Acronym vs. Abbreviation (and is HTTP a word?)

[quote=“miltownkid”][quote=“the Collins Cobuild dictionary”]“An acronym is a word composed of the first letters of the words in a phrase, especially [note that it does NOT say only] when this is used as a name.”


“An abbreviation is a short form of a word or phrase, made by leaving out some of the letters or by using only the first letter of each word.”[/quote][/quote]
Sorry mate, but you just agreed with my definition and not your own.

HTTP is an initialisation, a bunch of letters that can’t be spoken as a ‘word’.

If I was going “Ess Sea You Bee Eh” diving, then SCUBA would be an initialisation. But if I go scuba diving then SCUBA is a word, because I don’t have to sound out the letters.

HTTP would be a word if it had some vowels in the middle that made it possible to speak without having to use the ‘names’ of the letters, instead of the phonetic sounds they represent.

MK is an abbreviation of Miltown Kid. It would be an acronym if you could say “mk” with the ‘m’ sounding like the start of ‘milk’ and the ‘k’ sounding like the start of ‘king’. I think we’re just disagreeing about what constitutes a word. My dictionary wasn’t much help there. Anyone got a really pedantic definition of word to clear this up?

What we’re left with is acronym as a subset of intialisation, and {initialisation, contraction, and truncation} as subsets of abbreviation. Any graphic artists out there can draw the Venn diagram? Any thing I’ve forgotten?

By the way, will someone please explain to those idiots at Merriam Webster that “H” is not pronounced “'aitch”, it’s “Haitch”. The whole point of the “H” is that it has a sound. 'ow can you drop the “H” from “H”? Might as well do away with the letter altogether. 'ello, 'ow the 'ell do you 'ope to 'ire a 'elicopter without 'is 'elp? Hhhhhhh, my friend, hhhhhhhh.

Nice thread to end the weekend on, this. Good one, EmmKay.

[quote]aitch[/quote] :stuck_out_tongue:

N.S.A. = Enn Ess Ay, abbreviation
N.A.S.A. = Nas-a (sorry, can’t do accents), acronym.

When I was at school any abbreviation was supposed to be denoted using a full stop or an apostrophe. That seems to have fallen by the wayside these days.

Tho’ - though
don’t - do not
fish’n’chips - real food
F.B.I. - the feds, er fed’s, fed.s ???
M.P. - member of parliament
Dr. - doctor
not sure about Mr and Mrs though. Does anyone still follow those rules, or have I remembered wrong?


Mr. does, not sure about Mrs either.

But the Cambridge dictionary is more specific:

[quote]acronym [Show phonetics]
noun [C]
an abbreviation consisting of the first letters of each word in the name of something, pronounced as a word:
AIDS is an acronym for ‘Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome’.[/quote]
(Boldface added by me.)

Source: Cambridge Advanced Learner’s Dictionary

[quote=“Gubo”]I don’t think so. The Collins dictionary leaves ‘acronym’ open to refer to any word that is created by using the first letter of each word in a series. But it also says ‘abbreviation’ can stand as such. So it is fairly non-commital, and even inconsistent, as are many other reference books on the matter.

I think the key point is it’s something of a jumble, and there’s no reconciling all the discrepant texts on the issue. Given that, I’m highly inclined to use ‘acronym’ in a more inclusive sense, while allowing more acronyms (but not all, such as ‘LOL’) as words in their own right.

To avoid confusion and inconsistency, the logical course of action, to me, seems to be to establish abbreviations as words (or sets of letters, if you like) that have had letters removed from the original word, while establishing acronyms as any and all sets of letters (be they words in their own right or not) that are created by removing the first letter from each of a series of words.

That leaves us with all of these as abbrevations:

And all of these as acronyms:

And I think that should do it. :rainbow:[/quote]

All acronyms are abbreviations.
Not all abreviations are acronyms.
And neither acronyms nor abbreviations are words.

Abbreviations are originaly words or a word with letters removed, thus no more word(s).

Acronyms? Well, no matter how you use, misuse, abuse, or confuse it, the “word” SCUBA always carries the baggage of “…stands for…”
An acronym is not a word, it is a representation of words which in turn have the real definition. In essence, and in fact, an abbreviation, not a word. IMHO. :slight_smile:


Why is that logical? Why is it logical to lump dissimilar entities together and throw away a couple of other distinctions that exist and function perfectly well?

Things you can say as words are not similar to strings of letters that are unpronouncable, so why make them share the same name? Can’t we have different names for different things?

The Society of Forumosans Who Think Ran The Man Needs a Brain Transplant, can be initialised as TSFWTRTMNBT and that’s not pronouncable in any human language - not even welsh. It’s not a word by any stretch of the imagination, although it is still an abbreviation because it’s quicker and easier to say than the long version. (Personally, I’d prefer ‘Ransplanter’. :sunglasses: )

Abbreviations are shortened names for things.

Initialisations are one form of abbreviation.

Truncations and contractions are other forms of abbreviation.

Acronyms are a special kind of initialisation, one that’s easy to say.

Why is that difficult, confusing, or illogical? Too many names for you? It seems that some people are too lazy to see differences between things that are different, or don’t see that it matters. This is great, because it gives me the opportunity to rant about something that has bugged me for a long time.

Where I come from, you drive carefully to ensure that you don’t have an accident, and insure yourself in case you do. In the USA people don’t seem to know or care that there is a difference. I do care because vocabulary is the tool we use when thinking. All this reductionist crap, getting rid of meaningful distinctions, reduces the ability to reason and to question. Can someone quote me some Orwell please? I’m going to bed before you guys reduce the English language to like, you know, fuck, get, and a couple of other essentials. (And if I stay up I’ll start on ‘check’! :astonished: )

topic resolved


I think for the final word, we should consult the man from U.N.C.L.E.

FWIW, Fowler’s has no real stand on this issue, lumping acronyms and abbreviations under the header “curtailed words”.

[quote=“914”]Mnemonics are real fun acronyms, too.

I relied on them to get me through high school and university because, you know, studying was like, hard.

Gosh, getting an edumacation was a drag.

My Very Educated Mother Just Served Us Nine Pizzas.[/quote]
Oh be a fine girl, kiss me right now. smack

(Or did I just ask a guy to kiss me? :raspberry:)

But what’s Roy G. Biv? Mnemonic or acronym?


An acronym is a pronouncable word. AIDs (or Aids, if you prefer), SARS, APEC and ASEAN are all good examples of acronyms.

A mere set of initials, such as the BBC, is not an acronym. You may call it an initialization or abbreviation, but not an acronym.

Acronymization is a very handy device. When forming a new organization, it is always worth trying to make the extra effort to give it a name that can be pronounced as an acronym rather than just as a set of initials.

We need a word to distinguish acronyms from other forms of abbreviation, and acronym serves that purpose very nicely. I hope the meaning of this excellent word will not be blurred and its value weakened through misunderstanding or misuse.

Stragbasher is absolutely correct in his pronouncements on this issue, and having heard no persuasive arguments to the contrary, I rule in his favour on all counts.

[quote=“Omniloquacious”]We need a word to distinguish acronyms from other forms of abbreviation, and acronym serves that purpose very nicely. I hope the meaning of this excellent word will not be blurred and its value weakened through misunderstanding or misuse.

Stragbasher is absolutely correct in his pronouncements on this issue, and having heard no persuasive arguments to the contrary, I rule in his favour on all counts.[/quote]

No need to thank Omni, because he’s stating the obvious - at least it’s obvious to people who can be bothered to think about this. What Gubo is saying is that he doesn’t care about small distinctions, he can’t be bothered to think about things using a complex vocabulary. He thinks it doesn’t need it.

So dolphins are fish. They live in the seas, they look like fish, so without bothering to engage brain we’ll decide that they’re fish. Huzzah, power to the people. Reduce their ability to think and reason so that they’ll make better decisions. Never read 1984, did you? Brave New World? Why do you think that democracies make such a big fuss about universal education, and the importance of literacy in combating poverty? Either it’s important, or it’s just an election gimmick to exploit the gullibility of a population that lacks the intellectual tools to consider the argument rationally.

It’s interesting that Omni is generally regarded as writing the best English on this site, and by a curious coincidence he also cares about maintaining standards. Could this attention to small detail have anything to do with excellence? Methinks it does.

Simplifying a language makes it more powerful? :help:

The above quote is a perfect example of why the above quote is a bad idea.