Tag Archives: pronunciation

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!