General Question

augustlan's avatar

Why do we shorten some phrases into abbreviations or acronyms, only to later lengthen them again - into whole new words?

Asked by augustlan (47711points) October 18th, 2010

I’m thinking specifically of Master of Ceremonies > MC > emcee and Disc Jockey > DJ > deejay. Can you think of any others? How does an abbreviation morph into an entirely new written word? Why does it only happen sometimes?

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19 Answers

chocolatechip's avatar

I have never seen MC written as emcee or DJ written as deejay until now.

CyanoticWasp's avatar

Well, we know why the shortening happens: it’s a natural enough thing in our language to shorten phrases into acronyms that there’s surely no surprise there.

Maybe the progression from there is that the acronym becomes so successful and well-accepted that people start thinking of the acronym itself as the word. For example, a lot of younger people don’t know the term “Master of Ceremonies”, but they do know “MC”, and they think that is a word: emcee, that means “the guy who sort of runs the show on stage”.

I’m trying to think of other examples other than the ones you gave, but my brain hasn’t started yet this morning.

Kayak8's avatar

It is entirely possible that the current generation is unaware of the original words, only learned the abbreviations and decided to make them into words. There is info on wikipedia to support this for MC and deejay has a completely different meaning than what we (oldsters) think of as a disk jockey per the wiki entry.

roundsquare's avatar

I agree with the dogs that this is a generational thing. However, I think it might also just bee that each generation likes to change things up. At some point, someone made a decision to write “deejay” and it caught on. It probably came about as a current style but may eventually become all people know.

Mat74UK's avatar

I think it has happened for centuries, it’s the evolution of language.
see here

janbb's avatar

(I love how smart “the dogs” of Fluther are! )

“Snafu” and “fubar” are two that come to my mind.

mattbrowne's avatar

Attention grabbing. Our brains love novelty. First DJ was cool. Later it become just another acronym. Then somebody turned it into deejay because it looked cool. And it got people’s attention.

For a while.

Same for Internet slang like BM4L, BU2M or F2F. Attention grabbers. Eventually we get bored and invent something new.

crazyivan's avatar

I think we’re just insane when it comes to abbreviations. Sometimes we use them and then use the words anyway. How many times have you heard someone talk about an “ATM Machine”, even though the M means machine? If you sound it out, they’re going to the Automatic Teller Machine Machine. Where they will no doubt enter their Personal Identification Number Number…

CyanoticWasp's avatar

You’re not a noob, are you?

anartist's avatar

@janbb don’t forget ‘bohica’

CyanoticWasp's avatar

@anartist or ‘ictamots’.

seazen's avatar

@janbb Snafu and fubar are lovely acronyms – but aren’t relevant to the question as they are simply that.

I think in this particular case what happened is this: first, note the fluid vowel sounds in both – coming and going in the word sound (as opposed to word). Next, the abbreviations of the words Disc Jockey and Master of Ceremonies might not have always been realized, i.e., we’ve called them DJ’s and MC’s for as long as their title has been around. Thus: someone might have simply written it out phonetically, deejay and emcee, and it caught on.

janbb's avatar

@seazen I disagree; I’ve heard them used as words – particularly snafu which was the point of the question.

anartist's avatar

fubar is sometimes spelled as a word “foobar”—drives me nuts when I see it.

seazen's avatar

@janbb Not only have you heard them used as words; they are indeed words. They are acronyms which are said as words because they sound okay – they sound like words and are used as such without spelling out the letters individually. FBI is also used as a word – but it is an acronym representing three long words – contractions are commonplace in English statring with I’ll she’s we’re et al.

But the OP wrote: I’m thinking specifically of Master of Ceremonies > MC > emcee and Disc Jockey > DJ > deejay. That is – why did these words – which have the required acronym – then have the acronym’s phonetic sounds spelt out – and re-used as words themselves.

FUBAR – 5 letters repersenting a sentence. An acronym.

EM – two letters represent two words – then spelt emcee phonetically and used as a new “word” itself.

Had FUBAR been re-used as foobar – or something like that – then it would be equal to the OP.


But I lurve ya tiny Bubs.

Edit: I just saw @anartist‘s post about foobar – if he is correct, then that would be an example. Snafoo would be another – however, I’ve yet to see that desecration.

janbb's avatar

How can I argue with such a sophisticated explication? I bow to your superior thinking.

seazen's avatar

And I bow to your Bubbiness and beauty.

Kayak8's avatar

Understand that deejay does not mean disk jockey in the contemporary vernacular.

seazen's avatar

dee·jay (dēˈjāˌ)
A disc jockey.

Origin: Pronunciation of DJ.


No less dependable or respectable than wiki – whoever feels like posting-pedia.

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