How do we feel about acronyms?

I’ve been sitting in on a class on developmental language disorders here at Purdue. The course instructor, Larry Leonard, was describing the Rice/Wexler Test of Early Grammatical Impairment, which “assesses the use of tense and agreement morphology by children ages 3 through 8 years” (from my handout). Apparently, some people know this test by its initials, TEGI, and some subset of those people use TEGI as an acronym pronounced /tigi/. Larry went on to say that, amongst certain circles of the speech and hearing world, /tigi/ is looked down upon. This reminded me of a rant by NPR sports contributor Frank Deford about the pronunciation of the baseball term RBI as /rɪbi/.

So, here’s my question: do acronyms generally have social stigma when compared to a competing initialism (or alphabetization, as I was taught)? Is this a case of a prescriptively bad phonological process?

Note: A brief search didn’t turn up discussion of this issue on Language Log, although the acronym/initialism distinction seems well covered. And here’s a sampling of pronunciations from Nintendo fans!

One thought on “How do we feel about acronyms?

  1. FMA

    I don’t know about social stigma but it could start to get really confusing. If you have people saying ribi, fibi, fada, faha, faaa and so on, it would be hard to know what people are talking about. It would be like having to learn a new language. You might get confusion about what additional vowel sound should be added. The above are RBI, FBI, FDA, FHA and FAA.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.