Language is a living thing

Sometime Sunday afternoon, a bad mood hit, and it seems to have spilled into Monday. It’s making me get really testy about innocuous things, like the meeting we had at work this morning to discuss some new computer stuff. Before we can go live with the new program, we have to find a way to collect some Personal Identification Numbers and put them into a spreadsheet. As we were brainstorming the best way to do this, I my mood was being tested and pushed to the brink of irrationality by the way my co-workers kept saying “PIN Number.”

The lovely Poppy award winning Stefanie, who is a grammatical inspiration to us all, was recently discussing the oh-so common misuse of apostrophes and quotation marks, which on a day like today can also drive me to madness. Goodness forbid I start carrying around a Sharpie at all times, because I will most likely deface every sign I see advertising “Avacado’s $1.00” or every menu I see touting the “Special ‘fresh’ catch.”

But the thing that I get really irrationally worked up about is incorrect use of the acronym. A few years ago, I decided this misuse was prevalent enough to deserve a name, and I came up with the term EXTRANYM.

The definition: the addition of the final word of an acronym to the end of an acronym.

PIN Number
TCBY Yogurt
HIV Virus
SCUBA Apparatus
ATM Machine – you often see this one in PRINT!!!
ISBN Number

If you break it down, when you repeat the last word of an acronym, what you’re really saying is “Personal Identification Number Number” or “Automatic Teller Machine Machine.” It makes no sense!

As I side note, also dislike the confusion caused by pluralizing an acronym. I’m pretty sure the MLA correct way is to use an apostrophe, even though it seems to qualify you for the misuse of apostrophe club. For instance, if you have more than one compact disk, you have 2 CD’s, which is not to say that the CD possesses something, but it is to say that the apostrophe stands in for the missing letters of “Disk.” I much prefer the look of “CDs” but this is incorrect, because “CD” is not a word in itself, it is an abbreviation.

But I digress. When I came up with this word a few years ago, I remember telling a friend that I wished there was some kind of forum where I could vent my brilliant ideas to share them with the world. Then, viola, along comes the blogosphere. Now, a year after I started blogging, I can’t believe it took me until today to realize that the time was nigh to let everybody know about this national issue. Please, tell your friends, and let’s see if we can put a stop to this. At the very least, it may improve my mood and my next company meeting.

Are there any other common extranyms you’ve seen?


15 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by stefanie on March 5, 2007 at 9:20 pm

    I think you just might be my soul mate, Noelle. 🙂

    Incidentally, I do believe the correct plural of CD is CDs (and DVD is DVDs), so you can keep writing it that way and be happy with the look and the accuracy.

  2. Posted by chris on March 5, 2007 at 9:37 pm

    who is viola?
    i once knew a viola

  3. Posted by Principius Ferrobarbus on March 5, 2007 at 11:01 pm

    Viola was this cute Drag King we met in Croatia once after a shipreck.

    Thanks for bringing ISBNs back to mind Noelle. I’ve been living in ISBN perdition for 3 months in a belated ISBN-10->ISBN-13 upgrade. I now have the formula memorized. To make it worse I made it EAN (Number) compatible and upgraded all ISSN (numbers) to their EAN equivalents. And since they had them, I validated the UPC (codes) too.

    I even found the hyphenation standards for all ISBNs anywhere. Give me a book from the former Yugoslavia, I’ll hyphenate it for ya! I even called and demanded to know what the new hyphenation ranges would be when the 979’s come out.

    Sorry. I just wanted to vent that to someone who might know what I’m talking about.

  4. Posted by Mermu on March 6, 2007 at 5:36 am

    As for me I love to Acronymize phrases and names. It’s like a nickname for oft used words and phrases. (BTW way do you have a term for transforming a noun to a verb by tacking on an -ize or -ate?)

  5. Posted by Hope V on March 6, 2007 at 1:50 pm

    I don’t think this is an extranym…but it’s along the same lines. My dad passed down to me (due to the many many complaints of its use) an extreme hatred for the term “very unique”- which LOTS of people say- it’s either unique…or its not. Grrr.

  6. Posted by lizgwiz on March 6, 2007 at 2:48 pm

    There’s always the first cousin of “PIN number”–“VIN number.”

  7. Posted by Chachi on March 6, 2007 at 6:47 pm

    I was going to lay in on your crossing Shakespeare with your french terms…as we so often do…but I see others beat me to it!

    Damn them!!!!

  8. Posted by Hooker on March 6, 2007 at 8:50 pm


    Meals Ready To Eats.

  9. Posted by 3carnations on March 6, 2007 at 9:13 pm

    VIN number is another one (Vehicle Identification Number Number).

    In defense of “TCBY Yogurt”, it has been a while since I have seen TCBY referred to as “The Country’s Best Yogurt”. Most people probably don’t know what it stands for (or stood for – I think they’ve changed the name officially).

  10. Posted by 3carnations on March 6, 2007 at 9:14 pm

    Oops – I should have read the comments first – Liz beat me to Vin Number. 🙂

  11. Posted by Noelle on March 6, 2007 at 10:52 pm

    stefanie – we should totally be together. I hope that someday, the people who made it okay to end a sentence with a preposition will approve “CDs” as well.

    chris – misusing a word in a post about words is irony.

    mermu – I’ll have to come up with one!

    hope – I never thought of that one, it’s along the lines of “Rio Grande River” since Rio=river!

    liz – I know! It’s written right there on my car’s paperwork!!

    Chachi – we are nothing if not imperfect. Also, I deliberately misspelled that word knowing I don’t know how to spell it, but viola was the only thing my computer suggested. Stupid computer.

    Hooker – Thanks! That’s a new one for me!

    3Carnations – full disclosure, I had no idea what Liz was talking about until your post… And you’re right, just like KFC is official now, TCBY is no longer “officially” an acronym anymore.

  12. Posted by Chachi on March 7, 2007 at 5:02 pm

    So we can happily blame Microsoft….I like that idea.

  13. Posted by Larak on March 29, 2007 at 3:32 pm

    Have you ever read “Eats, Shoots & Leaves” by Lynne Truss? If a book could be a soul mate, I think this one would be yours. I’d give the ISBN but I don’t know how to properly hyphenate it so here’s a link to Barnes & Noble:

    BTW, yesterday I saw “GET’S” on a truck’s mudflap. That upset me so much I don’t even remember what the rest of the message was.

  14. Posted by Noelle on March 29, 2007 at 3:39 pm

    Larak – I do know that book, I actually have the t-shirt. The only thing is that I have a strict no-linking to BNN or any other chain bookstore policy because independent bookstores are my livelihood. I’ll let it pass this time, since you’re new!

  15. Posted by Jean Brodie on October 18, 2007 at 11:16 am

    Whilst reading this on my Personal PDA I thought you hit it bang on the head – anyway – must go – some Pretty PYT’s heading this way. Could be I’m on to some fun R and R Recreation 2nite!

    Worst thing o the lot is anyone dictating wot is right and wot is wrong in language – heh heh!

    Thanks! I saw someone searched for “extranym,” I’m glad you stopped to comment!

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