Welcome to the newest edition of The Why. “Why is abbreviation such a long word?” you ask? Good question . . . (Besides, it beats answering the question: “Why does my brother think being able to chew his own toenails off is something to brag about?” Mind you, a young lady with that kind of dexterity would not be barred from your rascally writer’s dating pool.)
Again, this is really only one of the stand-up comic one-liners. Still, don’t think we can’t answer any question? We can.
For those of you who didn’t pay attention in English class, the word abbreviation is (according to Merriam-Webster) “a shortened form of a word or name that is used in place of the full word or name.” As per usual, multiple sources were researched including Answers.com.
The origin of the word offers some insight to the length of the word itself. Top of Form
“Abbreviation” is from the French word “arbre”, which means “stone”. As it turns out, the French once noticed that if you break a large stone it becomes smaller stones that retain the same original quality of “stoneness”. If one makes a word smaller by abbreviating it, the word still retains its original meaning.
Obviously, when the word was created, no one thought about whether or not the word physically represented or did not physically represent its definition. (Besides, French is a sexy language so the longer words are the sexier one sounds when one speaks it. That of course comes from the voice of experience as your randy writer studied French and to this day can knows enough of the language to get his face slapped in a Paris bar. Yeah, French girls don’t think their native tongue is all that sexy either of course.)
Seriously though, according to Answer.com and other sources a word’s length in a natural language tends to be inversely proportional with how often” it is used . . . “frequent words are shorter, (rarely used) words (are) longer.”
Consider the 3-letter “the” and a 12-letter “abbreviation”. In the real world, “people will find a shorter alternative for a long word if they have to use it often – like how ‘automobile’ turned into ‘auto’.
Additionally, the word “abbreviation”, in itself, isn’t an abbreviation. Therefore, it would not be small and concise. Finally, there is no rule in the English language that requires a “relational connection” between a word’s length (or any other “physical” aspect) and its definition.
Why is abbreviation such a long word? Now you know.
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