Acronym plurals

There are some acronyms which describe a group: MAMILS - MIDDLE-AGED MEN IN LYCRA - this describes middle-aged male cyclists who are dressed in colourful Lycra cycling outfits. The acronym refers to the scenario in which male cyclists ride in a group and so the plural form is used.

So one would say "the road was blocked by MAMILS, rather than the road was blocked by A MAMIL" ... it just seems to sound better.

Is there a term to refer to this case where although the acronym is already in the plural - MIDDLE AGED MEN,-nevertheless, an "s" is added to confer the image of more than one so and making it plural?
 
  • natkretep

    Moderato con anima (English Only)
    English (Singapore/UK), basic Chinese
    Yes, I think acronyms are assumed to be singular. I would write MAMILs (small <s>) or even Mamils.
     
    Thanks for these, but what I'm also looking for is the word (like pluralize, pluralisms... it may not even have the root 'plural') which describes this sort of anomaly.
    My last sentence ... Is there a term to refer to this case where although the acronym is already in the plural - MIDDLE AGED MEN,-nevertheless, an "s" is added to confer the image of more than one so and making it plural?
     

    Andygc

    Senior Member
    British English
    Everywhere I look, the writers who are sufficiently bored to write about MAMILs do so. That is, they say the acronym means middle-aged men in Lycra, but write MAMILs when they are using it to refer to men as opposed to a man. You would have to be really bored with life if you could be arsed bothered to waste time thinking up a word for putting an s on the end of an acronym which will vanish from the language almost as quickly as it has appeared.
     

    Biffo

    Senior Member
    English - England
    quantiflex - you are not getting anywhere because you are asking the wrong question. What you should be asking is about rules for pluralising a singular acronym.

    I saw one MAMIL. (Middle aged man in lycra) :tick:


    I saw two MAMIL. (Middle aged men in lycra)
    versus
    I saw two MAMILs. (Middle aged mans in lycra) or (Middle aged man in lycras)

    My answer is that, once the acronym is in current use, you can treat it as a new word and read it and punctuate it as though it were an ordinary noun.
     
    Biffo - thanks ... I am aware of the various permutations. What I am asking for (and tried to put as well as I could) is the word/term which defines using an acronym of a plural yet still adds an 's'.
     

    Biffo

    Senior Member
    English - England
    Biffo - thanks ... I am aware of the various permutations. What I am asking for (and tried to put as well as I could) is the word/term which defines using an acronym of a plural yet still adds an 's'.
    I don't think that such a word exists.
     

    JustKate

    Moderate Mod
    This is an interesting question, but this just isn't a good example of this because MAMIL isn't a real acronym and it's not likely to become one. It's just a joke name, and while there is a slight possibility that it could become a recognizable acronym, it isn't now and it isn't like to become one, either.

    As Biffo said, there is no term used for an acronym or abbreviation that's plural when it's spelled out but is nonetheless written with an "s" when it's used as a plural. And as he also said, once the acronym or abbreviation is in common and current use, you can (usually) treat it as a new word and read it and punctuate it as though it were an ordinary noun. I added "usually" because every now and then someone tries to make an exception to this, but with mixed results. For example, the abbreviation RBI in baseball stands for "runs batted in." (It's usually known by the initials "R-B-I," but it's sometimes spoken like an acronym in which case it's pronounced "ribby" or "ribbies.") For a while, the AP Stylebook (the most commonly used style guide in American journalism) tried to get sportswriters to use RBI as both the singular and the plural. It didn't work, though - it may not be logical to write "10 RBIs," but that's exactly how everybody says it and thinks of it. So in the end, AP gave in and changed its policy so that RBIs is now the accepted plural. That's the way these things usually work.
     

    JulianStuart

    Senior Member
    English (UK then US)
    Biffo - thanks ... I am aware of the various permutations. What I am asking for (and tried to put as well as I could) is the word/term which defines using an acronym of a plural yet still adds an 's'.
    The term I would endorse would simply be "mistake" - like RPMs and MPHs, since the letters R and M already represent plurals :)

    Edit: Cross post with Kate.
    In comparing our examples, I would submit that a single RBI is a far more common occurrence than a single RPM or a single MPH. Thus RBI could be said to stand for either Run or Runs Batted In (describing the outcome of a single at bat or heading a statistics table, respectively, for example). Usage wins the day and allows the identification of language rules, as opposed to vice versa.
     
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    Again, thanks for the interest and when I eventually come across the word/term I'll post it. I used MAMIL because it was the first one that came to mind, and also because it sounds like an actual word, while RPM or SMS or MPH or RBI (being South African have never heard of, however HAVE heard of LBW for leg before wicket in cricket) and similar are generally pronounced as a collection of letters, not a word.

    Please remember (as I am sure you are aware) that language evolves to complement social actions and with the increasing prevalence of acronyms in daily usage, it's not inconceivable that a term for this scenario has not emerged.
     

    JustKate

    Moderate Mod
    Again, thanks for the interest and when I eventually come across the word/term I'll post it. I used MAMIL because it was the first one that came to mind, and also because it sounds like an actual word, while RPM or SMS or MPH or RBI (being South African have never heard of, however HAVE heard of LBW for leg before wicket in cricket) and similar are generally pronounced as a collection of letters, not a word.

    Please remember (as I am sure you are aware) that language evolves to complement social actions and with the increasing prevalence of acronyms in daily usage, it's not inconceivable that a term for this scenario has not emerged.

    I'm going a bit farther than this. What I'm saying is that it's almost certain that a term has not emerged.

    In some cases - such as in Julian's examples of MPH and RPM, the acronym or abbreviation carries enough inherent pluralness that the "s" isn't needed. In some cases, though, such as RPM, the "s" is often added in speech (e.g., RPMs) even when it isn't used in writing. In other cases, the inherent pluralness just doesn't seem to be as strong, as in the case of RBI/RBIs, so RBI is used for the singular and RBIs for the plural even though the "r" stands for "runs" far more often than it stands for "run."

    In your example, the problem is that MAMIL is a joke, nothing more, and therefore no thought has been given by whoever coined it or uses it as to how it "ought" to be used. It's just a joke - a throwaway line - so how it should be used in the singular or the plural is (so far) not at all important to anybody. I think it if it were intended to be taken even a bit seriously, it would probably have been originally written as in the singular - Middle-Aged Man In Lycra (or, to use slightly more serious examples, DWM=divorced white male and SBF=single black female in personal ads, or so I hear). But it wasn't, and my guess is that the reason is that the entire point of this joke is that there are at times on the road a cluster of middle-aged men, all wearing their lycra bicyle wear.
     
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    OK .. it's getting too pedantic for me : )

    Once again, I need to say that the acronym needs to be seen as a pseudo word for it to be pluraled. Now there's a pseudo word which doesn't exist, yet which I'm sure you understand perfectly (in this context). MAMIL may be a joke acronym, but so what? So is DINKY - double income no kids yet - which implies more than one person and can be pluralised to DINKY's or perhaps DINKIES. Also YUP which transformed to YUPPY and YUPPIES because YUP sounded too clumsy.

    And here in Cape Town, where the world's biggest entry cycle race is held annually, there are many weekends when the roads are jammed with MAMILS.

    Thanks again for the input.
     
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