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RE: [xml-dev] Acronyms (was RE: [xml-dev] XML Buzzwords. RFC)

People, do I envy you... you have nothing to do at your work but to start
and continue useless and stupid arguments?? do your bosses know about this?
hell yhey'll be glad to know how you spend your 'valuable' time....

-----Original Message-----
From: John.Brooking@NA.SAPPI.COM [mailto:John.Brooking@NA.SAPPI.COM]
Sent: Wednesday, November 28, 2001 20:51
To: jcowan@reutershealth.com; stuart@ferncrk.com
Cc: xml-dev@lists.xml.org
Subject: [xml-dev] Acronyms (was RE: [xml-dev] XML Buzzwords. RFC)

Boy, am I ever sorry I started this...

> -----Original Message-----
> From: John Cowan [mailto:jcowan@reutershealth.com]
> Sent: Wednesday, November 28, 2001 2:15 PM
> To: Stuart Celarier
> Cc: xml-dev
> Subject: Re: [xml-dev] XML Buzzwords. RFC
> ...
> Must we?  Some say "sequel" and others say "ess-cue-ell", and I
> believe that the latest word on the subject is to say "ess-cue-ell"
> but deny that it stands for anything, particularly not
> "Structured Query Language".

[John] So by Stuart's definition,

   > ... An acronym is an abbreviation that is pronounced like a word,
   > such as NATO (pronounced 'nay-toh') which is an abbreviation for the
   > Atlantic Treaty Organization. The UN is not the 'un', XML is not
   > 'ks-mil' ...

[John] SQL *is* an acronym if pronounced "sequel", but *not* if pronounced
"ess-cue-ell". Ambiguous, I can live with that.

> By your definitions, "Mr." is an acronym.

[John] No, it would only be an acronym if you pronounced it "mer". (And
"Mrs.", "mers". But wait a minute -- what about "Ms."??)

> Troll: What does "ISO" (as in the issuer of ISO standards) stand for?

[John] International Standards Organization? But then, I always though SQL
*did* stand for Structured Query Language.

> Tom Bradford said:
> Actually, an acronym is a word (nym) formed from the beginning (acro)
> letters of a set of words.  Being a word doesn't actually require that
> it be pronounceable phonetically.  IOU is a word that's not pronounced
> phonetically, but is an acronym.
> http://www.dictionary.com/cgi-bin/dict.pl?term=acronym
> After all, especially in English, there are no definitive phonetic rules
> for how any particular word should be pronounced.  XSLT and XML are
> definitely acronyms because they qualify as such, and they're also
> abbreviations.  They're even in the acronym finder:
> http://www.acronymfinder.com
> You nit-pick, I know.  My wife got her masters in English and assures me
> that an acronym doesn't have to be a mnemonic device.

[John] Wait a minute. So XSLT and XML are "words"? And therefore acronyms?
What is the definition of "word" here? Does XSLT and XML appear in
Merriam-Webster's? Nope, I just checked. So what qualifies them as words?

To try to get an answer, I just looked up "word" in M-W (a nicely recursive
exercise, I thought). Here is what I got:

2 a (1) : a speech sound or series of speech sounds that symbolizes and
communicates a meaning without being divisible into smaller units capable of
independent use (2) : the entire set of linguistic forms produced by
combining a single base with various inflectional elements without change in
the part of speech elements b (1) : a written or printed character or
combination of characters representing a spoken word <the number of words to
a line> -- sometimes used with the first letter of a real or pretended taboo
word prefixed as an often humorous euphemism <the first man to utter the f
word on British TV -- Time> <we were not afraid to use the d word and talk
about death -- Erma Bombeck> (2) : any segment of written or printed
discourse ordinarily appearing between spaces or between a space and a
punctuation mark c : a number of bytes processed as a unit and conveying a
quantum of information in communication and computer work

Now I'm not a linguist, but is M-W saying that pretty much any combination
of letters that means something to someone can be a word? Or, since the
letters of an acronym stand for other words, does this mean an acronym is
*not* a word since it is "divisible into smaller units capable of
independent use"? If an acronym is not a word, then M-W's own definition of
acronym is internally inconsistent.

If we assume that an acronym *is* a word, then maybe we can distinguish
between abbreviations and acronyms by saying that all acronyms are
abbreviations, but an abbreviation is only an acronym if it is formed by the
*beginning* letter or letters of each of the multiple words it stands for.
So "Mr." is not an acronym because (a) it includes a letter from the end of
the word, and (b) it is only the shortening of a single word, not two or

Well, as fascinating as this is, I've gotta get back to work...   ;-)

- John
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