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RE: proper use of abbr and acronym

From: Charles F. Munat <chas@munat.com>
Date: Fri, 17 Nov 2000 19:33:20 -0800
To: "WAI Interest Group \(E-mail\)" <w3c-wai-ig@w3.org>
Message-ID: <000401c05110$4cdb4920$0100a8c0@aries>
Sean B. Palmer wrote:
"In specific, it appears to me that XUL is an acronym, rather than an
abbreviation."

Reply:

Only if it is pronounced as a word ("zuhl"), rather than spelled out. An
acronym is a word formed from the first letter or first few letters of other
words. For example, RaDAR from RAdio Detecting And Ranging or CReEP from
Committee to RE-Elect the President (remember that one?).

So XML, HTML, W3C, XHTML, etc. are abbreviations, not acronyms.

SMIL and SQL could be considered acronyms if they are pronounced "smile" and
"sequel" respectively. If they are spelled out, then they are abbreviations.

Frankly, so few people seem to understand this that acronym will shortly
lose its meaning (sadly). My guess is that the originators of the HTML
elements knew the difference and wanted to indicate when an abbreviation was
an acronym, perhaps to provide a clue to how it should be pronounced. If it
were up to me, we'd teach people what makes an acronym special when we
taught HTML. I'd even put an explanation in the standard. But then, I'm the
kind of guy who winces when people pronounce forte for-tay (it's "fort"),
gnashes his teeth when he hears "rather unique" (there are no degrees of
unique), and becomes positively homicidal when confronted with statements
such as "all cars are not blue" (oops, wrong: some cars ARE blue, but
perhaps they meant "not all cars are blue"). So feel free to ignore me...

Charles F. Munat,
Seattle, Washington
Received on Friday, 17 November 2000 22:27:56 GMT

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