Writing Tips by Gary Speer

Tips for writers, musing about writing and life

In love with acronyms — or, one way words are invented

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Have you ever thought about where words come from? Have you ever “invented” or wanted to invent your own word?

If you want to invent a word, here’s one way to do it: Create an acronym that gains wide acceptance, and pretty soon you’ll have a word. An acronym, in case you aren’t sure about what I mean, is a short word or abbreviation derived from the initial letters of the words that make up the complete phrase. An example would be the “ZIP” in ZIP Code.

My recent post about company safety and environmental policies reminded me of one of my recent job adventures. I recently worked — very briefly! — for a company that handled outsourced help desk support for a major computer manufacturer. (Not Dell and not Toshiba; the other one.) I came away from that job with one lasting impression of the company and of the computer manufacturer — they loved acronyms more than they loved life itself. Acronyms for those guys seemed to be the very breath of life. They created so many acronyms to use in their training materials that the trainers themselves didn’t know what they all meant.

So just creating an acronym won’t necessarily lead to inventing a word. You must create one so catchy, trendy, useful, or whatever, that many people like it and use it.

For fun — comment here and tell us your favorite acronyms. Make them the acronyms you find clever or useful. I’ll start with the one I mentioned above, “ZIP Code,” and ask you this question (you’ve got Google, right?): What does the “ZIP” stand for and what was used before “ZIP Codes”?
[tags]word usage, inventing words, acronyms, favorite acronyms, writing tips at garyspeer.com[/tags]

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