Monday, January 8, 2018

Terminology - POTUS variations

Copyright © Françoise Herrmann


Surge in the use of the acronyms of endearment POTUS (President of the United States), FLOTUS (First Lady of the United States), even FGOTUS (First Grandma of the United States), FTODUS (First Daughter(s) of the United States) and FPOTUS (First Pet(s) of the United States), towards the end of the Obama administration, has sent terminologists searching for the origins of this whole new suite of US Presidential forms of address!

 According to the OED, a written record of the abbreviation POTUS dates back to the turn of the 20th century and the use of the telegraph. A shorter form, the  term POT – President of the. is listed in the 1879 version of The Phillips Telegraphic Code for the Rapid Transmission by Telegraph of Press Reports, Commercial and Private Telegrams, and All Other Matter Sent by Wire Or Cable, a shorthand, developed for use by the press, in the US.

The OED defines the origins of POTUS as: “Originally a newspaper wire and telegraph codeword; later used esp. among White House staff before passing into more general use.” The first record cited in the OED, from the Birmingham (Alabama) Age-Herald of April 1895, lists POTUS (President of the United States and SCOTUS (Supreme Court of the United States).  

FLOTUS, on the other hand, is listed in the OED as slang, chiefly US, with the first written record dating back to 1983, whereas FDOTUS, FGOTUS and FPOTUS are (to date) unlisted in the OED. 

The pronunciation of the acronym POTUS (President of the United States), and by analogy of FLOTUS (First Lady of the United States), and the whole creatively derived suite of US Presidential forms of address, varies. The following Youtube video offers some of the variation. As for the pronunciation of the brevity code  POT – President of the, found in the Phillips Code of 1879, perhaps that it could have had a short vowel variation (as in "hot"), had it been pronounced as an acronym and used as an endearing form of address.



References
Phillips Code
The Phillips Telegraphic Code for the Rapid Transmission by Telegraph of Press Reports, Commercial and Private Telegrams, and All Other Matter Sent by Wire Or Cable
FGOTUS: The latest presidential acronym you need to get your head around – The Guardian (June 16, 2015)

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