Sunday, January 22, 2006

Peruse This Acronym

In what amounts to some kind of cosmological convergence, the entire history of Tongue-Tied (all two posts!) has come together today in The New York Times Magazine. To review: In my first post, I questioned Charles McGrath's recent prescriptivist wisecrack about an author's supposed misuse of the word "peruse." In my second post, I questioned Geoffrey Pullum's prescriptivist rant--or so I cluelessly (?) called it--about a website's supposed misuse of the word "acronym." Now McGrath has misused the word "acroynym"! Professor Pullum, meet Mr. McGrath.

McGrath writes, in an interesting essay on text-messaging, "Shorthand contractions . . . , emoticons . . . and acronyms (like the ubiquitous "lol," for "laughing out loud"), constitute the language of text-messaging." As far as I know, no one pronounces "lol" as a word--people say "el-oh-el"--so it's not, strictly, an acronym.

But if you can't call it an acronym, what can you call it? Somehow "abbreviation" just doesn't quite do the job, which is why I think so many people resort to "acronym." Perhaps we need a new term, so poor "acronym" doesn't get corrupted. Let's see, you might think of these things as alphabetical emoticons, or, better, alphabetical icons. (Not that they're really icons, but maybe that's just a quibble.) Um, betacons?


At 5:04 PM, Blogger Adam said...

Hm. Off the top of my head, brainstorming: alphacons, lettercons ellocons (for ell-oh-ell), ellonyms... emotonyms, maybe?

At 1:45 AM, Blogger Kellen said...

"LOL" is often pronounced as a word ala "lull." I hear this usage commonly, but I probably wouldn't proclaim it the standard.

At 2:36 PM, Blogger tongue-tied said...

Kellen, thanks for that observation. I've never heard anyone pronounce LOL as a word. I wouldn't have expected it. I'm curious as to how it's actually used. Do people "Lol" in lieu of actual laughing? Is it meant sarcastically, like "Ha ha"?

At 2:40 AM, Blogger Tracy Q said...

Some do, however, pronounce "imho" as a word. (short for: In My Humble Opinion) It probably just depends on how easy it would be to pronounce. FWIW, most Anglophones are unlikely to go 'round saying fooo-i-wuh.

Come to think of it, is there any problem with calling LOL shorthand? It seems to me that people are overthinking this.

At 9:33 PM, Blogger ankh said...

shortthumb, maybe? They don't use their hands to type.

At 7:49 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

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