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In an answer to another question, steven_desu argued that it was “technically incorrect” to use the word “e-mail” or “email” as a verb because it stands for “electronic mail.”

I do not argue whether he is right or not because I am not interested in whether the word is “technically correct” or not. As far as I am concerned, it is enough to know that the use of “e-mail” as a verb is widely accepted.

However, his answer has certainly pointed out an interesting fact: when people use “e-mail” as a verb, they no longer care about the fact that the word was originally an abbreviation for “electronic mail,” which is a noun phrase. “Please e-mail me” is fine, but “please electronic mail me” is simply wrong. Although “please electronically mail me” may be ok, I do not think that people consider “please e-mail me” as a short form for “please electronically mail me.”

So my question is: what are other examples of words like this:

  • The word is originally an abbreviation for a noun or a noun phrase, and
  • It can be used as a verb (or, even better, another part of speech!) in a way that the original word/phrase cannot substitute for the abbreviation.
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I do not know the policy about when to mark a question as a community-wiki. I flagged the post for moderator attention, asking them to make this question a community wiki if it should be. Related discussion on Meta: meta.english.stackexchange.com/questions/165 –  Tsuyoshi Ito Nov 14 '10 at 12:44
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I'm interested to see what comes out of this question. In my opinion the longer form should always be considered. English teachers still argue today that "ATM machine" is redundant. Why should "email" be a verb? If there's resounding disagreement, though, I'll have to cede the point. –  stevendesu Nov 14 '10 at 17:09
    
English teachers argue it, but it would be clearly incorrect to say "AT machine," it is correct to say "ATM card", not "AT card", etc. –  Ophiuroid Nov 15 '10 at 16:58
    
I see no problem with e-mail being used as a verb. If you can mail a [paper] letter, why can't you [e-]mail an [electronic] letter? –  oosterwal Feb 2 '11 at 21:54
    
I can't readily think of any abbreviated nouns or noun phrases that have come to be used as verbs, but I suspect that most, if not all, use nouns that are also verbs. –  oosterwal Feb 2 '11 at 22:02
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4 Answers

Spec

  1. As a noun, it appeared as a short form of specification.

  2. It is now also used as a verb. Meaning is to write specifications for.

  3. When you use it is as a verb (e.g. spec your Ferrari), you can't replace the short form spec with the originating noun's long form specification.

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I just realized that the question was on abbreviated noun phrases and not any abbreviated nouns, sorry... –  b.roth Nov 14 '10 at 13:35
    
Interesting. And I modified the question because I did not intend to limit it to noun phrases. Thank you for making me realize that! –  Tsuyoshi Ito Nov 14 '10 at 14:19
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Blog. Section. Airmail.

It's one of the many ways English enriches itself. I don't know what "technically incorrect" might mean in this context, but I can find no meaning in it.

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(1) I know that “blog” was formerly called “weblog,” but are “section” and “airmail” abbreviations of something? (2) I am not sure why you gave a link to the article about a person called Henry Blogg in Wikipedia. Maybe you meant to give a link to the article about blog? (3) I do not know what “technically correct” means in this context, either. As I stated in the question, I am not interested in it. –  Tsuyoshi Ito Nov 15 '10 at 14:35
    
"Technically incorrect", as I used it originally, means that grammatically it's not correct even though it's commonly accepted. It's incorrect on a technicality. –  stevendesu Nov 15 '10 at 20:57
    
"Section" in that sense is for "Section II" (or other sections). I was thinking "Airmail" was originally "airmail letter", which it certainly might be, but I don't know. I got the 'blog' link wrong, and didn't check it (mea culpa). What is your evidence, Steven for asserting that it is "grammatically ... not correct"? –  Colin Fine Nov 16 '10 at 10:25
    
My evidence is the very reason for this thread. E-mail is short for electronic mail. Since electronic is an adjective, this provides sufficient proof that mail (in this context) is a noun. Therefore if you say "email me", you're saying "electronic mail me", or "[adj] [noun] [pronoun]". There is no verb in this sentence, hence it's a fragment- or incorrect. The argument made against me is that after being contracted, the shortened noun phrase can act as a verb in its own right, just as "mail me" is acceptable. –  stevendesu Nov 16 '10 at 15:22
    
Also, while web log (log being a noun) provides a counter-example ("I'm blogging this"), I don't see how section II has a clearly identified verb. Also, airmail is just a compound word formed of air and mail, not a contracted noun phrase. The argument isn't whether a noun can be used as a verb, but whether a noun phrase (in which an adjective clearly identifies it as a noun and not a verb) can be used as a verb. –  stevendesu Nov 16 '10 at 15:24
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Dial comes from the latin phrase rota dialis meaning "daily wheel", and has evolved to mean any round plate over which something rotates. The verb is from 1650s, "to work with aid of a dial or compass;" telephone sense is from 1923.

Etymology Online

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Abbreviations of compound nouns and noun phrases are used as verbs in the cases of ID (meaning "to identify"), CC (carbon copy--the verb means "to include among the recipients of an email"), and PMS (to suffer from PreMenstrual Syndrome). These are becoming generally used; my students attest to the use of LOL as a verb, and I have heard numerous in-house abbreviations used as verbs in institutional settings.

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