17.309 acronymic language (AL)

From: Humanist Discussion Group (by way of Willard McCarty willard.mccarty@kcl.ac.uk)
Date: Sat Oct 18 2003 - 02:47:41 EDT

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                   Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 17, No. 309.
           Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
                         Submit to: humanist@princeton.edu

             Date: Sat, 18 Oct 2003 07:15:22 +0100
             From: Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty@kcl.ac.uk>
             Subject: further on acronyms

    I don't have another favourite acronym, rather a question about their
    proliferation in certain kinds of technical academic writing (TAW). In
    these kinds of TAW authors often do what I have just done, in my view worse
    than unnecessarily, although the phenomenon is interesting. I'm wondering
    in particular about the subtle or not so subtle connotations of such usage.
    My reaction to this practice in TAW is to sense an undue reification of the
    referent. In other words, I sense a real difference between "technical
    academic writing", which is usefully ill-defined but doesn't carry any
    pretense of being otherwise, and "TAW", which is just as ill-defined but
    rhetorically suggests something well-defined, something you could almost
    pick up and put in your pocket. It is, of course, not surprising that a
    software engineer, say, should think this way. I'm not suggesting that
    there's anything wrong with thinking thus necessarily -- only that doing so
    uncritically, habitually can mislead the unwary or put off those unwilling
    or unable to read ironically. I don't think we really want to be read that
    way. Rather we want to be taken seriously, at least most of the time in
    professional circles, which means inter alia demonstrating awareness that
    the ontology of "technical academic writing" is rather different from the
    ontology of "TAW". Consider the linguistic evidence: unless I mean a
    particular piece of writing I cannot say "a technical academic writing" or
    "the technical academic writing" (and even if I do the phrases sound
    peculiar), but I can easily say "a TAW" or "the TAW".

    A flowchart view of the world seems highly problematic unless you can step
    outside it. Then it is highly useful.



    Dr Willard McCarty | Senior Lecturer | Centre for Computing in the
    Humanities | King's College London | Strand | London WC2R 2LS || +44 (0)20
    7848-2784 fax: -2980 || willard.mccarty@kcl.ac.uk

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