Annoyances: RAS syndrome

Following on from my earlier post about prescriptive vs descriptive opinions when it comes to linguistics – as something of a prescriptivist myself, I find that holding myself to a decent standard of English has its many difficulties and pitfalls. Occasionally I find myself going beyond that.

There are many English errors I see or hear on a daily basis which simply annoy me, even when I know they shouldn’t. Most of the time I should just chill out. One such thing is RAS syndrome, or Redundant Acronym Syndrome syndrome.

RAS syndrome is the act of using an acronym but redundantly saying one of the words contained within the acronym anyway – for example, one that everybody will have heard is “PIN Number”. Since “PIN” stands for “Personal Identification Number”, by saying “PIN Number” you’re essentially saying “number” twice.

The keener-eyed of you may have noticed that “RAS syndrome” is itself an example of it – who doesn’t love self-referential humor?

A few more examples of RAS syndrome – can you think of any more?

ATM machine – automated teller machine machine
HIV virus – human immunodeficiency virus virus
LCD display – liquid crystal display display
DC current – direct current current
UPC code – Universal Product Code code
CSS style sheets – cascading style sheets style sheets

Sometimes there is a reason for RAS syndrome – for example, “please RSVP”. Since the “SVP” part of the acronym is from a foreign language – French for “please” (s’il vous plait) – you’re technically saying “please please respond”.

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