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PostPosted: Sun Oct 14, 2018 4:53 pm 
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Sorry - another typographical hobby-horse of mine.

Has anybody else noticed a strange drift in the media away from capitalising the names of organisations that are normally known by their initials, and presenting them as words - but only if the initials COULD make a pronouncable word?

For example - news media have started referring to NASA as Nasa.
The BBC does NOT, however, refer to itself as the Bbc.
RADA seems to be wobbling both ways, but nobody is typing Ibm, Vw, Lg or Mbna, and for some reason, even though you can (sort of) voice it, HBOS seems to maintain its capitals.
BAe Systems has rendered itself immune from this effect by not having "proper" initialisation.

Whilst for the most part this is a harmless journalistic affectation, I have recently had a few moments of confusion when reading news items in which organisations whose initials (deliberately or otherwise) actually spell a word have been referred to in a way that changed the meaning of the text.

I blame acronyms for it, myself. And that's a whole new PITA.

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PostPosted: Sun Oct 14, 2018 4:54 pm 
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Let's not conflate acronyms and abbreviations. :)

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PostPosted: Sun Oct 14, 2018 7:28 pm 
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WaitUntilTheC#ProgrammersGetOnTheSceneWithTheirCamelCase! as per Microsoft's standards.

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PostPosted: Sun Oct 14, 2018 8:06 pm 
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To paraphrase Wittgenstein, language is like a large town...at its heart is the old town, traditional buildings etc, but as it spreads outwards due to the influx of inhabitants, it's architecture changes, adapts. I really like that analogy, it identifies that language is a tool and adapts to meet any new situation. What Wittgenstein did not mention, however, is that there are a lot of dead end streets and dark alleys in any given town, and we should avoid, as far as possible, allowing language or it's users to pull us down those roads to an inevitable stagnation.

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PostPosted: Sun Oct 14, 2018 8:06 pm 
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PostPosted: Sun Oct 14, 2018 8:17 pm 
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bonefish blues wrote:
Let's not conflate acronyms and abbreviations. :)


Hopefully, I didn't. No abbreviations were harmed in the making of this post.

RADAR is an acronym, inasmuch as we use it as a word. So is NASA.
BBC is not, AFAIK, though, weirdly, Beeb is an abbreviation of "beebeesee".

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PostPosted: Sun Oct 14, 2018 9:00 pm 
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A little thing wot I scribbled, enjoy or ignore...

Paradox of technology

We now have an ability to communicate in less than a second with anyone with Internet access or a mobile phone virtually anywhere in the world. The speed of communication has diminished to a point where it has become almost negligible, but rather than free us up for more productive activities, I will argue that it is causing an erosion of language and original thinking that poses a massive threat to society. There are many communication models, breaking down words, sentences, placement of words and correct usage. Our ability to quickly communicate has brought about another variable – expectation. The time we have to prepare our thoughts and make a reply has diminished because the expectation of the sender to receive a reply is now so imminent, the danger is the replies become less and less meaningful until they are essentially meaningless. We have more time in which to communicate because of the initial speed, but less time in which to reply because of the weight of expectation.



Many emails have a ‘mark when read’ option, iPhones allow the sender to know when the message was sent, received and read. Many messenger services like Whatsapp have a similar system. We are trapped in an ever decreasing circle of communication, expectation and reply. Think of the letters of Samuel Coleridge, Virginia Woolf, Hunter Thompson. They are as well written and well thought out as much of their poetry or prose. The expectation of communication was that it should be of a good quality. Social etiquette and personal pride demanded it. The expectation nowadays is that it should be now, or near as damnit now! The worry here is that we have the bar steward of the English language in order to send replies whilst under pressure. LOL, OMG, M8 have all proliferated not only as a culturally inherent shorthand but in day to day speech. When metaphor was integrated into our language, it enhanced and enriched it. For instance, a bottle didn't always have a neck, a river did not always have a mouth. A comparative language of description was implemented to allow our communication more leeway. Metaphor will always enrich language, but the rich narratives of poetry, prose and that richest seam of language, conversation, are not, and will never be enriched by the addition of LOL!



Expectation also encourages the diminution of words already in circulation. My fear is that there will be generations to come who genuinely believe that a McDonald's Happy Meal is awesome, that they love their phone and they hate Brussel sprouts. Awesome, love, hate, sublime, war…there are a whole pantheon of words that have lost their shock value because of their appropriation and subsequent use by a generation who do not appreciate the enormity of their true meaning. These words are now pejorative in comparison to their previous use. How will a generation who has expressed love and hate as casually as they have used a term previously reserved for the sublime cope with experiencing love, hate or the sublime? Previous generations have, as Wittgenstein suggested, experienced frustration as the bars of the cage that is language limited their ability to express themselves truly. All though we can no more describe the sublime with a rich vocabulary than with an ever shrinking one, language has been a big, wide ranging cage. When we practise its use, we can really get a really good run up before we are aware of its imposition! Our cage is so vast and rich that some may never even feel it's limitations. My fear is that the expectation imposed by the speed of today's communication will ensure our existing cage shrinks, and to complete the metaphor, future generations will only be allowed a few steps before the bars of their cage impinge upon their ability to communicate anything more than a cursory and wholly inappropriate ‘OMG that was awesome!’ My biggest fear is that as language devolves , future generations will not feel the frustrations of being trapped by their ever shrinking cell and their silent acceptance will bring with it a dark age for interpersonal communication and literature.



Another problem that modern technology brings is that information is instantly available, and readily accepted as fact due to its perceived veracity. Nietzsche suggested there were no such thing as facts, only interpretation. Our second paradox is that this vast resource of information is available to anyone, at anytime, within seconds. Those who use the Internet and gain access to these facts so quickly must then have the time to check the veracity, or otherwise of the information they read. But most don't. Wikipedia has become ‘a bloke down the pub told me.’ Rod Stewart sang ‘The first cut is the deepest’, a modern interpretation might be ‘the first hit is the truest.’ People have fallen into the bad habit of not researching their field of interest. Let us look at a controversial question, one which may be asked by those seeking solace for their beliefs. If you type ‘Does the Bible/Koran class homosexuality as a sin?’ , the first pages of hits will unequivocally suggest yes, they do. The response to this narrow field of enquiry will doubtless reinforce the answer the person making the enquiry seeks. If these enquiries are made in order only to give credence to an interpretation the enquirer believes to be true, it must lead to an ignorant certainty. This creeping fundamentalism will ultimately diminish the end users powers of deduction and ultimately the pool of information itself will shrink. Paradox.



The time saved in the finding and processing of information presented as facts allows time for the end user to spend time sharing these facts with their social groups through social media in seconds. This repetitive dogma doubtless elicits a few ‘omgs, lols and awesomes’, thus further eroding our vocabulary. Timothy Leary claimed a mind once expanded can never return to its original shape. One can argue that a mind that withers on the vine of certainty will struggle to blossom again. Wisdom is as much about forgetting as it is remembering. The ultimate irony is that it is the process of deciding what to forget that brings pleasure. Nietzsche’s interpretation can only happen if one bothers to access point and counterpoint. Noam Chomsky believes education can be a method of control rather than a tool for emancipation. The speed of communication and attainment of information , and ensuing temporal expectation is the ultimate instrument of control. Students can be encouraged to remember and regurgitate information, or other people's interpretation of information presented as fait acompli. This method of schooling has been implemented throughout history to ensure that society gets its worker drones. If we can prove consistently from an early age that we will turn up on time, blindly accept and regurgitate the opinions of experts, we are preparing ourselves perfectly for a career on the shop floor or in middle management. The Internet as an educational tool may turn out to be a yoke for the masses. Like Marx’ religion, it may have the brief heady highs of an opiate but ultimately it will keep the good citizens in check. Archimedes believed that with a long enough lever, he could lift the world. With a constant accessing, comparing and evolving of information and language, we can lift our world. The paradox of technological process might mean we end up without the leverage!

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PostPosted: Mon Oct 15, 2018 2:39 am 
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CitTone wrote:
bonefish blues wrote:
Let's not conflate acronyms and abbreviations. :)


Hopefully, I didn't. No abbreviations were harmed in the making of this post.

RADAR is an acronym, inasmuch as we use it as a word. So is NASA.
BBC is not, AFAIK, though, weirdly, Beeb is an abbreviation of "beebeesee".


Don't forget LASER SCUBA AGA TASER MODEM

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PostPosted: Mon Oct 15, 2018 6:24 am 
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Gaz38 wrote:
CitTone wrote:
bonefish blues wrote:
Let's not conflate acronyms and abbreviations. :)


Hopefully, I didn't. No abbreviations were harmed in the making of this post.

RADAR is an acronym, inasmuch as we use it as a word. So is NASA.
BBC is not, AFAIK, though, weirdly, Beeb is an abbreviation of "beebeesee".


Don't forget LASER SCUBA AGA TASER MODEM



Also: BASE (as in jumping), CAPTCHA, DERV, GIF, SONAR, SOWETO and finally clio sport (for the Red Dwarf fans....think that will get 'swapped out' under the swear filter :-) )

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PostPosted: Mon Oct 15, 2018 10:40 am 
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CitTone wrote:
BAe Systems has rendered itself immune from this effect by not having "proper" initialisation.


BAE Systems (a former employer and client of mine) were formed from the former British Aerospace (hence BAe, to distinguish them from British Airways ( BA )

However they decided that they were going to become a 'Global Brand' and dropped any reference to British Aerospace in their name. Indeed, I saw an interview on the Beeb (sorry, couldn't resist :) ) where the interviewee jumped down the throat of the poor reporter who called them British Aerospace. They see themselves as a gloabal manufacturer of Systems (read: Tanks, Ships, Aircraft and Weapons) rather than something uniquely British. Much as the American giants GDMS (General Dynamics Mission Systems) and Lockheed Martin have operations in the UK and elsewhere, so do BAE Systems.

So much as they were BAe (for British Aerospace ) they are now just BAE Systems, where the BAE has no meaning at all. Theoretically it could be YZX Systems.

You may well think that are they going around with their heads trapped in an anatomically impossible place? You may well ask. To use the Urquhart conjecture, you may well think that, I couldn't possibly comment.


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PostPosted: Mon Oct 15, 2018 12:26 pm 
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Unbelievably there was chat about the difference between acronyms and initialization on five live up all night this morning about 01.50, quiet news day.....

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PostPosted: Mon Oct 15, 2018 12:38 pm 
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I always write "Saab", not "SAAB", as I consider it a proper noun rather than an acronym. No one speaks of a Svenska Aeroplan Aktiebolaget 900.

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PostPosted: Mon Oct 15, 2018 12:42 pm 
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melle wrote:
I always write "Saab", not "SAAB", as I consider it a proper noun rather than an acronym. No one speaks of a Svenska Aeroplan Aktiebolaget 900.

Saab, then, is an acronym? Whereas BMW is an example of initialization?

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PostPosted: Mon Oct 15, 2018 12:59 pm 
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Did you know that TLA is a TLA? ... :corn:


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PostPosted: Mon Oct 15, 2018 1:05 pm 
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gbn wrote:
Unbelievably there was chat about the difference between acronyms and initialization on five live up all night this morning about 01.50, quiet news day.....

These are important matters!

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PostPosted: Mon Oct 15, 2018 1:40 pm 
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gbn wrote:
Saab, then, is an acronym? Whereas BMW is an example of initialization?

I think the acronym is a sub-category of initialism/ initialisation (?), such as initialism is a sub-category of abbreviation. Of course "Saab" originally is an acronym, but hardly anyone perceives it as such now I suppose. As observed earlier, if initials can't be pronounced as a single word, writing "Bmw" doesn't make much sense, even though probably no one thinks of Bayerische Motoren Werke these days.

I just read the piece you wrote above, interesting stuff. I regularly mark undergrad essays and reports and their threshold for "evidence" is often shockingly low. However, when discussing their work with them, my main observation is not that they're lazy or take the first Google results for granted as being "the truth", but that they simply drown in the sheer amount of information and have no idea how to critically analyse it. I doubt we should blame information overload of digital media though, I would rather point at decades of austerity eroding the education system. I would expect students paying >£9000 a year in tuition fees to be provided with a decent amount of training in information selection and analysis, but what they're currently offered is rather meagre.

Regarding the current use of hyperboles, you may find this interesting. You can play around with dates and categories or type in other words.

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PostPosted: Mon Oct 15, 2018 2:12 pm 
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On the subject of BAe, or, for that matter, BAE, it is definitely the oddball in the discussion.
You could, possibly, pronounce it as "bay" but nobody would. OTOH it is not a set of initials either!
I am pretty sure there are other examples, but cannot think of any at the moment.
Texaco, Benelux and Conoco are abbreviations but behave like acronyms.
I have some Chelsea buns in the oven, so I'm off to check them.

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PostPosted: Mon Oct 15, 2018 2:34 pm 
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Don't forget FIAT and ALFA...

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PostPosted: Mon Oct 15, 2018 2:41 pm 
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CitTone wrote:
bonefish blues wrote:
Let's not conflate acronyms and abbreviations. :)


Hopefully, I didn't. No abbreviations were harmed in the making of this post.

RADAR is an acronym, inasmuch as we use it as a word. So is NASA.
BBC is not, AFAIK, though, weirdly, Beeb is an abbreviation of "beebeesee".


That's because it's an initialism. That is where the first letters of an organisation's name are used to refer to it and they are each pronounced individually - such as BBC, ITV, MOD and so forth.

As you say, an Acronym is the initials of a word which you read as a word. So NASA and RADAR are acronyms.

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PostPosted: Mon Oct 15, 2018 2:56 pm 
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melle wrote:
gbn wrote:
Saab, then, is an acronym? Whereas BMW is an example of initialization?

I think the acronym is a sub-category of initialism/ initialisation (?), such as initialism is a sub-category of abbreviation. Of course "Saab" originally is an acronym, but hardly anyone perceives it as such now I suppose. As observed earlier, if initials can't be pronounced as a single word, writing "Bmw" doesn't make much sense, even though probably no one thinks of Bayerische Motoren Werke these days.

I just read the piece you wrote above, interesting stuff. I regularly mark undergrad essays and reports and their threshold for "evidence" is often shockingly low. However, when discussing their work with them, my main observation is not that they're lazy or take the first Google results for granted as being "the truth", but that they simply drown in the sheer amount of information and have no idea how to critically analyse it. I doubt we should blame information overload of digital media though, I would rather point at decades of austerity eroding the education system. I would expect students paying >£9000 a year in tuition fees to be provided with a decent amount of training in information selection and analysis, but what they're currently offered is rather meagre.

Regarding the current use of hyperboles, you may find this interesting. You can play around with dates and categories or type in other words.

Many thanks, for my many sins I am, i suppose, a philosopher, or at least that's what the miniscule amount of letters after my name suggest, and I find language fascinating. Currently trying to get down in words that, to summarize, in a democracy people may get the leadership they deserve, but they also get the language they deserve. This thought that words gain new meaning must only happen with the approbation of others, so one can argue that slang, jargon etc, is adopted in semi democratic terms, ie if enough people accept it, it becomes accepted. Another quote that can be twisted is that we should judge a society by the way it treats it's criminals...i now wonder if we can judge a society by the way it treats it's language? Now that's an awesome thought, truly awesome :D

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