Sometimes, there is no right answer.

Remember the KIP question a few posts back?
Michelle – one of the ladies at the Sunday stitch ‘n bitch I go to – asked me if I’d come to any resolution, and that got me thinking about it some more.

I decided that I’ve found a problem with the English language (and probably any other language that uses acronyms/initializations): acronyms use lossy compression.

Computers can use compression to take a large file and store it as a smaller file. There are all sorts of ways to do this, and most of them have to gaurantee that the data that you get when you uncompress the file is identical to the data you had when you first compressed it. This is known as lossless compression, because no data is lost from end to end in the compression/expansion process.

However, there are some types of applications where it’s okay if you lose a little bit of data – audio and video being good examples. Your brain is very good at reconstructing a sound or an image even if the sound or image is incomplete. So if your MP3 player doesn’t quite reproduce all the frequencies that were present in the original recording, it’s okay. Your brain will fill in the gaps and it will pretty much sound the same to you.

Knitting instructions often use lossless compression. For example, you’ll often see something like this:

sl1, *k2,p2, rep from * to end

For a row that’s seventeen stitches wide, the uncompressed version would look like this:

sl1, k2, p2, k2, p2, k2, p2, k2, p2

This is one of the features I still need to add to VisiKnit – it’s not smart enough to deal with compression shorthand yet.

So what does all this have to do with acronyms?

They’re lossy. If I write an acronym by itself and don’t give any context, it’s impossible to expand it to its original words with 100% accuracy. Example:

CBS

What does that stand for? Well, according to the Internet Acronym Server, it can mean any of the following:

  • Canadian Blood Services
  • Central Broadcasting System
  • Columbia Broadcasting System
  • Cost Breakdown Structure
  • Crossbar Switching

It’s also the airport code for Oro Negro airport in Venezuela. And since acronyms and airport codes are both written as all capital letters these days, you can’t tell if CBS by itself is even an acronym or an airport code. (I miss the days when you used periods to indicate acronyms.)

Which brings us back to KIP. Given its context in a sentence, you can figure out whether it’s being used to mean Knit In Public or Knitting In Public. But by itself, you can’t tell. There’s not enough information in the acronym to decode it properly.

But all of this really doesn’t have much to do with what I finally arrived at. KIP is an acronym, which means it is a word that is formed using the first letters from several words. An acronym is pronounced and used like a word – you say “nah suh” for NASA, you don’t spell out “N A S A”. Compare that with CBS, which is an initialization – you don’t try to pronounce it as a word, you spell it out.

Since KIP is an acronym, I figure you should be able to do the kinds of manipulations on it that you can do with a normal word. “Run” is a verb, and I can say “I am running”. I think it makes sense to use the same logic on KIP to say “I was KIPping at the park the other day.”

Oh, and I started another sock yesterday.

No Responses to “Sometimes, there is no right answer.”

  1. Jess, of the Bugs Says:

    Etymology is great, ain’t it? I love etymology about as much as I love entomology. In fact, it helps to know the first to assist in learning the latter.

    Go, sock, go!

    Ripped back and re-knitted the gusset on the Husband!Socks aka foot-sweaters. They’re freakin’ huge. Also finished the S.S.S. from 6-sox

    Go me.

  2. Bridget Says:

    Ah, nerds and knitting, a lovely combination. Nice to know I’m not the only one…..

  3. Donna Says:

    I over-nerded at work, so this is hurting my brain. I’ll have to read it again later. :o) Has your intended victim perished yet? I need to go check out the site. I’d be so dead right now – which is why I didn’t join in the mayhem. Sock on, dude.

  4. janna Says:

    This is lots of heavy-duty thinking….

  5. Suzy Says:

    This only works for English, don’t ya know. How would KIPing work with languages that don’t have a present progressive tense? Just thought I’d ask as my students can say and write “I play soccer” correctly ’til the cows come home in class but when they have to write it on a Test they freak and start creating what they think is present progressive in German. German doesn’t have a present progressive! Just thought I’d add that to your mix. You think too much!;)

  6. pippy Says:

    Geek. 😀

  7. Michelle Says:

    I honestly believe that poetry–namely, the works of E.E. Cummings–played a hand in the whole, crazy English language/acronym thing. He made it OK to kinda do your own thang. Personally, I’m cool with you “knitting in public-ing,” but what drives me nuts is junk like using “2” instead of “to,” or “cause” instead of “because.” A girl can lose sleep over that!

    I’ll KIP with you on Sunday, right? We can DIP (drink in public) and if I’m sleep-deprived, which is a likelihood, then I’ll TRCJIP (tell really corny jokes in public). Fine, I’ll stop now.

  8. lesley Says:

    oy. you think too much. making my brain hurt just reading. but that may be the lack of sleep who knows. nice kilt. haven’t seen one in a while…i think that means my friends are getting oring. btw how does that go over in good ol san antone? i figure my dad would think ou’re a freak but hey. thats west texas for ya 😉
    ps your socks are coming. are you ready?