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ACRONYM?

From: Alan J. Flavell <flavell@mail.cern.ch>
Date: Sat, 12 Jul 1997 15:58:07 +0200 (METDST)
To: www-html-editor@w3.org
Message-ID: <Pine.A41.3.95a.970712153034.94344I-100000@sp050>

I refer to the draft of HTML4.0, and specifically to
http://www.w3.org/TR/WD-html40/struct/text.html#edef-ACRONYM   

My dictionary, as well as Fowler's Modern English Usage 2nd edition,
defines the term "acronym" as a word that is made up from initial
letters, for example NATO, UNESCO.  The fact that the word is able to be
pronounced, and is in fact pronounced, is essential to its being an
acronym.  Strings of initials that aren't pronounced as words, e.g HTML,
are disqualified from being called acronyms: they are "abbreviations"
(the most generic term) or "initialisms" (a more specific, though less
commonly used, term). 

As such, none of the examples that you present at the above-cited URL
(WWW, HTML, IRS, SNCF)  are in fact acronyms, except for "URL" if it's
pronounced (myself I still say yoo-are-ell, so for me URL isn't an
acronym either).  Unless "Fnac" is pronounced as written - I have no
idea about that. 

 "Acronyms are generally spoken by pronouncing the individual letters
 separately."

Absolutely not.  It's evident that your concept of "acronym" doesn't
even overlap with the one in the dictionary, since by your suggestion it
would appear that UNESCO, radar, Benelux etc. would all have to be
laboriously spelled out letter by letter.  What's worse, by misapplying
the only available term for this useful concept, you no longer have any
way to say that a particular abbreviation is, in fact, meant to be
pronounced as written.  This is all very unsatisfactory. 

I'd say that your version of <ACRONYM> needs to be called something
else, maybe <ABBREV>.  Whether there needs to be a tag called <ACRONYM>
could be a matter for discussion, but if there is one, it needs to
denote initialisms that are in fact meant to be pronounced, just as the
dictionary says.  Not to abbreviations that are spelled out letter by
letter, and certainly not to _exclude_ abbreviations that are pronounced
as written. 

best regards
Received on Saturday, 12 July 1997 09:58:25 GMT

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