In the NYT Magazine (on Sunday the 19th), a “Who Made That?” piece by Daniel Engber on the captcha. Some weeks ago, another one of these pieces on laugh tracks on television.
Archive for the ‘Acronyms’ Category
From the NYT Science Times yesterday, in “ ‘Cured of AIDS’? Not Yet” by Donald G. McNeil Jr.:
“We should seek out, test and get people into treatment as soon as we possibly can,” Dr. [Anthony] Fauci said. “That way, you can get people into the position the Visconti cohort is in.”
(“Visconti cohort,” for Viro-Immunologic Sustained Control After Treatment Interruption, is a shorthand way of referring to the patients studied by the Pasteur Institute, in France.)
Someone labored hard to concoct that acronym.
A bonus from the same article, this “split infinitive” that caught my eye:
In this country, it is unusual for an infected pregnant woman to not see a doctor even once before delivery.
I probably would have moved the not up in the structure, to give not to see, but I’m not sure why; I certainly have no aversion to so-called split infinitives. Perhaps the writer systematically prefers to keep VP adverbs (like not) with the VP they modify (so that the infinitive marker to then combines with a full, modified BSE-form VP); there are certainly writers who do.
NYT obit (by Bill Friskics-Warren) for Mike Auldridge on the 1st:
Mike Auldridge Dies at 73; Lent Dobro Fresh Elegance
Mike Auldridge, a guitarist who became one of the most distinctive dobro players in the history of country and bluegrass music while widening its popularity among urban audiences, died on Saturday at his home in Silver Spring, Md.
Ah, the dobro. I assumed that it was originally a folk instrument, from some Slavic land, with a name in the local language. Well, not quite, as the obit went on to explain:
A resophonic (or resonating) acoustic guitar, the dobro produces sound by means of one or more spun metal cones instead of a wooden sound board. (The instrument’s name is a contraction of Dopera and brothers. Dopera was the surname of the Slovak-American brothers who patented an early version of the instrument in 1928.)
The name is what Ben Zimmer has labeled an acroblend, a combination of acronym and portmanteau (Ben uses blend to cover intentional combinations as well as inadvertent ones), for which I’d prefer the label acromanteau, or — naming the type from a prominent example – Nabisco (originally from National Biscuit Company)
From Geoff Nathan on ADS-L, the Pearls Before Swine cartoon from yesterday:
Geoff offered Rat’s derivation of sprouts as a prime example of of etymythology, and that it certainly is. Discussion on the strip’s site, meanwhile, took up the question of sprouts ‘sprouted seeds used as an ingredient or accompaniment in food preparation’ vs. sprouts ‘Brussels sprouts’; as far as I know, no one puts Brussels sprouts in sandwiches, and Goat’s sandwich surely has alfalfa sprouts or something similar in it. (more…)
From an appointment on October 2nd with an orthopedist, the clipping nec fac /nɛk fæk/ for necrotizing fasciitis (from the doctor). This was a new abbreviation of the disease name for me; I was accustomed to the initialism NF /ɛn ɛf/ (from other doctors). And I wondered about the /fæk/ piece of the clipping, where I would have expected /fæʃ/ or /fæs/, given the full pronunciation of fasciitis, with one or the other of these as the first syllable.
In the Economist of June 30th, in a story “Shaking it all up”) on the long-standing armed insurgency in Mindinao (the southernmost region of the Philippines):
This, however, failed to satisfy the aspirations of the main separatist group, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF — the insurgency is so old that its acronym predates embarrassment).
The insurgency goes back to the early 1960s (as the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), formally established as MILF in 1984), while the initialism (for “Mother/Mom/Mum I‘d Like to Fuck”) goes back to the early 1990s.
Today’s Zippy (like a number of other Zippy strips) revels in the sheer sound of an expression, in this case a brand name:
That’s Nerf Vortex Nitron Blaster, a line of trochaic tetrameter (with short first foot) — so satisfying to say over and over again, like a mantra.
This is day 8 of my Adventures in Cellulitis, an extended occasion that has consumed most of my time and, one way or another, pretty much kept me from posting on this blog, Language Log, and AZBlogX. Specifically, “cellulitis of the hand” (the left hand, in this case), as the medical forms put it.
The e-bulletin “This Week in Psychological Science“ (from the Association for Psychological Science) for today announces the article:
Seeking Congruity Between Goals and Roles: A New Look at Why Women Opt Out of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics Careers
Amanda B. Diekman, Elizabeth R. Brown, Amanda M. Johnston, and Emily K. Clark
Notice “Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics”, putting together four fields of study and career areas that constitute a folk taxon — we think of these things as together constituting some sort of conceptual unit — that has no fixed label (but is referred to only by enumerations like this one, or by “Scientists and Technical Professionals” in the name of NOGLSTP, the National Organization of Gay and Lesbian Scientists and Technical Professionals”, or by “Science and Engineering” or “Science and Mathematics” in the titles of numerous organizations and events).
But you don’t have to go on talking cumbersomely about “science, technology, engineering and mathematics” when in fact the useful acronym STEM is available, as in the abstract for the article:
Women remain underrepresented in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). Male and female volunteers completed questionnaires rating career interests and goals and previous experiences with mathematics and science. Results suggest that STEM careers, relative to other careers, were perceived to impede communal goals (e.g., helping other people). In addition, volunteers endorsing communal goals were less interested in STEM careers than were volunteers not endorsing communal goals. Such perceptions may disproportionately affect women’s career decisions, because women tend to endorse communal goals more than do men.
I’m not claiming that the acronym is original with these authors. I don’t know the facts of the matter, and they’re not really relevant to my point here, which is only that people sometimes show ingenuity in devising labels for unlabeled folk taxa.
This isn’t a posting about the content of the article, though that’s also of interest to me, since I have a STEM daughter. (Note that STEM shifts from a conjunctive reading to a disjunctive one in this context. Elizabeth is certainly in T, in E as well by some people’s reckoning, but not, professionally, in M or S.)