Talk:Acronym/Archive 3

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Nohat, please check out Acronym/temp2. I have made attempts to remove what I believe is the perceived POV, while keeping a clear distinction between acronyms and initialisms. [[User:Anárion|File:Anarion.png]] 08:05, 31 Aug 2004 (UTC)

It looks OK (apart from the castrated ram in the second para). However, I think the subject could do with a bit of explanation about origins, because 'Alphabeticisms' and 'Initialisms' came first, at about 1899, and 'Acronyms' came along later (1940s). There are a whole bunch of other words to discuss various abbreviations and contractions which need to be put into context as well.
Looking around, ISO 1087:1990 Section 5.2.2 describes all these sorts of things and how they should be used as science terminology, and both acronym and initialism are deprecated in favour of 'abbreviated form'.
I also asked at a meeting I was in today (seven other people), and just got blank stares when I mentioned initialism.
By the way, when do you start your campaign to change TLA to TLI? Noisy 16:19, 31 Aug 2004 (UTC)
Perhaps your meeting says more about the circles you live in than the knowledge of the word… anyway. The object of an encyclopedia is to inform, not to decide use. Informing people about the standard definition of acronym, and the existance of initialism as a category of abbreviations, is important here. If encyclopedias only propagated common errors and left out information which adds on already present knowledge, they would not be worth keeping. [[User:Anárion|File:Anarion.png]] 17:35, 31 Aug 2004 (UTC)
By the way, I believe TLA stands for Three Letter Abbreviation, so what needs to be changed? [[User:Anárion|File:Anarion.png]] 17:53, 31 Aug 2004 (UTC)
"three letter acronym": 12,200 Google hits. "three letter abbreviation": 7000 Google hits. I have 25+ years as programmer/designer/analyst in the software industry, and this is the first place that I have heard of initialisms. Your point? Noisy 08:02, 1 Sep 2004 (UTC)
I have never heard of BEP (random page). Your point? [[User:Anárion|File:Anarion.png]] 08:09, 1 Sep 2004 (UTC)
This is better, however:
  • I don't think it is necessary to bore the reader with the details of the dispute in the first section of the article. In my version, I moved the details of the dispute to a separate section.
  • Your use of the word "strict" to describe your definition of "acronym" is POV. The implication is that my definition is "not strict" or "lax", when in fact it is just as "strict" (=exact, precise), just different. The word "strict" is inherently biased and should be avoided. I think the adjective "exclusionary" (=of or related to the act or an instance of excluding) more neutrally describes your definition because the objective difference between the definitions is that your definition excludes many abbreviations in the category "acronym" that mine includes.
  • The discussion about abbreviations like JPEG is incorrect. The term "portmanteau acronym" is not used in the way you suggest: all of the Google hits refer to acronyms (or initialisms) that are made up of other acronyms that have been fused together by a shared letter. This is a new phenomenon for me, and I think it should be covered in the article, but the way you describe "portmanteau acronym" does not match what people actually use that phrase for. Indeed, every one of the Google hits for "portmanteau acronym" are examples of what you would class initialisms and not acronyms. Yet more evidence that your definition does not reflect the reality of usage...
  • By actively excluding the list of acronyms that you don't count as acronyms, you are subtly pushing your POV. I think it is far more NPOV to include them, but mark that their status as acronyms is disputed, as is the case in my version.
Nohat 17:28, 31 Aug 2004 (UTC)
  • Main reason for moving it up was to get rid of duplication: I would rather just define acronyms in the top paragraph, and only mention the confusion some people have about the term later on, but that could conceivably by you seen as "POV pushing". Perhaps a split is needed there.
  • "Strict" is a word I used because there is no single word to describe acronyms, if initialisms are also called acronyms. "Classical" is perhaps better here.
  • Portmanteau acronym is a leftover from the original article. If you know of a better word, let me know.
  • Including the list of initialisms in an article on acronyms is subtly pushing the POV that initialisms are acronyms. Plus it further defeats the need for a separate "initialism acronym" article. [[User:Anárion|File:Anarion.png]] 17:35, 31 Aug 2004 (UTC)
Again, you continue to ignore the fact the the preponderance of usage points to "acronym" being used in the way I describe, and you provide no reason why we should reject this definition other than the circular argument that it is "wrong". Even though it has been shown that many people, even authors of published books, use "acronym" in the way I describe, please explain why this definition should be rejected, especially considering that you haven't shown any reason why we should reject the principle that the only arbiter of English usage is usage itself. Nohat 23:33, 1 Sep 2004 (UTC)
Nohat, you seem to be missing one fundamental point: just because "most people"(assuming that is even the case) do something does not make it right or acceptable. If we went by the "most people" rule, the possessive of 'it' would be 'it's', and 'flout and 'flaunt' would have the same meaning. Sentences such as "She was friendly, outgoing, and had an endearing smile" would be perfectly correct English. (This last grates me more than all others, because it seems even the best writers do not know how to deal with verb phrases.) I also encourage you to consider that, if you say "most people", and you do not have data to presume such, this whole thing falls under the original research clause. Having read through all this discussion, I think you lose. You sound like the religious right fending off evolution - it's not the facts, but the bigger voice which wins. Suffice it to say I will not be hanging around here for any bons mots - my observation, and don't bother to correct me if I'm wrong - is that several people have attempted to reason with you, but it's your way or the highway, as we like to say in the colonies. Denni 02:42, 2004 Sep 2 (UTC)
BTW (that would be an initialism, BTW), just as a side note to the first comment on this talk, my Oxford Dictionary of Current English has the derivation of acronym as Greek, from acron, end and onoma, name. That is to say, the name you get at the end, not the group of three, or four, or five letters spit out. That would be an initialism. Denni 02:52, 2004 Sep 2 (UTC)
Are you so afraid of your points that you refuse to argue against anything I might say in response?
Your analysis betrays a fundamental misunderstand about how language works. Your statement " just because "most people" (assuming that is even the case) do something does not make it right or acceptable" is exactly wrong. The rules of language are not handed down from on high by some priesthood of language masters. On the contrary: the rules of language are set by how language actually works. Linguistics, the study of language, has been in agreement on this point for a very long time. If you talk to people who actually study language as their profession you will find universal agreement that the very concept of prescriptive rules is fundamentally flawed and not in any way a reflection of how language works. Because linguistics is not a large field—it takes a person of certain demeanor, not to mention caliber to undertake the study with any degree of scientific rigor—there are not many people who are able to explicate the admitedly complex ideas that form the foundation of my points. On the other hand, it is no surprise that self-appointed "experts" on English who have no understanding of linguistics are willing to espouse their uninformed, facile views about how they think language should work, without having any real experience with scientific analysis of language.
You and the others continual make an appeal to authority by quoting dictionary defintions, but I would think it would be obvious then when you make such an appeal you have to provide a justification as to why your authority should be believed. As I have explained over and over and no one has been able to refute, the only arbiter of English usage is usage itself, not flawed interpretations of entries in outdated and imperfect dictionaries. No one as of yet has provided any reason why the fact that many people use "acronym" in the way I describe should be labeled incorrect other than by begging the question and just declaring it incorrect.
And the sentence "She was friendly, outgoing, and had an endearing smile" is perfectly idiomatic English and only a tireless pedant who seeks to wedge formal logic into the infinitely illogical world of language would contest that. People say and write English sentences like that all the time and the world hasn't imploded because your precious rules of parallel structure have been violated. Language works in illogical ways and that doesn't make it "wrong". All the people who have told you otherwise were simply mistaken. Furthermore, your appeal to consequences that going by the "most people" rule would lead to a irrevocable degeneration of language is such an old, trite, and trivial misunderstanding of how language change works that it's almost always covered and refuted in any introdutory linguistics class.
In sum,
  1. The only arbiter of English usage is usage itself. Neither dictionaries, usage guides, nor self-appointed "language experts" have any authority over deciding what is and isn't "correct" English. "Correct" English is defined only by the preponderance of usage. This is how language has always worked, and is how it will continue to work, regardless of how many "language experts" try to stop it.
  2. The evidence shows that many people—perhaps not a majority, but certainly a significant number—including authors of published books, use the word "acronym" to describe abbreviations like FBI.
  3. When a large number of people use a word to mean a certain thing, that certain thing becomes one of the definitions of the word. "Broadcast", for example, used to be only a farming term describing a method of distributing seeds into the ground. When the newer meaning relating to mass media came into use, it is doubtless that there were those who protested this encroachment on the meaning of a valuable farming term. But, as always, the pleas of the protesters were ignored by the users of the language and both meanings of "broadcast" are used by everyone. No one in their right mind would protest the new meaning of "broadcast" today, and I imagine that in the near future, when more dictionaries follow Merriam-Webster's suit and include the meaning of "acronym" that includes abbreviations like FBI, those who protested that definition, such as yourself, will be looked upon with mild amusement if not scorn, much as we look upon those who protested the new meaning of "broadcast". The tides of usage flow only in one direction: towards continual change.
Finally, my suggestion would be for those who think I'm wrong to spend some time learning about how language works from a scientific perspective, and then come back and argue. Until then, I'm getting tired of battling people who don't even know the first thing about the realities of linguistics. Nohat 04:53, 2 Sep 2004 (UTC)
Nohat, your hostile attacks on anyone who refutes your claim that initialisms ARE acronyms are making it extremely difficult to work out a resolution. Please consider that YOUR usage is not necessarily standard usage, and just because you believe you are correct does not make it so. [[User:Anárion|File:Anarion.png]] 07:44, 2 Sep 2004 (UTC)
What's making it difficult to work out a resolution is not my alleged hostile attacks, but your refusal to discuss the core issue at hand. You make the presumption that there is such a thing as "standard" or "correct" usage, and this is an assumption that I and all linguists reject. Until you can provide an explanation as to why there is such a thing as "correct" usage and what it is, and who defines it, the argument about what "standard usage" of the word "acronym" is is moot. I have asked now, at least 3 times, for you or anyone to give a reasonable reason as to why we should accept the notion of "standard" or "correct" usage that is not based on actual usage, and no one has even attempted. Nohat 08:07, 2 Sep 2004 (UTC)
I've read Acronym/temp and Acronym/temp2, both are superior to the current article, but I think Acronym/temp gives a better indication of usage and meaning. I'd reccomend immediately changing the article, and letting it continue to evolve from there. siroχo 05:42, Sep 2, 2004 (UTC)
/temp (Nohat's version) has the fatal flaw it treats all initialisms as if thet were acronyms, and treats the correct view as if this is a mistaken minority view. To use Nohat's favourite initialism: that is not NPOV, and unacceptable. My version takes the opposite view: acronyms are defined as they are, but the curious fact some people call initialisms and acronyms alike "acronym" is discussed. 07:44, 2 Sep 2004 (UTC)

Sorry to intrude on private grief: to add my twopennyworth, I'm a speaker of British English, and I'd never heard of an initialism before reading this discussion. Having been enlightened, I accept that there is a useful distinction to be drawn, but general usage in my experience (IME) is to ignore this technical distinction and call any contraction formed from initial letters an acronym, whether pronounced as a word (NATO or OTAN) or not (FBI) or combination (JPEG). The article ought to explain the techincal difference, but also point out the common usage. If there is a serious difference of views, then the article ought to explain that too.

Of the options, I prefer Acronym/temp2, but either is much better than the protected article. -- ALoan (Talk) 10:12, 2 Sep 2004 (UTC)

As someone who studied applied linguistics at postgrad level, I'd have to say that initialism is a semi-technical term used in the literature but not found in common usage. And usage is what counts, even in an encyclopaedia. The term Initialism forms a useful distinction for the professional linguist, but not for the general reader (who, I imagine, is the target audience here) and should be covered in the article as being the technical name for a subset of those forms that are commonly known as acronyms. And having a section in the article discussing a 'dispute' that is happening on the article talk page is just one of the more blatent examples I've seen of Wikipedia disappearing up its own fundament. Take it out altogether! 15:02, 2 Sep 2004 (UTC)

Do you mean as in In the classical definition the term acronym is reserved to abbreviations which can be pronounced as words (e.g. NATO), but the term acronym is by some extended to include the similar initialisms, which are instead pronounced as a series of single letters (e.g. HTML). and There is debate over wether the word acronym can be applied to any set of initials. One view is that any abbreviation formed out of the initials of the contained words is an acronym, regardless of wether or not the abbreviation can be pronounced as a word. Under this definition initialisms are not a distinct type of abbreviation, but rather a subset of acronyms. This definition has no word to refer to acronyms which are not initialisms. The opposite view is that abbreviations like "BBC" and "IBM" cannot be pronounced as single words, and therefore are not acronyms. Under this more exclusionary definition of "acronym" initialisms are a distinct category of abbreviations, and there is no single English word to describe both types of abbreviation. ? (from Acronym/temp2 [[User:Anárion|File:Anarion.png]] 07:40, 3 Sep 2004 (UTC)
Yes. This is not a real world dispute, it is a dispute on this page only. This habit of writing articles as if the concerns of the editors were more important than simply presenting the facts to a non-specialist readership (which is, after all, the function of an encyclopaedia) is one of the key reasons why Wikipedia is still a long way short of being as useful as any of the best available print reference works. 08:29, 3 Sep 2004 (UTC)
So you dispute that the word initialism is used to describe initialiams, and some people call these also acronyms, is a fact? [[User:Anárion|File:Anarion.png]] 08:59, 3 Sep 2004 (UTC)
No, I dispute that the dispute is a fact anywhere other than on this talk page. I have never come acros it as a dispute among linguists in the literature. I also dispute the (implied or otherwise) assertion that 'initialism' is a term in common usage among what might be tremed the 'general reader'. 09:18, 3 Sep 2004 (UTC)
It is false to claim that the dispute is unique to this page. First, the various dictionary definitions don't all agree, for example the Merriam-Webster and the OED. Second, there is definitely evidence that this dispute exists on the internet outside of Wikipedia. For example: [1] [2], and particularly in the discussion of the "acronym" and "abbr" HTML elements: [3]. Many more examples can be found by Googling for "acronym vs initialism". So, claiming that this dispute is somehow unique to this page and is therefore not worth mentioning in the article is patently false. Nohat 18:11, 4 Sep 2004 (UTC)
Oh, I also dispute there is a dispute: Nohat is the first person I have come across who insists unprouncable abbreviations can be acronyms. [[User:Anárion|File:Anarion.png]] 09:37, 3 Sep 2004 (UTC)
Then I'm the second. 09:44, 3 Sep 2004 (UTC)
I am a third, and I think there are others above. -- ALoan (Talk) 11:45, 3 Sep 2004 (UTC)
So we agree there are people who use initialism, and people who don't. [[User:Anárion|File:Anarion.png]] 11:51, 3 Sep 2004 (UTC)

I have three different dictionaries (one new Macquarie, one new Webster's, and one very old Australian Oxford) in my house, and none of them even have 'initialism' as a defined term. But all three define 'acronym' simply as "a word formed from initials of other words". I don't see why we should be forced into following in our article a distinction that is only made by the Oxford English Dictionary. - Mark 03:20, 3 Sep 2004 (UTC)

As has been pointed out somewhere on this page, the distinction is not unique to the OED, but in common use among those who know what they're talking about. [[User:Anárion|File:Anarion.png]] 07:40, 3 Sep 2004 (UTC)
But this article is not written for that audience. 08:29, 3 Sep 2004 (UTC)
But an encyclopedia should be written for everyone, not just any one hypothetical "audience". [[User:Anárion|File:Anarion.png]] 08:59, 3 Sep 2004 (UTC)
Yes, but it should be addressed primarily at the general reader, with sufficient technical information to be useful to the specialist too.
We need to reach a consensus. Would it help to crystalise matters if we had a vote on the two temp pages (either of which, I think we agree, is significantly better than the current page) with comments for and against both of them? -- ALoan (Talk) 11:45, 3 Sep 2004 (UTC)
I still fail to see what is apparently unacceptable about defining acronyms as acronyms, with a note that some people also call initialisms acronyms. This should make both the "initialisms exist" and the "all abbreviations formed from initials are acronyms" crowd happy, right? [[User:Anárion|File:Anarion.png]] 11:51, 3 Sep 2004 (UTC)

Back to left margin - yes, as it happens, I agree that Acronym/temp2 (i.e. your version) is better (I said so above yesterday) but I also think we need to reach a consensus. Excuse me for saying so, but you and Nohat seem to be rather entrenched, and I think it would help to take a straw poll of how others see the issue. I'm only trying to help ;) -- ALoan (Talk) 12:25, 3 Sep 2004 (UTC)

Yes thanks, I appreciate the help. Nohat and I are not able to reach consensus apparently. Feel free to edit /temp2 by the way. [[User:Anárion|File:Anarion.png]] 12:27, 3 Sep 2004 (UTC)
As a pretty "neutral" outsider (I added only the "ichthys" Greek example, and it is pretty much not involved in this dispute) can I offer my take on what is being said, and make a stab at resolution?
(I won't wait for an answer...) We have some editors who are very adamant about the distinction between "acronym" and "initialism", and who are supported in their view primarily by the OED. We have others who are very adamant that an "initialism" is only a type of acronym; primary support for this view comes from Merriam-Webster, and anecdotally from Google.
What about an introductory paragraph like that in Acronym/temp3? We thus identify where the typical usage of "initialism" comes from, and we can include some discussion of them in the acronym article itself (where the average Net user expects them to be, based on the anecdotal Google evidence). On the initialism page, we would need to mention that American usage, and indeed the most common usage, does not distinguish them from acronyms or considers initialism to be a subset of acronyms.
For the record, I am American, and have only heard (better "read", as I have never literally "heard" the term) the term "initialism" in very specialized discussions. If the term is is common usage in British English, for instance, a slight change to my introductory paragraph would be in order.
Of the other options presented thus far, I think that Acronym/temp2 is better; however, for some (perhaps many, yea even most, though I have no hard evidence about percentages there) readers, the distinction is not helpful for them finding the information they need. (I.e. mentioning the distinction is very useful, but hiding the information on a large part of what the layman considers an acronym in another article is not.) For the professional, we provide that information a second time, perhaps in greater detail under initialism, which is linked from acronym.
Here's hoping that this was helpful and didn't just muddy the waters more... Mpolo 02:24, Sep 5, 2004 (UTC)
On the contrary, a voice of reason. I still see no reason why this 'dispute' is covered in the article. Bmills 11:29, 6 Sep 2004 (UTC) (otherwise known as [User:|]])
It is very helpful indeed. I have revised /temp2 based on your suggestions. [[User:Anárion|File:Anarion.png]] 17:05, 6 Sep 2004 (UTC)

From the village pump

I ask that those who have formal training in linguistics pay a visit to Talk:Acronym and try to help me explain how if a large number of people use a word to mean a certain thing, then that certain thing is therefore a legitimate meaning of the word. I have been trying for several days to get this point across, but many people seem to be laboring under the mistaken belief that the only valid meanings of words are those that are set down by the Oxford English Dictionary. Nohat 04:58, 2 Sep 2004 (UTC)

More accurately: should, as Nohat wishes, the distinction between initialism and acronym be completely obscured, or should acronyms be defined as they are defined in dictionaries, with a note that some people also call initialisms "acronyms"? [[User:Anárion|File:Anarion.png]] 11:39, 2 Sep 2004 (UTC)
As you (Nohat) point out, only a lilliputian minority of people call acronyms (or a subset thereof) "initialisms", and you've already namechecked the prior (martial) art: descriptive v prescriptive grammar.
God's primary source for the "initialism" usage appears to be... er... Wikipedia. [4]
chocolateboy 01:30, 3 Sep 2004 (UTC)
This Nohat drove me away from the article with his insults and intransigent attitude after I courteously tried to open a discussion on the talk page (rather than simply correcting the article without notice). It was a very unpleasant experience, and I am not here for that. That's why I dropped out from Wikipedia for more than a year. I don't want to drop out again, so I am glad others are in there working him over. He seems to think it is his article.
It is pernicious to wilfully confuse technical terms in the way he seems determined to do. I will not participate further, but you are welcome to see my description of the problems of the article (and his responses, judge for yourself) on the talk page.
I assure you (as I did him) that I am no prescriptionist, quite the contrary, I firmly believe you cannot hold back the tide, but, as for technical terms, used to sort out technical meanings, precision (not prescription) is still the requirement. If everybody in the world confused a squid with an octopus, and a great many do, it would not matter, it would still be wrong. Usage rules in the long run, of course, but it is the duty of a reference work to try to make things clearer, not more confused. Looking things up in dictionaries does not make you a prescriptionist. There is no modern prescriptionist dictionary, they are all descriptive, as is every linguist. Insisting on the undiscussable correctness of one's own opinions, now that's prescriptionist. Ortolan88 02:30, 3 Sep 2004 (UTC)
I dispute the mistaken notion you and Nohat apparently share that initialism is a neologism. The word initialism dates from the late nineteenth century. Acronym pops up in main common usage only in the early 1940s. Also note that originally acronyms were a subset of initialisms, and certainly only had the strict meaning: initialisms which could be pronounced as a word (NATO), rather than a series of letters (FBI). At some point it seems some people began calling ALL initialisms acronyms, at which point initialism was restricted in meaning to 'acronyms which cannot be pronounced as a word'.
As Ortolan88 above I also note that Nohat's insults and his generally intransigent attitude over "his article" are the major problem here. Except for Nohat all contributors seem reasonable and wiling to work out a compromise. [[User:Anárion|File:Anarion.png]] 14:00, 3 Sep 2004 (UTC)
By the way, Nohat vs reason ;-) (not intended to be taken seriously!) [[User:Anárion|File:Anarion.png]] 14:03, 3 Sep 2004 (UTC)

I'm unaware of the dispute in process, but according to current dictionaries there is a simple, clear distinction between "acronyms," which are pronounced as single words (examples given by AHD4 are WAC, and radar), and initialisms, which are pronounced letter-by-letter (e.g. WPA, IRS, TNT, ESP). There's nothing hard to understand about that. All modern dictionaries profess to report meanings and spellings on the basis of frequency of usage. Referring to initialisms as acronyms is not a "meme on the rise," it's just imprecise. It is frequently a subtly disrespectful usage; people who don't understand the actual terms and believe they are intentionally obscurantist propellerhead jargon show their feelings by not bothering to use the proper terms for the terms themselves; that is, people who aren't interested in what TCP/IP is, are not likely to be interested in the metadetail that TCP/IP is an initialism rather than an acronym. [[User:Dpbsmith|Dpbsmith (talk)]] 14:11, 3 Sep 2004 (UTC)

Exactly! Finally someone who understands :) [[User:Anárion|File:Anarion.png]] 15:33, 3 Sep 2004 (UTC)
For the record, I don't think initialism is a neologism. I don't think I share anything with Nohat. For one thing, I have lots of hats.
Nice to see that other people think the distinction between initialism and acronym is understandable and worth keeping. On the Talk: Acronym page I point out that the article is also hopelessly confused about portmanteau words and suggest anagrams as another category of words made from words Ortolan88 16:43, 3 Sep 2004 (UTC) PS - I do wish people would indent these discussions. This is my left margin.
No doubt the distinction exists and is correct, but the common perception of acronym should be alluded to and explained. siroχo 17:20, Sep 3, 2004 (UTC)
Yes, with acronym the name of the game is pronounceability as if it were a normal noun. UNESCO, OPEC, and NATO spring to mind here. Dieter Simon 23:49, 3 Sep 2004 (UTC)

Nohat's actual view

As clarified on Wikipedia:Village pump:

  1. I never claimed "initialism" is a neologism. Indeed, the OED says it's an older word than acronym, and has quotations to prove it. I only claimed that it's a rarely-used word, and I think that is borne out by the evidence. [5].
  2. At least one major dictionary supports my view of the definition of "acronym": Merriam-Webster. Part of its definition of "acronym" says "an abbreviation (as FBI) formed from initial letters : INITIALISM", and its definition of "initialism" says, in entirety, "an acronym formed from initial letters". The dictionary clearly makes the case here that initialisms are a subset of acronyms.
  3. There is substantial evidence, delineated on Talk:Acronym, that the meaning of acronym that includes abbreviations like FBI, is in substantial use, not only online, but in published books. Published books are vetted not only by their authors, but by editors and publishers, and because so many examples of the word being used this way have crept their way into published books, it seems disingenuous to claim that this meaning of the word is only used by ignorants and the uneducated.
  4. My opponents have continually claimed that I am attempting to "obscure" the distinction between initialisms and acronyms or that I believe that the distinction is not worth keeping. This is false. My claim is that initialisms are a subset of acronyms, as Merriam-Webster explains; not that they are the same set.
  5. My opponents have claimed that I am trying to insist that my definition is the only correct definition. This too is false. Every version of Acronym that I have supported has included the information that some people and some dictionary definitions support the view that initialisms that aren't pronounced as words aren't acronyms. My only aim is that the article on acronyms treat the two definitions equally and not assert that one or the other is correct. This is what I have attempted on Acronym/temp. There are two competing definitions of "acronym". Both are supported by dictionary definitions. Both are supported by usage in published books and on the web, and I don't see any valid reason why both shouldn't be treated equally on Acronym.

Nohat 18:00, 4 Sep 2004 (UTC)

Acronym/temp and Acronym/temp2

I think that, despite the acrimonious debate that ensues, both User:Anárion's and User:Nohat's (my) versions are slowly reaching a consensus. I have recently made major changes to Acronym/temp that I encourage everyone to consider. In particular, in the dispute section, I have made an attempt to motivate the conflicting views over acronym in a NPOV way, describing the traditional definition as traditional—at this point I am willing to concede that the meaning of "acronym" that excludes abbreviations like FBI may be older and more traditional. I state that there are numerous examples of both meanings being used in published works.

I also agree that Anárion's version has improved, and think that the major assertions in the competing versions are converging. I think that the basic assertions made in my "dispute" section are the same as those in Anárion's "initialisms as acronyms" section.

The reason I advocate my version at the moment however, is because I still have a few quibbles with Anárion's version.

I think that titling the section on the dispute "initialisms as acronyms" is a little misleading. Why don't we just call a spade a spade and title the section "dispute", as I have, or something like "dispute over the defintion", or "conflicting defintions". The title "initialisms as acronym" is, I'm sorry to say, a suble push of the traditionalist POV in that it makes the assumption that "initialisms aren't acronyms", which is the core of the debate. Despite the misconceptions some of the other posters have had that this dispute is somehow unique to Wikipedia, there is plenty of evidence that this very issue has been discussed and argued elsewhere. Of course, nowhere else can the outcome of that argument claim to be neutral, as the dénouement of this argument hopefully will be. It is better not to make the assertion that the traditional definition is more correct, but simply to declare that some people believe that. I think it is equivalent to my calling the section "acronyms that aren't acronyms".

Similarly, in the first paragraph, the traditional view is described as the "classical definition", giving it more weight than the newer view, which is merely ascribed to "some people". Again this is a subtle POV push that the traditional definition is "better". It would be more neutral to describe both views using analogous terminology by stating that the status of certain abbreviations is disputed, without making the claim that they are or aren't acronyms.

Also, in the examples section, by not including examples of the disputed forms, it is pushing the POV that the traditional definition is correct. In my version, I have revised this section to clearly indicate which are traditional acronyms, and which are disputed acronyms, without actually excluding them.

In all, despite the splenetic rhetoric, I think that we have made substantial progress on reaching a consensus. If Anárion can address these few remaining issues, then I think we will reach a point where we can merge the competing versions and unprotect the main page. I hope I have addressed any remaining concerns. If not, let me know what about my version you disagree with, and I hope we can work it out.

Nohat 19:15, 4 Sep 2004 (UTC)

Your points have been adressed in Acronym/temp2 — are you agreed then it can replace the old article, so the "dispute" can end? [[User:Anárion|File:Anarion.png]] 17:35, 7 Sep 2004 (UTC)
I prefer the new Acronym/temp2 as well, because "dispute" conjures images of dozens of people up in arms about the usage of the term, and I honestly don't believe that that's the case here. There is a dispute among Wikipedia editors, but not in the wider world, so to speak. I don't think that there's anybody who would leap to his feet in a linguistics convention and cry out, "That's not an acronym, you nimwit, that's an initialism!" (or vice versa). -- Mpolo 19:47, Sep 7, 2004 (UTC)

Ending the dispute

Is there any opposition to making /temp2 into the article? All objections to it would seem to be resolved now. [[User:Anárion|File:Anarion.png]] 15:19, 9 Sep 2004 (UTC)

I wouldn't go so far as to say that all objections are resolved, since I still object to the use of "Many, including" to start the second sentence. I have still not found a single person who has even heard of initialism, so I think it is craven to include that phrase. Let me put this in context: next month I will have been working in the computer industry for 25 years, and in that time I and my colleagues have used acronyms on every single one of those working days. On the odd occasion I actually form sentences where over half the words are acronyms! I have created numerous glossaries and acronym lists, and no-one has ever corrected me. I am by nature a pedant, (which is why I irritate my colleagues by using '-ize' rather than '-ise', as Fowler recommends), so if I had found that initialism was the correct form, then I would have adopted it.
All that said, my research bears out that initialism was the original usage from 1899, and that acronym was introduced in the 1940s to give a name to initialisms that could be pronounced as a word (as opposed to spelling out the letters). However, having surveyed a number of dictionaries, the OED stands pretty much alone in even mentioning initialisms, let alone giving a meaning of spelling out the letters (which doesn't seem to have been the original intent of the word when it was created): it seems that common usage will win out in the end, with professional linguists fighting a losing battle. Alphabeticism doesn't seem to get a look in. The only saving of initialism is likely to be with the debate over ISO 1087:1990, where confusion over the and <acronym> tags seems to have forced the powers that be to give up and just use . I have seen it pointed out that this may cause confusion for speech interpreter programs, because an abbreviation like 'Mr' should be pronounced 'Mister'; 'radar' should be pronounced 'radar'; FBI should be pronounced 'eff bee eye'; 'JPEG' should be pronounced 'jay peg'; and 'SAT' could be pronounced either as 'sat' or 'ess ay tee' depending on context. Bad luck for the blind community.
Temp2 is a much better starting point (now that Poccil has eliminated the castrated ram). There will still be work to do, but I think things are a lot clearer now. [[User:Noisy|Noisy | Talk]] 17:37, 9 Sep 2004 (UTC)
Thanks. You are, of course, quite correct on the initialism/acronym change-in-meaning, and this (complete with perhaps other points) should still be addressed, but I feel this should be done in the main article 'acronym' and not in multiple competing temp versions. About the HTML tag: that merits mentioning in the article, as it strengthens the point that the term acronym has become dilluted in meaning since the 1940s. [[User:Anárion|File:Anarion.png]] 17:43, 9 Sep 2004 (UTC)
"Many" is certainly a "weasel word" in Wikipedia parlance, but I don't think it is going to be possible to avoid some squirming there. There obviously exist persons that use this word (User:Anárion comes to mind), but it's kind of hard to judge just how many. Google hits for "initialism" tend to be the Wikipedia article or mirrors of it, at least in the first 20. It also shows up on a "hacker" message board, with someone vehemently defending that IBM is no acronym. Do you have a suggestion to better reflect all points of view? (We might soften "many" to "some", though that's still weaselly...) .. Mpolo 17:52, Sep 9, 2004 (UTC)
Hmm. What about "Primarily in professional linguism, people further distinguish (etc.)"? I could live with that, and should avoid "weasel words" [[User:Anárion|File:Anarion.png]] 18:01, 9 Sep 2004 (UTC)
I like it. If there is no complaint after about a day, I would say to go ahead and replace the page with /temp2 with that change. There will probably still be some changes to make, but it's a much better base, I believe. -- Mpolo 18:59, Sep 9, 2004 (UTC)

I'm not clear how the idea that "professional linguists" are the ones who prefer the traditional definition got in here. As I explained before, if you actually ask linguists, what you'll find is that they defend definitions that reflect actual usage. Indeed, any "linguist" who takes a prescriptive view of usage could hardly be called "professional".

Ascribe the insistience of usage to those who actually insist upon it: prescriptive grammarians. Nohat 05:14, 10 Sep 2004 (UTC)

Nohat, please don't start this again. Despite what you think, initialism is not reserved to pedantic, prescriptive grammar geeks. Do you have any real objections, and suggestions on how to change them? [[User:Anárion|File:Anarion.png]] 07:31, 10 Sep 2004 (UTC)
You misunderstand me. My objection is that there isn't any evidence that "professional linguists" are the ones who use the word this way. Show me some evidence that they do, or reword it. Nohat 17:01, 10 Sep 2004 (UTC)
So what do you, guardian of the Nohattian err "English" language, recommend instead? Surely you cannot still believe initialism is used by nobody. [[User:Anárion|АПА́ДІОП]] 17:06, 10 Sep 2004 (UTC)

Well, I've changed my tune somewhat since I entered this debate, so I did a Google on 'lingistics initialism' and came up with the following examples: Swedish (?) source another international source old (1994) Linguitics discussion thread PDF file (dissertation ?) blog reference to 'Penguin Dictionary of English Grammar' University of North Carolina course exercise by Mark Canada - the Professor of English

Most of those seem to be of an academic bent, rather than related to common usage. If these don't fit the bill, I'll carry on working through the 533 hits. I am now really confused. I'm going to buy the latest Fowler's at the weekend: mine is only the second edition. Perhaps that will clear things up. [[User:Noisy|Noisy | Talk]] 17:57, 10 Sep 2004 (UTC)

I think the phrase "Primarily in professional linguism" is unacceptably overstating the case. The distinction between acronym and initialism is expressed in ordinary definitions in some ordinary desk dictionaries, such as the one that is within arm's reach of me as I write. Desk dictionaries are not tools for professional linguists. It's just a case of precise usage versus loose usage. Note, too, the closely related word "acrostic," "A poem or series of lines in which certain letters, usually the first in each line, form a name, motto, or message when read in sequence." A random series of letters is not an acrostic, nor is it an acronym, except in loose usage. Some authorities consider it acceptable loose usage, some do not.

Another random data point is that if you search on Amazon for "dictionary of acronyms," you will find that there are very few books which are simply "dictionaries of acronyms." Most of them are split, roughly half-and-half, between "dictionary of acronyms and abbrevations" and "dictionary of acronyms and initialisms." This confirms my belief that precise usage restricts acronyms to mean only pronounceable combinations. It of course leaves open the question of whether people who are not "professional linguists" care about precise usage. [[User:Dpbsmith|Dpbsmith (talk)]] 13:41, 11 Sep 2004 (UTC)

Indeed it is entirely the other way around. Only those people who are not "professional linguists" care about precise usage. Professional linguists tend to concern themselves mainly with how words are actually used, not with how people think they ought to be used. The idea that it is professional linguists who would insist upon one meaning of a word and not another is just wrong. It is an entirely separate group that concerns themselves with such things and it is simply a misrepresentation to associate that kind of behavior with linguists. As I explained above, the name for that group of people is grammarians, in particular, prescriptive grammarians. Nohat 22:26, 11 Sep 2004 (UTC)
So, by your logic, "prescriptive grammarians" are not linguists? [[User:Anárion|Ана́рыён]] 22:30, 11 Sep 2004 (UTC)
That is correct. A linguist is a person with a degree in linguistics, or at least some linguistic training, who studies how language works, not someone who makes pronouncements of how language ought to work. See Linguistics#Narrower conceptions of .22linguistics.22 Nohat 03:43, 12 Sep 2004 (UTC)
So you see yourself as a "prescriptive linguist" then? Can you give any constructive criticism as to how to rephrase the sentence? [[User:Anárion|Ана́рыён]] 11:54, 12 Sep 2004 (UTC)
Could we say something like this:
A further distinction is sometimes made among grammarians and other students of language between acronyms that can be pronounced as a word (e.g. NATO) and those that cannot (e.g. HTML). The latter category may be termed initialisms.
We remove "professional linguist" in favor of grammarians and students of language. We weasel in a "sometimes" to indicate that it is not universal, but we keep the distinction in the article, as is currently done in /temp2. Is that acceptable to all? -- Mpolo 12:34, Sep 12, 2004 (UTC)
I've rephrased it as:
The term is often further restricted to abbreviations which can be pronounced as words (e.g. NATO). Abbreviations which are instead pronounced as a series of single letters (e.g. HTML) are classed as initialisms.
Primary reason is that not only grammarians and language students use the term initialism. [[User:Anárion|Ана́рыён]] 12:37, 12 Sep 2004 (UTC)

Silly question

Standard (Attic) Greek for "name" is onoma, not onyma, which is Aeolean or Doric. Is it worth noting that this is Aeolean/Doric in the etymology line, or should we leave well enough alone. Mpolo 19:12, Sep 12, 2004 (UTC)

What is the form in classic Greek? (Or is that "Attic Greek"…) [[User:Anárion| (Anárion)]] 19:50, 12 Sep 2004 (UTC)
Attic is usually considered to be "the" classical Greek (primarily because 95% of the authors anyone reads wrote it -- it was the dialect of Athens). Most classical dictionaries consider the other dialects only as cross-references to the Attic form -- mine had onyma, onymazw, onymainw Aeol. and Dor. for onom-. Attic was the basis that developed Koiné (Biblical Greek) and Demotic (Medieval Greek), and ultimately Modern Greek. After checking, I see that the dialect "Aeol." is called "Aeolic", not "Aeolian". -- Mpolo 07:26, Sep 13, 2004 (UTC)
Thank you. I find it rather interesting… should merit a note in the article. (Perhaps instead of Greek, Aeolic/Doric Greek ?) On the other hand this may unnecessarily clutter the sentence. [[User:Anárion| (Anárion)]] 07:33, 13 Sep 2004 (UTC)