Tuesday, November 6, 2007

The Types of Abbreviations

In considering yesterday's post, I decided I was being a tease. I mentioned that you can create different types of abbreviations but I didn't specify what they were much less offer examples. I will rectify that oversight today.

You can abbreviate more than one word into an acronym using the first letter of each word and pronouncing the letters as a word. AIDS and NATO demonstrate this type of abbreviation, although you do not have to write not all acronyms in capital letters. Laser and scuba both stand for terms that people rarely use in their full forms, nor are they generally capitalized.

If the resulting acronym either sounds like another word or is unpronounceable, you can simply say the letters. Governments and military people tend toward these, such as USA, the UN, the EU, and the KGB.

At times, the word you use is an abbreviation of a longer word. When you’ve dropped the first portion of a word, e.g. bus or phone, you’ve used an apheresis. People use the shortened form of these so often that people don’t realize that there is more to the word, like omnibus.

This term could be a source of confusion, as the only difference between this and apheresis lies in the syllable being dropped. When you say, “I danced with Mike ‘cause he’s nicer than Ted,” that first apostrophe indicates that you’ve used an aphesis. You have dropped the unstressed vowel at the beginning of the word “because”. Most of these occur in casual speech and not intentionally in a written piece, outside of dialogue.

When you drop the end of a word, you create a clipped form, like “fridge” for “Frigidaire” instead of refrigerator.

Portmanteau or Blend
When you combine two words to make a new one, you’re creating a portmanteau.

I’m running out of steam (and room) to post examples of these. I haven’t even addressed creating abbreviations by leaving out some letters, or by substituting other letters. I didn’t find a term for that practice, because that’s what abbreviating is.

The next time you’re cooking, see how much of your recipe is written in abbreviations. Imagine having to write out “tablespoon”, “ounce”, and “Fahrenheit” every time you needed them and you’ll have a new appreciation for the abbreviation.




So . . . NaBloPoMo = Portmanteau? Nice!

Tony Lucente


Thanks for the great reference.



I just added this webpage to my feed reader, great stuff. Cannot get enough!



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