Humanist Discussion Group

Humanist Archives: April 4, 2022, 5:57 a.m. Humanist 35.635 - acronyms

              Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 35, No. 635.
        Department of Digital Humanities, University of Cologne
                      Hosted by DH-Cologne
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        Date: 2022-04-03 14:06:32+00:00
        From: David Hoover <>
        Subject: Re: [Humanist] 35.632: acronymic (un)problematic

On Acronyms, I find the most interesting of the examples where the meaning
has changed to be the (usually longer) ones that have, for most speakers,
lost all identity as acronyms. Perhaps the most famous example is
"radar" ' *radio detection and ranging,' * but, for at least younger readers of 
humanist, "scuba" also qualifies '' *s*elf *c*ontained *u*nderwater *b*reathing
*a*pparatus' and of course "snafu" 'situation normal, all f--ked up'. 

Probably for most speakers of English these are simply unanalyzable 
morphemes. The fairly well known explanation of "posh" as 'port out, 
starboard home' is apparently not very secure, and there are lots of famous 
false etymologies from acronyms, such as 'for unlawful carnal knowledge' . 
On the other side are the wonderful examples where the organization seems 
to have been named in order to produce a meaningful acronym: NOW, PUSH.
For those old enough,  the delightful C.R.E.E.P. , an expansion of earlier
CRP 'Committee for the Re-election of the President' brightened the
post-Watergate days.

Some of you will remember the (failed?) attempts to name the 'Alliance of
Digital Humanities Organizations' so as to achieve a nice acronym.


            David L. Hoover, Professor of English, NYU
         212-998-8832       244 Greene Street, Room 409

"They had the Nos. of the rain bow and the Power of the air all
workit out with counting which is how they got boats in the air
and picters on the wind. Counting clevverness is what it wer."
-- Russell Hoban, Riddley Walker

On Sun, Apr 3, 2022 at 3:29 AM Humanist <> wrote:

>               Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 35, No. 632.
>         Department of Digital Humanities, University of Cologne
>                       Hosted by DH-Cologne
>         Date: 2022-04-02 10:31:18+00:00
>         From: Christian-Emil Smith Ore <>
>         Subject: Re: [Humanist] 35.631: the acronymic problematic
> Dear all,
> Frequently used acronyms tends to become nouns or may be other POS (!), For
> example "The National Health Service (NHS)"  in UK: "The NHS is a national
> service" , "Most Kiwi POWs were soldiers captured in Greece" etc. Such
> acronyms
> will often get their own pronunciation.
> What an acronym denotes (means) is another thing. This can change over
> time as
> does the meaning of ordinary words. Nothing extraordinary.
> AI used to denote a sub field of Computer Science, but has apparently
> started to
> mean a product or an application.  It is told that term Artificial
> Intelligence
> was suggested at a US conference  in the 1960 and was widely used because
> of its
> potential to get funding of research, a potential it still has. In the
> 1980ies
> applications written in LISP  were AI and applications written in  PROLOG
> were
> Knowledge Engineering.  Then we got neural networks (again an
> anthropomorphism)
> and neural networks 2.0 and then AI again.
> Christian-Emil Ore
> Univeristy of Oslo

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