This blog is for everyone who uses words.

The ordinary-sized words are for everyone, but the big ones are especially for children.

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Nuts and Bolts: abbreviations. recently sent me a too-good-to-miss email offer.

Order by December 16th it said in the title bar and have your order delivered by Christ...

I suppose that's not really an abbreviation, even though it is certainly abbreviated, but it got me thinking about them.

Abbreviations have been around - well, pretty much forever. When Marcus Volumnis Tenax's wife was putting up a gravestone to her husband in the first century AD, the message coniunx reverenter posuit voto (his wife reverently placed this inscription according to a vow) is reduced to C R P V.

I don't know if she was too poor to pay the stonemason, or whether she was regretting her vow.

Fair enough, you might say. It takes a lot of effort to carve something in stone. But even the ease of printing didn't put an end to abbreviation. An English document of the 1700s is quite likely to use wch ( short for which) and yr ( for year, or your), and, most charmingly, maty (for majesty).

New abbreviations are still being brought into use, too. The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, recently describing the latest attempt to impose order on the Eurozone as a Supra-National And Financial Union, has chosen to abbreviate it snappily as snafu.


Word To Use Today: abbreviate. This word is from the Latin word brevis, which means brief. It can be used of skirts and mathematical terms, as well as words.

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