Pronounce this

Over on Language Log, Geoff Pullum illustrates the (apparently important) distinction between an acronym — a word “composed of the initial letters of a phrase” such that “you can read out the initial letters as if they were a word” — and an abbreviation (the same as an acronym, except it’s not pronounceable as a word).

I agree that FTBSITTTD looks pretty unpronounceable, but then again, I would have thought that fhqwhgads is unpronounceable, but now I know that it’s (something like) [fəˈhʌg(ə)wəˌgadz]. So how about the pronunciation [fəˈtʌbsɪtəˌtʌd] — or just [fəˈtʌbsɪt] — for FTBSITTTD? It could happen.

Incidentally, note that this entry in the Urban Dictionary says that fhwqwgads is an “[a]bbreviation [note–not acronym!] of the name fhwqwgadshgnsdhjsdbkhsdbkhsdabkfabkveybvf” (listen). (If you’re really confused, you just need to see this and all will be revealed.)

The Urban Dictionary entry just cited illustrates one of many common misspellings of the original fhqwhgads, including fhgwgads, fhgwgds, and these others, just to note a few. No surprise, really. If you listen to the song, I think you’ll find almost as many distinguishable pronunciations, ranging from [fəˈhʊgwəˌgadz] (listen) to [ˌfəhəwəˈgadz] (listen).

3 thoughts on “Pronounce this

  1. Outi Bat-El

    What about “acronyms” vs. “acronym words”? Abbreviations should be viewed as a general term, referring to both types of acronyms, clips, clipped compounds, etc.

  2. David Romano

    Too bad Geoff Pullum didn’t mention a backronym, which is what I think is interesting. The first one I became aware of (and where it was called as such) was Perl , yet many job postings still write it as PERL. Perl is the only backronym I know for certain where case is of the utmost importance, but there are probably others too.

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