The Four-Acronym Theorem

Do you think any pattern exists in the way an acronym is written and the way the world – or, the internal senses – receives it?

acronym-cartoonI’m one of those people who prefer to read an acronym as letters not a word. Even for names, I say the letters aloud, rather than as a word in themselves – because that latter is linguistically incorrect, as common as it is nowadays. A-S-A-P instead of ‘asap’. Because of this, I’m interested in any kind of answer to the above question and this directional hypothesis: the greater the aesthetic appeal of an acronym (eg, by the number or shape of letters it contains) the more likely someone will pay attention to it.

For this, I shall start by looking at the acronyms that crop up in my life, avoiding specific commercial and colloquial acronyms. By these, I mean my MS titles and the acronyms they form.

A Tale of Jackets and Phones Cover1Perhaps it is surprising at face value that a lot of my novels follow a four-stem or four-word pattern. When the Clock Broke (WTCB), Don’t Mess with Time (DMWT), Of Jackets and Phones (OJAP) and the rest of the Agnetha King Mysteries Trilogy… A Game of Murder and her surrounding titles. L.I.L.Y. (an acronym itself!)… The list continues…

Something about the four here is subconsciously compelling to me. Of course, some are affected by pattern in a deliberate sense; only the third book in the Time, Stopped trilogy does not have three major words and one minor word in its title, and that can be fixed by the removal of ‘the’ from its beginning (but, for readability’s sake, it currently remains). A Belgium Mystery, whilst not following the four-word rule, follows its successor by sticking to the A-followed-by-noun composition.

However, quite by bizarre chance, its alternate, or ‘sub’- title is four words: Diamonds for the Destitute.

But why four to me?

music-brainOne suggestion that comes to me is of audible quality. Not simply when saying the titles, but the entire process of fours that comes with music in the blood. There are four beats in Common time bars – and I listen to so much popular music that Common time surrounds me; there are often four bars on a line, and more often than not, four lines can fill the average-sized page.

When I’m anxious, I click or tap each hand in fours before swapping. It must be fours.

From the number itself, it might be suggested that subconscious desire of creating titles with four words comes. Three may be the ‘magic number’, but four is even, and, thus, bears more of a ‘catch’ for interested people, like myself, who like order and efficiency.

We might also suggest that the idea of pairs comes into the attractiveness of words. Although titles like When the Clock Broke and Don’t Mess with Time are visually uneven with their automatic placing of the ‘lesser’ or minor word, a title like Diamonds for the Destitute has a chiastic balance of two pairs of upper and lower and alliteration. This makes it a powerful title in linguistic sense, even if it never becomes an acronym of ‘DftD’.

Even the idea of splitting a title in half for its individual components comes to mind when thinking in the sense of a title. We take memories in chunks, so why not explain that we indeed read in chunks, too?

Do I buy more books with titles or acronyms because of what I have been subconsciously doing with my own? No. Indeed, although I have some titles fallen foul of this pattern – Tess of the D’Urbervilles – I tend towards going by blurb and by instinct rather than by title. I won’t say no to a single-word title, but nor would I say yes to it purely for a good one word.  

Perhaps, however, we can argue that a lot of book-titles work better as four words, and that my suggestion is malapropism of sorts. Of course, without proper research to back up this supposition, no actual claims can be made. Many titles are single words and these are, to some, equally or more attractive than the longer and ‘balanced’ titles. In addition, I have no way, apart from the idea of market research, to apply this theorem to the sporadic world of advertising and spoken acronyms.

Any other arguments? What experiences have you had that suggest acronym-attention is related to previous experience? Ie. What sort of acronyms appeal to you, and why?

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