acronym / abbreviation [how to distinguish]

  • Retired-teacher

    Senior Member
    British English
    An abbreviation should have a full stop at the end. Etc. is an example.

    An acronym is usually written all in capitals without full stops between the letters such as NATO.
     
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    Packard

    Senior Member
    USA, English
    Some are start as abbreviations and later become acronyms.

    SCUBA was originally an abbreviation, but now an acronym. I'm sure that there are many other examples.


    And then there are "symbols".

    What appears to be an abbreviation in postal addresses in the USA are, in fact, postal symbols and are always capitalized.

    In red are are examples of "postal symbols".

    New York, NY
    Las Vegas, NV
     

    heypresto

    Senior Member
    English - England
    And an acronym will spell a pronounceable word - like NATO, UNICEF, FIFA, etc, unlike an abbreviation like BBC, WRF or USA.

    I don't insist on full stops within or at the end of abbreviations, but many do.


    Cross-posted.

    Edit: I think 'Laser' is another example of Packard's 'Scuba'?
     
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    JulianStuart

    Senior Member
    English (UK then US)
    An abbreviation should have a full stop at the end. Etc. is an example.

    An acronym is usually written all in capitals without full stops between the letters such as NATO.
    Unfortunately, some BE sources (such as BBC, for example) will write an acronym (that can be pronounced as a "word") as Nato, Nasa and Ofcom etc in contrast to other BE sources and all AE practices as NATO and NASA.
    The use of full stops/periods after each letter has evolved over time, with BE now generally omitting them , while AE is variable.
     

    dojibear

    Senior Member
    English - Northeast US
    An acronym is a short "word" in all-caps, consisting of the first letters of the words it is used for. For example NASA is short for North American Space Administration, so it is an acronym.

    The WR dictionary has the definition.

    An acronym does not have to be pronounceable. Sometimes, when an organization is created, they give the organization a name whose acronym (whose first letters) will be easy to pronounce. Others aren't pronounceable as words, so we use the letter names. For example, to say BBC (British Broadcasting Company) we say "bee-bee-cee" because those are the letter names.
     

    JulianStuart

    Senior Member
    English (UK then US)
    From the WRF dictionaries (they're handy:)
    RH
    ac•ro•nym (akrə nim), n.
    1. a word formed from the initial letters or groups of letters of words in a set phrase or series of words, as Wac from Women's Army Corps,OPEC from Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, or loranfrom long-range navigation.
    Collins

    acronym: a pronounceable name made up of a series of initial letters or parts of words; for example, UNESCO for the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization
    A series of capital letters is an initialism. If it can be pronounced, it qualifies to be called an acronym:)

    in•i•tial•ism (i nishə liz′əm), n.
    1. a name or term formed from the initial letters of a group of words and pronounced as a separate word, as NATO for North Atlantic Treaty Organization;
      an acronym.
    2. a set of initials representing a name, organization, or the like, with each letter pronounced separately, as FBI for Federal Bureau of Investigation.
     

    Packard

    Senior Member
    USA, English
    And sometimes you can distinguish them. In the USA we have the "Patriot Act", the first part of that phrase ("Patriot") is an acronym, the second part ("Act") is a word.

    The acronym is spelled out below.

    Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act of 2001"
     

    JulianStuart

    Senior Member
    English (UK then US)
    And sometimes you can distinguish them. In the USA we have the "Patriot Act", the first part of that phrase ("Patriot") is an acronym, the second part ("Act") is a word.

    The acronym is spelled out below.

    Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act of 2001"
    Clinical trials are often also creatively named (where the acronym comes first or simulataneously and the words to create it come later!) and the name does not always use all the initials of all the word. Clinical trial names can be quite AMUSING, but they don’t include unicorns : Spoonful of Medicine

    Global Utilization of Streptokinase and Tissue Plasminogen Activator for Occluded Coronary Arteries (GUSTO) trial - technically should have been GUSTPAOCA but that doesn't have a nice ring but is marginally "pronounceable" :eek:
     

    Packard

    Senior Member
    USA, English
    It helps to know that his middle initial was A :D
    It helps, but it is not really accurate. This from the WIKI article emboldened by me:

    ...Sixty years later a non-lethal weapon delivering an electric shock was developed by Jack Cover and marketed by Taser International under the name "Taser", an acronym for Thomas A. Swift's Electric Rifle. The middle initial 'A' is gratuitous to produce a word more pronounceable than "TSER", as no other name than "Tom Swift" is used for the book's hero.[1]
     

    sdgraham

    Senior Member
    USA English
    As long as we're on trivia, note that the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) is an initialism in English and an acronym in Spanish.
     

    The Photographist

    Senior Member
    English - US
    SCUBA was originally an abbreviation, but now an acronym. I'm sure that there are many other examples.
    Was it? I was under the impression that it had always been an acronym for Self-Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus. What would it be an abbreviation for?

    A series of capital letters is an initialism. If it can be pronounced, it qualifies to be called an acronym:)
    Very interesting. I had no idea there was a difference.
     

    Packard

    Senior Member
    USA, English
    Was it? I was under the impression that it had always been an acronym for Self-Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus. What would it be an abbreviation for?



    Very interesting. I had no idea there was a difference.
    It was an for the same words before it changed status to be a acronym, and in many (most?) instances "scuba" is no longer an acronym but has transitioned to be a word (no uppercase; no periods). I would also label "radar" as a word nowadays and not an acronym--Taser too.

    I based my statement on an admittedly foggy memory of an old Groucho Marx "You Bet Your Life" show. In which he had a very early scuba diver who spelled it out like it was an abbreviation.

    < Video link removed. Cagey, moderator >


    When the scuba diver explained that she dove to great depths, Marx said, "So you've gone to greater depths than man has sunken to in the past." (It was funny when he said it.)


    < Video link removed. Cagey, moderator >
     
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    JulianStuart

    Senior Member
    English (UK then US)
    It was an for the same words before it changed status to be a acronym, and in many (most?) instances "scuba" is no longer an acronym but has transitioned to be a word (no uppercase; no periods). I would also label "radar" as a word nowadays and not an acronym--Taser too.

    I based my statement on an admittedly foggy memory of an old Groucho Marx "You Bet Your Life" show. In which he had a very early scuba diver who spelled it out like it was an abbreviation.


    < Video link removed. Cagey, moderator >


    When the scuba diver explained that she dove to great depths, Marx said, "So you've gone to greater depths than man has sunken to in the past." (It was funny when he said it.)

    < Video link removed. Cagey, moderator >
    Ah, the transition from acronym to mere word:) It seems that most of those have occurred with nouns/tangibles (laser, maser, radar, lidar, taser, scuba), while those that remain acronyms are institutions or companies etc. UNESCO NATO (or for the BBC Nato, but not nato:D) etc.
     
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