English language and abbreviations
Thread poster: Meryem S

Meryem S
Local time: 01:05
English to German
+ ...
Dec 30, 2008

Can anybody recommend any publications about abbreviations/short forms in English, i.e. WHY they are so common in the medical or educational area? How do they develop? Is the English language specifically suitable for abbreviations?
All input is welcome!

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Luisa Ramos, CT  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 20:05
Member (2004)
English to Spanish
Concise and fast Dec 30, 2008

Because it is easier, shorter and faster to say (and remember) "ENT" than "otorhynolaryngologist" or "ear, nose and throat specialist".

Seriously, there are myriads of Web sites that analyze and discuss why English is so prone to abbreviations and acronyms, and people so willing to adopt them. English lends itself to this phenomenom, but our fast-track lifestyle is a main factor. We are constantly rushed and feel we waste valuable time spelling things out.

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Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Local time: 01:05
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
Not only English Dec 30, 2008

Meryem S wrote:
WHY they are so common in the medical or educational area?

I also find a lot of abbreviations in Dutch. The difference between Dutch and English is that the English usually use uppercase for new abbreviations that can't be pronounced as a word, whereas it is quite common in Dutch to use lowercase. In an English newspaper I'd expect to read about an ENT, but in a Dutch paper I read about a "kno" (pronounced as three letters, not a single word) (although KNO is also common).

And be thankful for English usage, for in Dutch, while most publications use "kno-arts" (ENT doctor), I have also encountered "knoarts" (and I wasn't surprised), and the poor reader must just know instinctively (or otherwise) that the first three letters are to be pronounced as letters.

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Jenny Forbes  Identity Verified
Local time: 00:05
Member (2006)
French to English
+ ...
Try Googling Dec 31, 2008

There is indeed a superfluity of acronyms and abbreviations in use in English - not only in medicine and education but everywhere - including in accounts, finance and the military, who are nuts about them. People adore having "secret" languages - gives them a sense of power and importance, I think ...
There are various sites you can find by Googling which are a great help with these. Just Google the abbreviation + definition. Not infallible, but a great help.
Over the years, I have compiled a glossary of those I have identified (French and Spanish to English), to which I add frequently. If it would be useful to you, I'd be glad to send it to you. Please contact me personally if so.
Kind regards,

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