A is for Acronym


I’m sure you know this already, but in case you just fell off of the turnip truck, an acronym is a word formed from the initial letter or letters of each of the successive parts or major parts of a compound term. Some common examples of acronyms include NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization), NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration), and POTUS (President Of The United States),

There are some acronyms that have evolved into words in contemporary English usage, like radar (originally an acronym for Radio Detection And Ranging), laser (Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation), and snafu (Situation Normal: All Fucked Up).

Acronym Redundancy

31CA4792-9B17-4ED5-B6B0-33211735251DI saw a sign outside of a building that read “ATM Machine Available.” There were instructions on said machine that read, “Insert your ATM card in the slot and enter your 6 to 12 digit PIN number.”

Since ATM is an acronym for Automated Teller Machine, using the term “ATM machine” is basically saying “automated teller machine machine.” Same with PIN, which stands for Personal Identification Number, VIN, which stands for Vehicle Identification Number, or SSN, which stands for Social Security Number. Following “PIN,” “VIN,” or “SSN” with “number” is unnecessary and redundant, and it is something I find annoying when I hear people do it.

There is actually a name for this kind of acronym redundancy. It’s called Redundant Acronym Syndrome, or RAS. It’s defined as the use of one or more of the words that make up an acronym in conjunction with the abbreviated form, as in PIN number. The formal name for this malady is, fittingly, “RAS Syndrome.”  Think about it.

I am amused when people refer to the cable news network that Donald Trump loves to hate, CNN, as the “CNN Network.” And one of my favorites is when those college-bound hopefuls refer to the Scholastic Aptitude Test they must take as the “SAT test.”  If that’s what they are calling that test, they should automatically fail the SAT.

Do you know any RAS Syndrome examples you’d like to share?