Acronyms: AM, MP, MEP and MSP

Raw copy today made reference to:

Plaid Cymru’s Chris Franks, South Wales Central AM

Who is this man, I wondered – a politician or a Welsh radio station?

AM is actually an acronym for Assembly Member; that is, a member of the National Assembly for Wales.

As such it is akin to MP (Member of Parliament), MEP (Member of the European Parliament) and MSP (Member of the Scottish Parliament).

But I think that AM is less widely understood than the other acronyms, at least outside Wales...


Anonymous said...

You call yourself a subeditor but don't even know that AM is an abbreviation not an acronym? Unless you pronounce as the word "am", as in, "I am astonished you think it's an acronym".

Best you go back to school my friend.

JD said...

If you want to be specific, AM is actually an initialism (initalisms and acronyms both being types of abbreviations). But see the following:

From Wikipedia:

Acronym... is widely used to describe any abbreviation formed from initial letters. Others... restrict acronym to pronounceable words formed from components

And from Fowler's Modern English Usage:

In everyday use, acronym is sometimes applied to abbreviations that are properly initialisms

I was just following common usage. The focus of the post was 'AM', not 'types of abbreviation'.

JD said...

Oh, and here's an example. 'TLA' is usually said to stand for 'three-letter acronym' rather than 'three-letter abbreviation', and yet most TLAs (including 'TLA' itself) are properly initialisms.

Anonymous said...

True jd they are initalisms, but I would back what anon said. Relying on US English dominated Wikipedia plus a "sometimes" from Fowler is poor form.

I wonder what Kingsly Amis would say. Either way the original post was fair, using AM without explanation that it means anything other than amplitude modulation is poorer form.

JD said...

Hmm, I'm not going to win this one, am I? But here's one last defence of my usage of 'acronym'. Found this in the OED Online, under the entry for 'acronym':

1971 Daily Tel. 3 Feb. 12 Has the Establishment realised, inquires an acronymically-minded reader, that if the Industrial Relations Bill becomes law, it will not be only Ireland that is saddled with an IRA?

Anonymous said...

Original anon here again.

"I'm not going to win this one, am I?"

Not if you rely on the Daily Sodding Telegraph as your guide to good English.

But point taken, it is used that way, just not correctly. Note the OED Online definition:
"A word formed from the initial letters of other words."

No mention there of it including unpronounceable initialisms. I must admit I didn't know it was such a recent word, or that it is American in origin.

JD said...

The OED Online definition of 'acronym' that you quote, anonymous, doesn't say anything about pronunciation. 'AM' is, arguably, "a word formed from the initial letters of other words". After all, if 'credit crunch' is a word...

And here's my best defence so far: my Concise OED says 'UFO' is an "acronym from unidentified flying object." Not an initialism or an abbreviation, but an acronym...

Anonymous said...

It does not mention pronunciation, but it does say it has to be a word, how is AM a word? Surely a word must be fairly easily pronounceable, and once that test is met, and someone actually pronounces it, it becomes an acronym. Your Wikipedia definition would seem to support this point, except when one employs the common usage fall-back position.

Further, which edition of the Concise are you looking at? The only one I have to hand without heading to my study is the 8th, 1990, which lists UFO as an abbreviation. Perhaps your presumably newer edition recognises the fact that many people, especially in the US, do now pronounce UFO as a word, leading to ufology, ufologist, and so on.

This would go to my point that once someone pronounces it, because it is possible, it becomes an acronym.

Presumably many examples could be found of acronyms that were once mere initialisms.

In fact I have just checked my 1993 Shorter Oxford English Dictionary, which was also to hand, and it includes phonetic transcriptions for both the initialism and acronym versions of UFO and ufo.

Of course the true test of what I consider to be an acronym is for it to shed its capitals and become a regular word such as radar.

Lastly, perhaps, this is of course a matter of opinion, not fact, and you chose a test different to that which I use, I can grudgingly accept that.

But we'll not agree. Yes I do starts sentences with conjugations. And I do it all the time.

JD said...

Yes, my Concise here is the 10th (1999). I didn't realise that some people pronounce 'UFO' "as a word"; now I'm surprised that my Concise doesn't give a pronunciation for 'UFO'.

To go from 'what is an acronym?' to 'what is a word?' seems like too much effort right at the moment!

Good discussion, though.

Anonymous said...

Finally, a subject I can comment on! From the other side of Offa's Dyke, my perspective is that if the media actually covered anything about Wales a little more regularly, then AM would not be so mysterious...

Oh, sub-editors who exterminate all mention of 'the valleys' as a shorthand for the whole country would be a great boon, too.


Roy said...

Blimey, that was a bit heavy.

Harry said...

Right then, first of all I'm got to stand up for JD and indeed his fine blog, I reckon he's in the right on this one. (And no, I'm not a sub editor - sorry - 'copy editor'... Live with it.) Secondly, I'm sort of obliged to since we work together, and he's been known to put the odd pint of bitter in front of me, like the jolly good chap he is.

Mister Anonymous, your anonymity proves your lack of conviction to this discussion, as does your own poor use of the Queen's English. I quote:

"But we'll not agree. Yes I do starts sentences with conjugations. And I do it all the time."

You're welcome to starts any and all of your sentances with conjugations, or anything else for that matter... But, to annoy you, I'm going to unnecessarily pluralise the ends of mines. So theres. :-p