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Is it an Acronym or an Abbreviation?

This discussion was included a newsletter I received and thought it was worth preserving.

We recently discussed KVM (keyboard/video/mouse) switches. See http://search.atomz.com/search/?sp-q=kvm&sp-a=0008002a-sp00000000 . But the e-mail discussions that I had with several readers about KVMs took an odd language-related turn that might be helpful to others--- after all, we all must wade through a morass of jargon, abbreviations, and acronyms in dealing with computers. In fact, in the KVM coverage, I stated how it was one of many TLAs--- Three Letter Abbreviations--- we have to deal with. That remark prompted this:

Dear ____, Let me start off by saying I enjoy reading your newsletter very much. However, I noticed that you had confused the word Abbreviation with Acronym in item one of your May 16th edition. KVM is an acronym (a word formed from the initial letters of a name) and not an abbreviation (a shortened form of a word or phrase). TLA in itself is an acronym for Three Letter Acronym not abbreviation. Being former military I was exposed to an enormous amount of both abbreviations and acronyms. Its easy to get confused. Again, thanks for a great resource of information and entertainment. --- (name deleted)

Thanks, ____, but I don't think that's quite it: An acronym is an abbreviation that can be pronounced AS A WORD. For example, the disease AIDS is pronounced "aids," not "Ay Eye Dee Ess." Thus, "AIDS" is a true acronym. Likewise, NASA is spoken as a word, it's not pronounced "En Ay Ess Ay;" it too is a true acronym. In contrast, no one tries to say "FBI" as a word. It's pronounced "Eff Bee Eye;" it's an abbreviation (for Federal Bureau of Investigation), not an acronym. Computing has its share of acronyms--- "RAM" is pronounced as a word, and not as "Are Ay Em," for example. SCSI is pronounced "scuzzy," not "Ess See Ess Eye." Modem (derived from "MOdulator/DEModulator") is pronounced as a word, not spoken as the letters "Em Oh Dee Ee Em." Some computing terms are hybrids. When you talk about a "Graphical User Interface" you can refer to it either by the acronym GUI (pronounced "gooey") or as the abbreviation "Gee You Eye." And so on. But KVM is never spoken as a word, It's pronounced "Kay Vee Em." Likewise LCD is pronounced "El See Dee;" and CD-R is "See Dee Are." For that matter, TLA is pronounced "Tee El Ay." They and many others--- CPU, USB, URL, etc.--- all are abbreviations, not acronyms. OK4U?

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