is spelled out as letters is not an ACRONYM.  Any
>shortened form of a word that is not an ACRONYM is an ABBR.
>
>E.g., "MIT" is pronounced "em eye tee", so it is an ABBR; "WAI" is
>sometimes pronounced "way" and sometimes pronounced "dubya ay eye",
>so it can be either; "AWARE" is pronounced "uh ware" and never
>"ay dubya ay are ee", so it's an ACRONYM.
>
>The spec for HTML 4.01 lists elements and includes the following
>description for ABBR, which supports my interpretation and not
>yours:
>
>http://www.w3.org/TR/html401/index/elements.html
>
>ABBR    abbreviated form (e.g., WWW, HTTP, etc.)
>
>In the description of the two elements, the following is stated:
>
>http://www.w3.org/TR/html401/struct/text.html#edef-ABBR
>
>ABBR:
>Indicates an abbreviated form (e.g., WWW, HTTP, URI, Mass., etc.).
>ACRONYM:
>Indicates an acronym (e.g., WAC, radar, etc.).
>
>WCAG 1.0, however, offers an example that supports YOUR interpretation
>and not MINE:
>
>http://www.w3.org/TR/WAI-WEBCONTENT-TECHS/#text-abbr
>
>Example.
>     <P>Welcome to the <ACRONYM title="World Wide Web">WWW</ACRONYM>!
>
>I submit that the WCAG Techniques document is out of spec with the
>HTML 4.01 document, and HTML 4.01 should be considered definitive --
>and the Techniques example changed from ACRONYM to ABBR!  Clearly,
>according to the definitive reference for HTML, "WWW" is an ABBR
>not an ACRONYM.
>
>In real world usage, an ACRONYM would be considered a specific
>type of ABBReviation.  I -believe- that the reason we have both
>is that they are both ways of conveying the semantic meaning "this
>is an abbreviated form of something," but ACRONYM has the additional
>-presentational- meaning of "...and pronounce this text as a word,
>not as a string of letters."
>
>That's how I think they should be used -- and thus I think you're
>wrong in saying HWG, W3C, or HTML should be marked up with ACRONYM.
>
>
>--
>Kynn Bartlett                                    mailto:kynn@hwg.org
>President, HTML Writers Guild                    http://www.hwg.org/
>AWARE Center Director                          http://aware.hwg.org/

--------------------------------------------------------
He that lives on Hope, dies farting
      -- Benjamin Franklin, Poor Richard's Almanack, 1763
--------------------------------------------------------
Gregory J. Rosmaita <unagi69@concentric.net>
    WebMaster and Minister of Propaganda, VICUG NYC
         <http://www.hicom.net/~oedipus/vicug/index.html>
--------------------------------------------------------
Received on Sunday, 20 February 2000 02:23:27 GMT

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