The Wax Conspiracy

Abbreviations and Acronyms: Wild Obscenities in Rudimentary Dementia

It's a one way street from acronym to abbreviation. You'll see a lot of drivers heading upstream all the same. And it's stinking the waters.

Earlier this year - while I was still able to distinguish the difference between Thursday night and Friday morning in the lead up to Saturday afternoon - during a brainstorm of activity I drew up a list of possible article ideas and gave them to Jimmy Weasel - he of The Wax Conspiracy infamy - to see if he could work some magic into them. The list was varied and offered only slight glimpses into angles for pieces that might have seen their way into the then struggling-for-a-spine student magazine, Cogito, of which I no longer helm.

Subconsciously in writing up the sample I set it up to be an impossibility to wring anything from the scant lines of possibilities. Among the many hidden ideas was the observation of two fairly distinct camps, those who reference the Dictionary and those who thumb with a Roget's in hand.

The spark read, "Dictionaries versus Thesaurus - the mysterious alliance and factions devoted to the respective camps." In all seriousness it was supposed to have been written like a running commentary of a death match, with the two combatant teams sparring it out with each other using nothing but their wits and the tomes in which they closely identified themselves with. Much like an ordinary game of Scrabble if you will. The impossibility came in the execution of the idea. It might have been misleading and hard to comprehend and therein lay the dilemma.

Flash forward to where the calendar reads today and that article still doesn't look like being carried out with the flair that it deserves to in order to not fall flat. The idea behind the idea behind an article came about shortly before the World Wrestling Federation (WWF) was told for the last time by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) to stop the misuse of the WWF abbreviation. Now known as World Wrestling Entertainment their abbreviation reads WWE. This was nothing major given the fact that the orders had been given many consecutive years prior and ignored as much.

Suddenly, without having paid much attention to it in the past I noticed a slew of commentators in every field on a variety of topics misappropriating the term ACRONYM in favour of ABBREVIATION. Most notably in the reporting and reference of the WWF vs WWE ruling.

One example can be seen in several computer magazines of late. The keyboard wary staff have been out and about proclaiming DRM as the new hot "acronym." DRM stands for Digital Rights Management and is clearly an abbreviation given that if it were an acronym, you wouldn't have to declare each letter individually, but instead as the word DRUM. But it doesn't because it isn't.

Neither is NYE (New Year's Eve). Yet you could be forgiven if someone did happen to pronounce it as NIGH for the end of the year would most certainly be when this little abbreviation clambers out of hibernation.

Turn to the second edition of 'The Oxford Modern English Dictionary' from Oxford University Press. Though the spine is much distressed and frayed along the edges, it still packs a dynamite tome of verbs, nouns and whatnot covering the English language, and some foreigners that have crept in over the centuries. In it the entry for an abbreviation reads thusly: noun. an abbreviated form, especially of a word or phrase. Whereas an acronym is: noun. a word, usually pronounced as such, formed from the initial letters of other words (e.g. Ernie, laser, NATO).

So, as the reference material would have it, an abbreviation is the shortened or condensed form of a word or phrase, like WTO or abbrev. And an acronym is similar to the abbreviation but with an upgrade in linguistic status. Namely that of the absence of the halting pauses reserved for consecutive letters that don't really form any sensible combination seen in actual words. ANZAC is pronounceable as a word as is Scuba and in both cases they are also abbreviations of phrases. For those not paying attention they stand for, among other things - Australian and New Zealand Army Corps and Self-Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus.

Though the definitions could quite possibly be misconstrued in a far out sense, they are differences and there are people who insist in perverting these two words much like what has been done so in the past with those who are stoned or are out looking for a few faggots for the fire. A sticky situation indeed.

Much like there is a difference between a dictionary and a thesaurus so is there between an acronym and an abbreviation. The widening base of social commentators who choose to flagrantly disobey and disregard even the most basic of English rules seem hell bent on leading the world down to a place that doesn't require any form of coherence and clarity. Don't let this happen; make a point of pointing out their mistakes for them. After all, as they are often paid, shouldn't they be setting an example for those many haggard and struggling and unpaid writers?

That is: To respect and acknowledge the language in which you write for.


Published on Monday, 13 January 2003

By Ethan Switch Ethan Switch

Well doesn't that just look tasty.

The Wax Conspiracy


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