Alphabeticals

Yesterday’s Bizarro:

Names of letters deployed in various ways, mostly (but not entirely) as abbreviations, as in J for Jennifer and e for electronic.

Then there are TLAs, three letter abbreviations (Wikipedia page here):

A three-letter acronym, three-letter abbreviation, or TLA is an abbreviation, specifically an acronym, alphabetism, or initialism, consisting of three letters. These are usually the initial letters of the words of the phrase abbreviated, and are written in capital letters (upper case); three-letter abbreviations such as etc. and Mrs. are not three-letter acronyms.

Most three-letter abbreviations are initialisms: all the letters are pronounced as the names of letters, as in APA… Very few fit the strict definition of acronym, which requires the abbreviation to be pronounced as a single word, as in DOS… When TLA stands for three-letter abbreviation, then TLA has the self-referential feature that TLA is its own TLA (and is thus autological). When TLA stands for three-letter acronym, this feature does not apply.

TLAs are popular in song lyrics. Some examples from Wikipedia:

As early as 1967, the musical Hair included the song “Initials”, whose final verse consisted only of TLAs, viz: “LBJ IRT USA LSD. LSD LBJ FBI CIA. FBI CIA LSD LBJ.” [recording here]

In 1998, the British band Love and Rockets released their last album, Lift, featuring the song “R.I.P. 20 C.” that, apart from the refrain, consists only of three-letter abbreviations. A contest was held rewarding the first person to correctly give the meanings of all 69 of them. [YouTube video here]

In 1999, German hip-hop group Die Fantastischen Vier (The Fantastic Four) released the song “MfG” (“Mit freundlichen Grüßen”, German for “best regards”, literally “with friendly greetings”), also mainly consisting of TLAs. [recording, with lyrics, here]

In 2001, Portland Oregon songwriter Craig Carothers produced a song entitled “BFD” which includes many Three-Letter-Acronyms throughout the lyrics. It has been recorded by Carothers as well as Kathy Mattea, Berkley Hart and Don Henry. [YouTube video here]

And more recently, there’s Datarock’s “The New Song” (2005). On Datarock:

Datarock, derived from the Norwegian word for computer – datamaskin and the word rock (meaning rock music made on a computer), is a Norwegian electro rock band. The band formed in 2000 (link)

The song can be heard here. The lyrics:

FBI. CIA. EMI. TDK.
It’s the N-N-N-N-N-N-New Song
KGB. POT. BMG. MIT.
It’s the N-N-N-N-N-N-New Song

Cuz this is D-A-T-A. R-O-C-Ks
N-N-N-N-N-N-New Song.
It’s a S-S-S-S-S-S-S-S-Song.
I said, cuz this is D-A-T-A, R-O-C-Ks
N-N-N-N-N-N-New Song.
It’s a S-S-S-S-S-S-S-S-Song.

(N represents the consonant [n], S the consonant [s], not the letter names [ɛn] and [ɛs].)

One Response to “Alphabeticals”

  1. John Baker Says:

    I count 8 alphabeticals (to use the cartoon’s term), of which only two or three are abbreviations:

    J-Lo: Abbreviation for Jennifer Lopez
    A list: A represents itself, the first letter
    T-shirt: From the shape of the letter T
    G-string: Origin unknown (although an abbreviation is one possibility)
    V8: Brand name indicating a beverage made from the juices of eight vegetables (not, strictly speaking, an abbreviation)
    E-mail: Abbreviation for electronic mail
    iPhone: Fanciful trademark (suggestive of “I phone” and “Internet phone”)
    Q-tip: Fanciful trademark

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