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On a recent question asking if acronymize is a word, a comment caught my attention:

Why bother to acronymize? If I'm going to take such liberties, I might as well just acronym the text.

This really got me thinking. I am quite certain I've never used either verb. But I am just as certain that if I had to verb acronym, and do it quick, my brain would not so much as consider to acronym. There's just something about it that doesn't quite feel right. To acronymize, on the other hand, sounds perfectly natural. So not only would I go with the latter, but I'd do so without giving it a second thought. On complete autopilot. Instinctively.

Why would that be? That instinct has to come from somewhere.

My first and only guess right now is that -nym is the perpetrator here. That it outright attracts the -ize rather than the null morpheme. Just like -(o)log- attracts -ical over -ic, that kind of thing. But is that really true, or is there something else at work here?

And as a bonus question: are there other morphological domains in which -ize is especially productive? For a suffix that common, I suppose it's not too unlikely that someone actually went to the trouble of compiling a handy list of them all.

  • I would venture that stress patterns and pronunciation shift regularly when an -nym words get "ized". I've never heard acronymized but I imagine it would follow the same pattern as synonym/synonymize. – tylerharms Dec 19 '13 at 19:57
  • Hmmm. Google Books claims 796 instances of pseudonymed, as against 656 pseudonymized (plus 241 pseudonymised, presumably from lexically adventurous Brits). There are several hundred instances of synonymed too. Looks like we're in linguistic territory where people make things up as they go along. – FumbleFingers Dec 19 '13 at 21:24
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Let's see here. Your first question is why you would choose "-ize" as the N->V suffix for "acronym". Wikipedia lists five V producing suffixes (http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/Category:English_verb-forming_suffixes):

  • -en (Hard -> Harden) so Adj->V
  • -fy (Can't think of a single example)
  • -ify (Beauty -> Beautify) so N->V
  • -ise (Alternative of -ize)
  • -ize (Custom -> Customize) so N->V

Now, take a look at the list of verbs with "-ify", every root is one or two syllables. Furthermore, most of them seem to mean "to make as if [the root]".

On the other hand, (http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/-ize#English) define "-ize" as "to make what is denoted by [the root]"

SO there are in fact only two N->V suffixes you could've chosen from, and "-ify" doesn't fit the bill, both in terms of meaning and prosody. So it makes perfect sense that you instinctively want to "acronymize" instead of "acronymify" (blegh).

I don't think, however, that it has to do with "-nym". You also see "realize" and "desensitize" and "misogynize" and "conceptualize" whose endings are all different. It seems more like the "-ize"/"-ify" distinction is based on length a little bit, meaning a little bit, and then maybe just custom. I'd have to look at word lists more in depth to figure out any real patter.

Hope that helps!

  • 1
    You simplized the whole thing! – Kris Dec 20 '13 at 14:34

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