For years I've been operating under an incorrect assumption. (And yes ... for lack of a better term, I will call it "an incorrect assumption," a proper term for what I've supposedly known it as and used it as all this time.)
I'm talking about one of my hated foes of the English language, acronyms.
More to the point I'm talking initialisms, not acronyms. But, in reality, I'm talking both. It's taken me half my life but I finally know the difference.
A friend of mine - Jim Fitzsimons - called me out on my use of "damned acronym" during an on-line discussion recently when, in fact, I should have said "damned initialism." The term in question I was referring to was "TANSTAAFL," something of which I hadn't the faintest clue. I would be duly educated on both the term and what it was, however.
Now to be fair, up until being corrected I didn't know the meaning of "initialism." Oh, I'd heard the word before but I'd never used it, either in speech or in writing ... until being called out, that is. Come to find out, I've been referring to initialisms as acronyms for a long, long time.
Having damned TANSTAAFL, I was immediately warned by Jim he was about to ram a pedantic moment down my throat. Now while I appreciated the fair warning he supplied me with, I was doubly appreciative of the educational moment there in more so. That was when I learned the difference between an acronym and an initialism, courtesy of a Penn & Teller video he provided. (Later, I topped what I'd learned with additional research on both terms along with some information gathered on "TANSTAAFL" itself.)
I'm a big believer - and advocator - of life-long learning. I try to learn something new every single day. (It's a not-so-secret bent of mine that, in so doing, I will effectively thwart any intimations of Alzheimer's disease wishing to take up residence inside my brain in my later years. Yes, I might be deluded about such prevention ... but why tempt fate? If you know me, you know I can use all the help I can get.)
So ... I *hrumphed* while coming to the conclusion I didn't know what I was talking about when it came to what I thought I knew to be an acronym and my obliviousness to initialisms, but I am all the wiser now in knowing the down and dirty on both.
Thanks, Jim. Keep foisting your pedanticalness on me.
Someone's got to watch out for me and call me on what I think I know.
.......... Ruprecht ( 's ignorance was STOPped cold in its tracks with a little help )