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Trivial question about correct English grammar

  1. Nov 17, 2009 #1
    For my official Master's thesis, i need to know how to write the plural form of abbreviations.

    Let's say the abbreviation is CERN. And let's say we have two. Do we have two CERNs or two CERN's? My preference goes to the latter form, with apostrophe, but i'm not sure what the official ruling on this is.

    Sorry if this should be in an other forum, but i couldn't find a better one. Thanks in advance!
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 17, 2009 #2
    No apostrophe. Apostrophies are used to show posession or contraction.


    At least thats what I remember from my english classes, oh so long ago.
     
  4. Nov 17, 2009 #3

    Monique

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    I thought there is only one CERN?

    Chris is right, CERN's means 'CERN his'. It is also "masters thesis", you don't say abbreviation's, right? :smile:
     
  5. Nov 17, 2009 #4
    The apostrophe is for possesives and contractions. Remember this and you will get As on your school work.
     
  6. Nov 17, 2009 #5
    Thanks. :)

    The thing is, i'm from Holland and in our language, we do use apostrophes for some situations when English doesn't. It gets confusing because it's like that all the time. We also glue words together. For instance, the English "Piano player" would be "Pianospeler" in Dutch, not "Piano speler". About 70% of our people don't know this and do it wrong all the time.
     
  7. Nov 17, 2009 #6

    Monique

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    I am as well :smile: My boyfriend often calls me an allochtone, because my Dutch grammar is so bad :wink:

    I've encountered the same problem when I was writing my thesis summary in Dutch. I had written down "embryos" as the dutch plural of embryo, but it should be "embryo's".
     
  8. Nov 17, 2009 #7

    BobG

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    In English, abbreviations that use periods use apostrophes for the plural version while periodless acronyms use no apostrophes (and no periods, either).

    Example - YMCA (Young Mens Christian Association) - During his trip across the U.S.A., he accumulated stolen towels from the YMCAs he stayed at.

    M.P. (Military Police) - The M.P.'s accosted the drunk driver attempting to drive onto the base.

    I have a problem with the second that no one seems to address. If M.P. is the abbreviation for Military Police, then isn't it already plural? Or does the abbreviation suddenly convert to Military Policeman when using its plural form? And definitely not to Military Policemen when using it in the plural form?

    It's situations like these that make me think grammatical rules are made by a dozen elderly English teachers sipping a little too much brandy while sitting around a table.
     
  9. Nov 17, 2009 #8
    Is it just a matter of preference if you want to put the periods or not?
    Wouldn't Y.M.C.A. also be correct?
    Sounds more correct to me to be used without the S for something like M.P., since it's plural.
    Something singular, like M.D., would sound better with the S.
     
  10. Nov 17, 2009 #9

    BobG

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    Are you Canadian or what?!! (Everybody knows that Canadians like to leave periods out of abbreviations - well, actually, if you're considering inserting periods back into YMCA, then I guess it proves you're not Canadian, but ....)

    You never put periods in acronyms! You only put periods in abbreviations!

    You start mixing the two up and people won't be able to tell the difference between your acronyms and your abbreviations! This will become particularly critical when M.P.'s start confiscating your MP players!
     
  11. Nov 17, 2009 #10

    Vanadium 50

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    Apostrophes are not normally used for plurals, but there are exceptions when needed for clarity:

    e.g. Mind your p's and q's.
     
  12. Nov 17, 2009 #11

    mgb_phys

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    In British English they are used when you have a plural of a single letter like p or q - this is the reason for apostrophe in the plural of an acronym if you consider it as single letters.
    Normally you use an apostrophe only if you use periods. So CDs (compact discs) but C.D.'s (certificates of deposit)

    You can also use it when the word you are pluralising isn't at the end. Which would be the case for CERN since it's Centre's European ....
    Also it's MP's because it is "members of parliament" not "member of parliaments".
    But nobody uses this much anymore because the proper plural for MP is thieving, lying, cheating scumbags.
     
    Last edited: Nov 17, 2009
  13. Nov 17, 2009 #12
    But aren't acronyms also abbreviations? If not, how do you know which is an acronym and which is an abbreviation?
     
  14. Nov 17, 2009 #13

    mgb_phys

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    Yes - sort of
    An acronym is a new word made up of the initial letters of other words, if they don't make up a pronounceable new word then it's an initialism not an acronym.
    An abbreviation is chopping the end off a word to make it shorter. If you chop the midle bit out then it's a contraction not an abbreviation.

    ps. Nobody cares about this sort of stuff except the setters of crossworld puzzles and sad people who write letters to the Times.
     
  15. Nov 17, 2009 #14
    Win.

    The letter page is the only page I read in the Daily Mail and the Times. Watching old people rage about stupid things is hilarious.
     
  16. Nov 17, 2009 #15

    Dembadon

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    Asking for a distinction to be made between an acronym and an abbreviation is nonsensical. An acronym is an abbreviation.

    You can, however, make a distinction within an abbreviation on whether it is an acronym or an initialism.

    This is how I've understood it:

    http://www.lyberty.com/encyc/articles/abbr.html

     
  17. Nov 17, 2009 #16

    BobG

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    Which is why YMCA forms an acronym - wiyemseeay, an obscure word for "epic quest" from the Osage tribal language that received a boost in popularity when the Indian guy in Village People wrote a song about a poverty stricken, young man's quest for lodging.

    There's a similar folktale about a Native American named Falling Rock. While I don't remember the details, it's popular in some states to play along and put up signs telling drivers to look for Falling Rock as they drive. Not to be confused with the sign below .....

    Falling-Cow-01.jpg

    which warns against real hazards: http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/localnews/2003996996_webcow06m.html [Broken]
     
    Last edited by a moderator: May 4, 2017
  18. Nov 17, 2009 #17
  19. Nov 17, 2009 #18

    BobG

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    With a few exceptions, apostrophes aren't used for place names in the U.S.. For example, the mountain just outside of Colorado Springs is Pikes Peak and the railway going from Manitou Springs to the summit is called the Manitou and Pike's Peak Railway (the mountain being named by President Benjamin Harrison's Board on Geographic Names and the railway being a private company that came into existance a year before Harrison's board convened).

    Martha's Vineyard is one of the few exceptions on place names, already having enough history and popularity to be resist being renamed.
     
  20. Nov 17, 2009 #19

    mgb_phys

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    Some local councils in England are removing them from new signs
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/england/west_midlands/7858853.stm

    Mainly because they make the sign harder to read and more expensive.
    Of course with nothing else happening in the world at the moment to distract politicians this has become the most important topic of debate.

    It's hoped that a viscous guerrilla war between the "Apostrophe Protection Society" and the "Plain English Society" can be averted.
     
  21. Nov 17, 2009 #20
    I didn't make that distinction.
     
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