ACRONYMS are words formed from the initial letters (normally one, sometimes more) of other words like AIDS which has been formed from Acquired immune deficiency syndrome and/or LASER formed from the first letters of the words Light amplification of stimulated emission of radiation.
Some of the other popular acronyms are:
UNESCO: United Nation’s Educational Social Cultural Organisation (There are several acronyms connected with U.N.O)
SAARC; South Asian Association for Regional co-operation.
AIIMS: All India Institute of Medical Sciences.
CAD: Computer Aided Design.
COBOL: Common business oriented language.
ESRO: European Space Research Organisation.
HUDCO: Housing and Urban Development Corporation.
JIPMER: Jawaharlal Institute of Medical Education and Research
NASA: National Aeronautics and Space Administration (USA)
(The list is endless. Readers are requested to kindly refer to some good general knowledge book to have a fairly complete list of Acronyms)
From the above examples, it can be seen that the essential characteristics of an acronym are:
1. They should be formed only from the initial letters of the other words.
2. They should form a full word. There should not be any full stop in between the letters.
3. While writing, all the letters are to be in capital letters.
4. They need not have any bearing to the meaning of the parent words.(Ref AIDS and parent words)
But in practice, this concept is often misused by not following any/all of the norms of the characteristics of acronyms. For example in the sentence “I am an M.B.B.S”, M.B.B.S is not acronym because there are full stops between the letters. Likewise ‘Viscom’ (Visual communications) is not an acronym because the contents are not individual letters and it is written in lower case. Neither Rs (rupees) nor Mike (Michael) are acronyms and they are only abbreviations.
I wish to record some very crude usage of this concept even at international level.
There is a widespread saying that NEWS is an acronym for North, East, West and South which is absolutely wrong. News is a separate word meaning that new happenings. Needless to add, old happenings are not news but only history. They say that information are gathered from four directions and so abbreviation the four directions are branded as NEWS. That is not correct because not all the letters are in capital letters and the amplification need not have similar meaning with the words abbreviated. Secondly there are more directions than the four mentioned. News are obtained from space also.
Another wrong usage in this concept is the word LIONS. People belonging to Lions clubs International record that amplification of LIONS is ‘Liberty, Intelligence and Our Nations Safety,” the meaning of which God only knows. If ‘LIONS’ dot mean the animal king Lion, then how the children of the members are known as LION CUBS and their life partner, Lion ladies? Are they ‘Liberty, Intelligence and our Nation’s safety’ ladies? One more important observation is that it is LION’S CLUBS INTERNATIONAL and not mere National. Hence the question of ‘Our Nation’s Safety’ does not arise. It is clear that they are coining some words to accommodate the initials.
Thus Lions clubs are crucifying English words by an immature translation. (The author of this article was an active LION member for twenty years and he has spent considerable portion of his savings for Social services through LIONS Clubs.)
Certain people make their own abbreviations and amplifications. In college student elections, we have noted such usage frequently. Suppose a contestant’s name is Sita there will posters saying Elect and select S (sincere), I(intelligent),T (Talented), A(Active) and so on as if Sita is an acronym for the four words mentioned. What if the opponents write as Sleeping, Intriguing, Torturous and Adamant?
Hence it is my fervent appeal to students and scholars of English language to desist from crucifying the language by misusing this concept of acronyms. Acronyms are used for brevity and clarity.. Sometimes they are used as ‘secret code’ also. Let us not misuse this concept narrow-minded purposes
Dr Sathyanarayanan Bhimarao is a multi-faceted personality. He is M.Sc (Physics) from Annamalai University. He got Ph.D is psychological counselling in HIV/AIDS. He is a writer from a very young age. He has written several articles, short stories and plays which were published in popular magazines. He is a writer in the subjects of Philosophy and science. He is the founder of Holistic Philosophy Society and is conducting several seminars on Physics and Philosophy. He is publishing a Tamil and an English magazines with several features like short stories, plays and articles.