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The Polysemy of PLoS

While looking up the Facebook page today, I came across a number of other groups with PLoS or PLOS in their name but not affiliated with the Public Library of Science (I was somewhat disappointed to learn that the group PLOS Presents – “Grease” wasn’t an official Public Library of Science production). Indeed, the PLOS Theatre Company (formerly the Putney Light Operatic Society) predates PLoS by 55 years and PLOS Musical Productions first took to the stage 41 years before the launch of PLoS Biology in 2003.

Acronym Finder lists several other recognised meanings for the acronym PLoS, including “Programming Languages and Operating Systems” and the instant messaging abbreviation “Parent Looking Over Shoulder.” Despite this, Google’s only suggested definition of “PLoS” is: “The Public Library of Science (PLoS) is a nonprofit open-access scientific publishing project aimed at creating a library of open access journals.”

As for the pronunciation of PLoS, it should, of course, rhyme with “floss”: if you’re IPA-proficient, this is [plɔs] or [plɒs], depending on your dialect. We do hear all sorts of variant pronunciations of our acronym: P-LoS (pee-loss), P-L-o-S (pee-ell-oh-ess) and PLoSe (rhymes with “dose”), among others, as well as those who do not like to abbreviate (strictly speaking, the journal is called PLoS ONE not Public Library of Science ONE).

There is less agreement as to the name to describe staff and fans of PLoS. Should it be PLoSsers, PLoSsites or PLoSsees? After a night out, the former could easily be mis-pronounced as plosher, which is actually a Cornish word for a type of marine fish. In the UK, our regular pub quiz team name is Non-PLoSsed (although explaining this to the quiz master is usually more trouble than it is worth). You can see why we never got as far as creating a collective noun for a group of PLoS fans!

PLoS doesn’t yet have an entry in the Oxford English Dictionary so we thought we’d end with a game of Call My Bluff for the OED entry that would appear alphabetically after PLoS: ploshchadka. But what does ploshchadka mean?

  1. A language spoken by an ancient, nomadic tribe, which lived on the banks on the Yenisei River until the last native speaker died in 1800.
  2. A raised area or platform formed of burnt clay from the debris of collapsed buildings, found in Neolithic sites in the Ukraine.
  3. A Russian publisher of open-access, scientific journals.

While you’re mulling this over, why not make sure you have bookmarked the *right* PLoS bookmarks: our homepage is here, our blogs are here, here and here, follow us on Twitter here, join our Facebook group here, read our FriendFeed here and check out our Flickr photos here.

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