I was about to ask the following question:
“Is 'CIA' an acronym, or is only 'laser' an acronym?”
Now, in another question, I've been asking about the earliest use of words which started as initials but which are pronounced as words (which excludes "CIA"). For clarity's sake, I was wondering about the case of “laser” and not the “CIA” one. In the course of that discussion, naturally the word "acronym" appeared:
I became interested in the meaning of the word "acronym." Does "acronym" only mean the cases where you pronounce it like "laser" (i.e one word), or does "acronym" in fact stand for the cases like "CIA" whose initials are pronounced?
Now, in investigating that issue, my investigations lead me to believe that, in fact:
The word "acronym" is, quite simply, not well-defined between the two cases.
(1) surprisingly all "official" dictionaries, etc, poorly distinguish or simply do not distinguish, between the two cases, neither do they mention that (say) it specifically means 'both cases', nor only one case.
(2) in academic and similar use of the term, once again, no real distinction is made between the two
(3) when I asked a handful of intelligent, literate people what "acronym" means, and particularly asked them to distinguish between the two meanings, all of them in the straw poll just said the same thing, "You're right, that's weird, nobody knows what 'acronym' means." or words to that effect.
(4) It's easy to find examples where people use 'acronym' to aggressively means only the "CIA" case, and it's easy to find examples where people use 'acronym' to aggreesivly means only the "laser" case,
i) What is your opinion on which of the two cases acronym means
ii) Can you in fact, unlike me, find some "definitive" reference on the issue
iii) Can you perhaps see in some academic or article setting, clear distinction between the two possibilities?
iv) Am I sadly correct that the word 'acronym', simply, fails in general use to distinguish between the two cases?