You Learn Something New Every Day

It dawned on me this weekend that I don’t actually know what ESPN stands for. I could guess Sports and Network, but didn’t know the other letters. According to Wikipedia, it originally stood for the Entertainment and Sports Programming Network. Oddly, Wikipedia didn’t refer to this as an acronym, they referred to it as an initialism. That led me to reading about a number of distinctions I was never aware of in the English language:

  • Acronym – (ex. SCUBA) – A word that is pronounceable on it’s own, but is derived from the first letters of other words.
  • Initialism – (ex. ESPN) – A word that’s made up of the first letters of other words, but isn’t pronounced as a word, it’s read like initials.
  • Bacronym – (ex. Perl) – A word that didn’t originate as an acronym, but later on people decided to assign words to each of the letters. Perl is a programming language that was originally spelled “Pearl” but was later shortened to Perl and assigned the acronym “Practical Extraction and Report Language”
  • Apronym – (ex. SAD) – This is a special case of an acronym or bacronym, where the word also describes, or is related to, the words that compose it. SAD stands for “Seasonal Affective Disorder” which commonly results in depression and sadness.