Sunday, 10 February 2008

Fear of aconyms: acronuphobia

I need a word designating "an abnormal dread of acronyms". "Acrophobia" would have done, but of course that's already taken. Since the Greek root is the same akron plus onuma (name), I thought "acronophobia" might be an acceptable coinage. To my surprise, a web search found this word... but only because of a couple of people who could not spell "arachnophobia". I didn't want to coin a word that already existed on the web as a spelling mistake, and decided that in any case "acronuphobia" would be more correct.

I don't suffer from acronuphobia myself. I'm just the type who might, but gradually increased exposure under controlled conditions has cured me. I'm even developing a habit of making up my own acronyms for my grocery shopping lists:

KBs (Kidney Beans)
BEBs (Black-Eyed Beans)
NBBs (Naked Baked Beans - actually covered in sauce)
HBs (Hash Browns)
RW (Red Wine)
WW (White Wine)
WWV (White Wine Vinegar)
GPs (Green Peppers)
RPs (Red Peppers)
PTs (Plum Tomatoes)

One item I write out in full every week for Paddy's benefit is "NO BEER". He ignores it.

1 comment:

  1. You write, 'I need a word designating "an abnormal dread of acronyms". "Acrophobia" would have done, but of course that's already taken. Since the Greek root is the same akron plus onuma (name), I thought "acronophobia" might be an acceptable coinage.'

    I don't like it myself. In fact, acronym is a compond of akro- (the -n is the neuter singular nominative-accusative ending, dropped in compounding) and -onyma, the combining form of onoma "name" used when it's the second part of a compound. (The u in -onuma reflects the original pronunciation of the vowel, but by the time of Classical Attic Greek it had shifted to a pronunciation like German ü, which was written y by the Romans in borrowed Greek words.) The Greeks didn't much cotton to slicing letters off a root when compounding, so they'd have said "acronymophobia." "Acronophobia" looks like an unnatural fear of Akron, Ohio, or else maybe an unnatural fear of tall donkeys (akro-ono-), or conceivably an unnatural fear of a high intelligence or mind (akro-noo-).

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