Warning: This post was published more than 9 years ago.
I keep old posts on the site because sometimes it's interesting to read old content. Not everything that is old is bad. Also, I think people might be interested to track how my views have changed over time: for example, how my strident teenage views have mellowed and matured!
But given the age of this post, please bear in mind:
- My views might have changed in the 9 years since I wrote this post.
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Many thanks for your understanding.
I think this last went out of fashion in about 1997, but it seems to have sprung up again, and if I have to read one more thing like this or this, or have it rammed down my throat by another well-meaning friend, I might scream.
The etymology of words is rarely – in fact, almost never – acronymic.
To clear up the two above which seem to have been doing the rounds particularly virulently recently:
- ‘Chav’ is not derived from ‘Council House and Violent’, but rather the Romany word ‘chavi’, meaning ‘child’.
- ‘Fuck’ is not derived from ‘Fornication Under the Consent of the King’. Nor ‘For Use of Carnal Knowledge’ for that matter. It comes from the Middle English ‘fucken’, meaning to strike or penetrate.
And while we’re at it…
- ‘Posh’ is not derived from ‘Port Outward, Starboard Home’
- ‘Cop’ is not derived from ‘Constable On Patrol’
- ‘Tip’ is not derived from ‘To Insure Promptness’
- ‘Nylon’ is not derived from abbreviations of ‘New York’ and ‘LONdon’
- ‘News’ is not derived from ‘North, East, West, South’
- ‘Golf’ is not derived from ‘Gentlemen Only, Ladies Forbidden’
- ‘Shit’ is not derived from ‘Ship High In Transit’
These words all have etymologies just like any other word, mostly derived from ancient or foreign languages.
There are exceptions: Radar does indeed come from ‘Radio Detection And Ranging’, and laser does derive from ‘Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation’. But these exceptions are few and far between.
Most etymology is not acronymic, and when it is, there’s usually no lengthy, contrived back-story – so if someone spouts one of these at you, please correct them, and maybe we can stop this incredibly irritating disease in its tracks.