RE: proposed new definitions for abbreviation and acronym

At 20:47 17/09/2005, John M Slatin wrote:
Roberto writes:
<blockquote cite="Roberto">
I suggest to use this:
"A mechanism for finding the expanded form of abbreviations is

Note: initialism [definition] and acronym [definition] are special kind
of abbreviation.
</blockquote cite="Roberto">

This seems a cleaner solution than adding "initialisms" to the SC. The
Glossary would define all three terms (abbreviation, acronym,
initialism). The Guide would then point to appropriate general and
technology-specific techniques.

It depends on how you define "abbreviation", because the term appears to have
two meanings in this context:
1. The shortened form of a word.
2. Shorthand for "abbreviated/shortened form"; superset of abbreviation (1),
initialism and acronym.

Some abbreviations and acronyms are spelled and used as nouns, e.g.
- info for information (English, French) or informatie (Dutch);
- bieb for bibliotheek (Dutch: library);
- ovni (object volant non-identifiť) in French (meaning: UFO);
- car for autocar (French); mat for matin (French);
- Kripo for Kriminalpolizei (German);
- ...

In some cases, the expanded form only exists in a foreign language,
so it may be more helpful to provide an explanation in the host language
instead of the original language:
- vip in Dutch (from English: very important person);
- e.g. in English (from Latin: exempli gratia);
- ABS in English and Dutch (from German: Antiblockiersystem);
- etc.

Some abbreviations acquire a connotation that is not present in the orginal
form, e.g. in Dutch: BV for Bekende Vlaming (well-known/famous Fleming) has a
slightly ironic/mocking connotation because the 'fame' is often the result
of media hype rather than merit.

Note that contractions (e.g. wanna, aren't, won't, ...) are also shortened 
but that we probably don't want to include them in a criterion that requires
expanded forms, or at least not in English.

I looked up the terms "abbreviation", "acronym" and "initialism" in a few 
dictionaries (in English, German, French, Spanish and Dutch). I can't help 
that some lexicographers could have done a better job.
Also, if you assume that "word" in any of these definitions implies
"pronounceable" and that initialisms can't be pronounced as words,
some languages may not have a word for "initialism". I think this is
the case for Dutch and German.

According to Chambers 21st Century Dictionary [1] using 'inialism' as synonym
for 'acronym' is typical of American usage (as opposed to British usage).

Although less well know, the term initialism is older than the term acronym:
in English, initialism dates back to the late 19th century;
acronym to the 1940s.



Christophe Strobbe

Christophe Strobbe
K.U.Leuven - Departement of Electrical Engineering - Research Group on 
Document Architectures
Kasteelpark Arenberg 10 - 3001 Leuven-Heverlee - BELGIUM
tel: +32 16 32 85 51  


Received on Tuesday, 20 September 2005 12:28:51 UTC