For Your FYI
TLAs. They’re everywhere. You know—three-letter acronyms or, to be more inclusive, three-letter abbreviations. Some acronyms or abbreviations are even four or more letters long.
FYI, I might have to stop by the ATM on the way to the PTA meeting. Did FDR belong to the NRA or own a BMW? You’d better find out, PDQ.
Strictly speaking, none of those examples is a true acronym. They are all abbreviations. What’s the difference, you ask? Well, acronyms are special abbreviations that are pronounced like a word. For example: NATO, SPAM, and AIDS. However, since ATM is pronounced one letter at a time (eh-tee-em,) it is merely an abbreviation. Feel free to impress your friends with your new-found knowledge.
The jury is still out on what to call abbreviations like JPEG (jay-peg) or MS-DOS (em-ess-doss), since they include a partial acronym. Some refer to these treasures by the catchy term, acronym-initialism hybrids. Just rolls off your tongue, doesn’t it. Though, if you just call them acronyms, I won’t tell anyone.
And what about abbreviations with numbers in them, like Y2K or 4GL? I don’t know. Some people—who they are, I have no idea—even hold that TLA (remember, three letter abbreviations) should be expressed 3LA. It truly makes my head spin.
My biggest pet-peeve surrounding this topic is Redundant Acronym Syndrome or, cleverly, RAS syndrome. This is the “common tendency to use one of the words which make up an acronym or initialism as well as the abbreviation itself, thus in effect repeating that word.” (Wikipedia). Therefore, RAS syndrome = Redundant Acronym Syndrome syndrome.
This syndrome happens, it seems, when the abbreviation has aged to the point that people forget, or at least don’t consider, the words that the abbreviation abbreviates. Corporate rebranding is a big instigator of this syndrome, as well. Like when Trustee Savings Bank became TSB Bank or Discount Shoe Warehouse changed its name to DSW Shoe Warehouse—one of my favs.
So, gentle readers remember: it is not an ATM machine, a PIN number, a NIC card, the GPS system, or any of these others. Be kind to your TLAs, 3LAs, and other abbreviations. They are working hard for you.
I’d love your comment with your favorite (or most irking) RAS syndrome examples.
27/Sep/2006 – For Your FYI 3 comments