Oct 20, 2007

Abbreviation or Acronym?

Just a few days ago, during the time of English Composition class, it was mentioned a point about the difference between the terms, “Abbreviation” and “Acronym” which I think Mr. Qasimi, some of my fellows and also myself, were all wrong. As a modern personality, I think of this as a responsibility to write about it and open that discussion a little bit more.

First I am going to give a definition for each term, “abbreviation” and “acronym”, then pay to the stated opinions to reject or approve them.

According to Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English Online, “abbreviation” is:

1. “A short form of a word or expression.”
And the example:

- “‘Dr’ is the written abbreviation of ‘Doctor’.”

The same dictionary defines “acronym” as:

- “A word made up from the first letters of the name of something such as an organization. For example NATO is an acronym for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.”

The definition of “acronym” which Cambridge Advanced Learner's Dictionary Online gives is:

- “An abbreviation consisting of the first letters of each word in the name of something, pronounced as a word”

And the example:

- “AIDS is an acronym for ‘Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome’.”

But what was the problem? In that session of English Composition class that was about “Letter Writing”, it was asked that what MZQ was at the end of the letter. Mr. Qasimi said it was an “abbreviation” of “Muhammad Zafeer Qasimi”. I disagreed with him and said it was an “acronym”. Also some of my fellows gave their opinions.

But after that session, through looking up some dictionaries, I got to the result that you considered and that, we both were wrong.

Now I want you to pay attention to the definition of “initial” according to Cambridge Advanced Learner's Dictionary Online:

- “The first letter of a name, especially when used to represent a name.”

And the examples:

- “He wrote his initials, P.M.R., at the bottom of the page.”

- “Paul M. Reynolds refused to say what the initial "M" stood for.”

Therefore I think that “MZQ” must be an “initial” of “Muhammad Zafeer Qasimi” and neither an “abbreviation” nor “acronym”.

But as linguistics and translation are of my hobbies, this question arises (!) that, what words we can use in Persian for these terms, “abbreviation”, “acronym” and “initial”. Daryoush Ashouri’s Dictionary for Human Sciences suggests new words for these terms:

abbreviation: کوتهْ‌‌نوشت
acronym: سرواژه
initial: سرنام
Also you can click here to read a fragment about this point.

Your comments about this fragment are welcomed.

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