Ticklish Ears

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Misused abbrevations/acronyms

Is there a word for when people misuse an acronym or abbreviation by appending to it the full word represented by the last letter? For example: PIN number or ATM machine. There are more localized examples: when I worked at Kennedy Space Center’s Bicentennial Exposition (known as “Third Century America”) immediately after high school, people often asked me where the VAB building was. VAB stands for Vehicle Assembly Building.

The latest example I’ve run into has to do with identification cards the Air Force uses for a lot of its personnel. The new card is called a “Common Access Card” or CAC. Of course, everybody refers to it as a CAC Card.

My nomination is acronism. Or perhaps redundonym. Of course, maybe someone has beat me to the punch and such a word exists. Still, feel free to nominate other candidates in the comments.

A second, related question: why do some acronyms lend themselves to this abuse and others don’t?

Enough deep thoughts for the day.

One Response to “Misused abbrevations/acronyms”

  1. Mary Anne Says:

    How about Cullowhee Valley School? Cullowhee literally means “valley of the lilies” hence the name is “Valley of the Lilies Valley School.” Now isn’t that a sign of higher intelligence… It is almost as good as Smokey Mountain Elementary where I taught for so many years. Just think about it, a school named after a bear! And then there was Smoky Mountain High obviously named after the local mountains. SMHS had mustangs as their mascot; you do remember all of those mustangs running around these mountains, do you not?
    Oh well, hope life is good in your new environs.

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