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RE: abbr/acronym - repetitive use

From: Jon Hanna <jon@spinsol.com>
Date: Wed, 21 Nov 2001 17:11:09 -0000
To: <w3c-wai-ig@w3.org>
Hash: SHA1

> and while we're on the subject, there seems to be confusion over
> which is which.  my understanding is that an acronym is something
> like 
> WWW, where the
> first letter of each word is used, while a shortening of a word
> (e.g. etc. from etcetera) is an abbreviation.  but even the wai
> guidelines have WWW listed as an abbreviation. ???

There is confusion about the meaning of the English words "Acronym"
and "Abbreviation", and hence confusion about the HTML elements named
after them. 
Abbreviation can arguably mean just a contraction (etcetera becoming
etc. as you offer) or it could mean any way of shortening the
original. Most dictionaries favour the latter (since after all
"abbreviation" just means to shorten, you can abbreviate a film by
removing scenes for example, it doesn't just apply to words), which
would therefore include acronyms and presumably meaning that we use
<acronym> for acronyms and <abbr> for other types of abbreviation.

So the question now is what is an acronym? Here the dictionaries
disagree. Most seem to argue that it must be a pronounceable word
(like NATO, OPEC, laser), which makes sense given the -onym ending,
in which case WWW is not an acronym. But others say it is any
abbreviation using the first letters of a word, in which case WWW is

Some have argued that on the Internet "acronym" has the latter
meaning, since TLAs (Three Letter Acronyms) often aren't
pronounceable as words. But then they often aren't three letters long

Others have argued that since the spec gives WWW as an abbreviation
that must mean it isn't an acronym, although that is probably not

In all we need more specific wording in the spec.

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Received on Wednesday, 21 November 2001 12:04:34 UTC

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