Recently on a Usenet forum, the subject came up of English words where Q is not followed by U (a visitor with a Chinese name wondered why people were always adding a U to his name). One user posted a list of exceptions, pointing out that most were recent borrowings from other languages (qi, qoph, qere/qeri, qintar, qaid, qadi, faqir, qabala, qiviut) but also tranq and qwerty.
I suggested that qwerty is more properly an acronym. My reasoning is that the letters stand only for themselves, not part of the phonetics of any actual word, and so are not subject to the usual rules of English spelling. Others (though not all) have denied that qwerty can be called an acronym because the letters aren’t initials. Would love for people here to weigh in on the controversy (especially if they declare my position correct).
(I also snuck in a funny at the same time, saying that qwerty is the English translation of the French word azerty.)
Sorry, Ron, but I have to answer, “No.”
I reviewed the OED entry and qwerty is listed as both an adjective and noun. The definition keeps coming back to a ‘standard English keyboard’.
Therefore, (until I am corrected by a better argument) I am simply going to call it a ‘designation’ according to some standard. In this regard, it is much like 503c, 401k, Title I, or Title IX. The first two refer to the sections of the US Tax Code for establishing a form of corporation or company retirement arrangement, respectively. The latter two describe US Law applying to schools with high subsidized lunch percentages or gender equality in programs, respectively. In all four of these cases, there is some standard (US Law) and the entities have been described or named by designation information from the standards. Without the reference to a standard, the ‘words’ are just a (random) list of characters as is qwerty.
My first sense was to go along with Emmett. If you buy the strict definition of acronym, the letters have to be those that start a series of words. However, one could argue that “Q” is a word that represents a letter. Example: Is Q the letter after P? In that case, a strong argument could be made that Q is the subject of a legitimate English sentence, and hence must be a word.
The other strict requirement for acronyms is that they be pronounceable. No problem there with QWERTY.
I’ll be interested to see how others weigh in on this. If you look up the definition of “word” it seems to come down in Ron’s favor. The fact that letters are one-letter words doesn’t seem to be relevant to the cited definition.
I’m going with Heimhenge. The ability to pronounce qwerty wins me over. It is unlike 503c or 401k or even 1040ez because the letters are not named but pronounced in combination. This quality also separates it from FAQ and that ilk. Almost all dictionaries list each single letter as a word. I admit it is interesting to consider an acromyn made up entirely of single-letter words. But, hey, why not? We make initialisms in which one of the letters is the first letter of another initialism. We’ve seen dogs with cats! Qs without Us.
I vote yes.
I read this earlier today and thought something similar to Glenn, that each letter has it’s own name and is a word in itself. However, nearly every letter has a name that is spelled out, usually with two or three letters. Q is spelled “cue”. So my next thought is that if this were truly an acronym it would be “cdeatw” and unpronounceable so not really an acronym. These letters are spelled – “cue”, “double-u”, “e”, “ar”, “tee”, “wye”. I can not think of anything that compares to “QWERTY” so I don’t know if it is an acronym or not.
ABCs is like QWERTY. But also different. A child learns his ABCs. She minds her Ps and Qs. These are not acronyms because in these the letters are called rather than pronounced. If QWERTY were NOT an acronym it would be pronounced as you suggested in your spelling: queue double you are ee tea why! But its not. So it is either a word proper or an acronym.
I guess the decision whether to spell out a letter’s name or to write the letter itself is similar to deciding whether to spell out a number or write the number itself. I didn’t mention earlier that I have never seen the names of letters spelled out anywhere except in the dictionary and in this conversation. Has anyone else? Anyway, I think I’m coming down on the side of saying it is an acronym, although I think it has been unnaturally forced into being one. I reserve the right to change my mind later.
Robert: On the question of whether a letter is also a word, Grant says this:
What Is A Word? Below I use word to include term or phrase. This is consistent with an academic definition of word, which might be explained as “a self-contained part of language, made of one or more morphemes, recognized by its speakers to represent a single idea or unit, several of which together can form a sentence.” A word is not necessarily a string of characters uninterrupted by a space.[From the About section of his Double-Tongued Dictionary.]
So all three of your examples seem “sensible” to me, though the second is somewhat tautological.
The right side of the statement must add meaning, a criterion only NASA meets.
Now you might say where did that come from? But you might say exactly the same about any other criteria above.
There is another reason still : qwerty is a word in its own right, it shouldn’t need to be an acronym too, no more than Richard needs to be an acronym.
I wish there is a way to disable the text styling buttons- on iPad typing goes fits and starts and fills in nonsense words. And that only happens when typing on AWWW.
I disagree that QWERTY is a word in its own right. There are two kinds of acronyms. Some are words in their own right like KISS, a real word in its own right that we all know, but it is also an acronym for Keep It Simple Stupid. But there are acronyms like NASA which stands for National Aeronautics And Space Administration. If it weren’t for this organization, the word NASA would be meaningless. QWERTY is in the latter category. It would be meaningless if it weren’t an acronym for the letters on the keyboard.
I would like to expand a bit on my last post. You should not say, “Q stands for cue” because cue does not begin with Q. Cue is the way to spell the letter Q. In NASA, more clearly an acronym, N stands for National, A stands for Aeronautics, etc. A letter stands for a word if that word starts with that letter.
My first paragraph gives evidence in favor of QWERTY being an acronym and my second paragraph gives evidence against that. I still lean toward it being an acronym, but it is very unclear.
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