Garner’s Usage Tip of the Day: SAT.

SAT. This term originated in 1926 as an initialism for the “Scholastic Aptitude Test,” developed by Princeton psychology professor (and eugenicist) Carl C. Brigham from an IQ test he had created for the U.S. Army during World War I. It was first administered to high-school students that same year, and was later adopted by Harvard. In 1948, the Educational Testing Service (ETS) in Princeton, New Jersey, first administered the test for the College Board. From the beginning, the test was known primarily in its shortened form: SAT (with each letter individually sounded). In 1993, faced with controversy that the test was culturally biased and did not accurately measure aptitude, ETS changed the name of the test to the “Scholastic Assessment Test.” Some wondered what a test could be other than an assessment, and four years later ETS took the position (which it has maintained since) that SAT is not an initialism: the name of the test is the SAT, they declared, and the letters don’t stand for anything. (The College Board now calls it the SAT Reasoning Test on its website.) But in popular usage, the original full name and the redundant interregnal name are still used routinely. The declaration that the letters of a well-known initialism no longer stand for what most people assume they do was not entirely unprecedented. In 1963, Texas Agricultural & Mechanical University (better known as Texas A&M) did the same thing. Likewise, in the mid-1990s, Microsoft declared that OLE no longer stood for “object linking and embedding” — that OLE simply stood for OLE. For information about the Language-Change Index click here. ——————– Quotation of the Day: “It is a mistake to imagine that dialects are everywhere corruptions of the literary language. Even in England, the local patois have many forms which are more primitive than the language of Shakespeare, and the richness of their vocabulary surpasses, on many points, that of the classical writers of any period.” Max Muller, Lectures on the Science of Language 60 (1st ser., 1st Am. ed. 1868).
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