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suze
699975.  Wed Apr 21, 2010 11:00 am Reply with quote

The notion that acronyms were uncommon before WWII is entirely correct. ANZAC - first used as an acronym in 1915 - is a rare earlier example, but not in fact the earliest.

If anyone can beat 1886, then quite a lot of people want to hear about it - that is the current date for the earliest known acronym in English.

See post 251881 for the details.

 
CB27
700059.  Wed Apr 21, 2010 3:07 pm Reply with quote

And the earliest coinage of acronym is 1943 :)

 
Zebra57
700127.  Wed Apr 21, 2010 5:12 pm Reply with quote

Although not prior to 1886 the Automobile Association (AA) has been known as the AA since its formation 1905. AA is now the name by which people know the organisation.

 
Zebra57
700130.  Wed Apr 21, 2010 5:17 pm Reply with quote

SPQR is an early example of an initialism. It would be QI if the Romans referred to it as "Spuker" it would have been a much earlier use.

 
dr.bob
700206.  Thu Apr 22, 2010 3:51 am Reply with quote

The Romans were very big on initialisms. Just take a look at a roman gravestone and you'll often see the following:

DM = Dis Manibus ("To the underworld gods". This phrase usually starts the inscription)

HFC = Heres Faciendum Curavit ("The heir had [the tombstone] made")

HSE = Hic Situs Est ("Here he lies")

 
Hummingbird
700224.  Thu Apr 22, 2010 4:27 am Reply with quote

OFSTED - which is a noun, a verb "We have been OFSTEDed" and an adjective "That is SO OFSTED" Also a swear word.

I never knew golf was so interesting. Or indeed at all interesting.

 
Arcane
700258.  Thu Apr 22, 2010 5:31 am Reply with quote

Further information on ANZAC:

http://www.anzacday.org.au/education/tff/anzac.html

Note, it should always be written in upper case, according to the site.

It is ANZAC Day on Sunday 25th April; where my daughter will be marching for the 7th year in a row with her school.

 
CB27
700359.  Thu Apr 22, 2010 8:00 am Reply with quote

While English might have been slow on acronyms, many other languages, especially some of the ancient ones, haven't.

One example is that on Jewish gravestones you'll often see some initials (in Hebrew) which are an acronym of Abigail's prayer for King David (working from memory, so not sure where in the bible...).

 
suze
700417.  Thu Apr 22, 2010 11:14 am Reply with quote

There are certainly initialisms going back a very long way - in that post to which I linked, I mentioned things like INRI and ΙΧΘΥΣ.

But did anyone pronounce these as though they were words - did they actually say, for instance, "inn-ree" rather than "ee en er ee"? That is the essential feature of an acronym. We don't know the answer to that question, but I suspect that - at least on occasion - they probably did.

 
Sadurian Mike
700425.  Thu Apr 22, 2010 11:58 am Reply with quote

Humans are humans. If we decided in the mid-C20th that it was easier to pronounce the word rather than spell out the initials, you can bet that someone had already done so in times past.

Always assuming, of course, that the verbal language of the time lent itself to such adaption.

 
Persica
700525.  Thu Apr 22, 2010 4:03 pm Reply with quote

Reddy wrote:
It is ANZAC Day on Sunday 25th April; where my daughter will be marching for the 7th year in a row with her school.



My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est
Pro patria mori.

P.

 
Arcane
700544.  Thu Apr 22, 2010 4:49 pm Reply with quote

"It is sweet and honourable to die for ones country" I believe is the translation of "the old lie"?

Her school always has the biggest contingent even though they're one of the smallest schools in our area. Many children carry medals of their grandparents/great grandparents.

 
96aelw
700562.  Thu Apr 22, 2010 5:53 pm Reply with quote

suze wrote:
But did anyone pronounce these as though they were words - did they actually say, for instance, "inn-ree" rather than "ee en er ee"? That is the essential feature of an acronym. We don't know the answer to that question, but I suspect that - at least on occasion - they probably did.


Well, that they did with ΙΧΘΥΣ is fairly certain, isn't it? If they didn't, it rather removes the point of the thing. However, since the word already existed before the acronymic religiosity was tacked on, it probably still can't really count as a proper acronym, which I suppose would involve using initials to create a word which is both pronouncable and new. It does, however, raise the interesting possibility that backronyms are older than acronyms proper.

 

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