[TUHS] etymology of cron

John Cowan cowan at mercury.ccil.org
Mon Jan 4 04:00:58 AEST 2016

Ronald Natalie scripsit:

> (by the way history is full of these things like news, golf, posh,
> etc… are all alleged to be acronyms though there is no historical
> justification for any of this).

Indeed, any word older than about 1890 is not an acronym, with a few
Hebrew and Arabic exceptions like Tanakh, Rambam, _abjad_.  POTUS and
SCOTUS were codewords devised in 1879 and meant to be used on the wire
only, but occasionally leaked into print.  Initialisms like SPQR are
much older, with English-language examples like O.K. and N.G. dating to
the 1840s.  It's not clear when A.W.O.L. switched from an initialism to
an acronym proper, probably WWI; the same ambiguity applies to O.U.D.S.

The word _acronym_ itself is first recorded in 1940 (borrowed from
German), and they certainly had taken off by that time.  The oldest ones
consistently written as an ordinary word (no capitals, no periods) are
probably _radar_ and _snafu_ (both 1941), though some older ones lose
their caps at a later date, like the now-obscure MUSA (multiple unit
steerable antenna) and W/Op (wireless operator), later _musa_ and _wop_.
The later _loran_, _fubar_, _jato_ also fall into this category.

"Rip track" (1892) may be the oldest retronym in English; it's a stretch
of railroad track used to repair rolling stock, later reinterpreted as
"Repair In Place".

John Cowan          http://www.ccil.org/~cowan        cowan at ccil.org
You escaped them by the will-death and the Way of the Black Wheel.
I could not.  --Great-Souled Sam

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