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Sebastian Rahtz wrote:
> Recently added tags have  been largely on the side
> of longAndEasilyReadable, I'd say.
>
> Then again I may be talking rubbish :-}
>   

Blatantly so, I fear. In fact, the longest tag ever recorded in the TEI 
appeared in the very first version. P1  included  a monster known as 
<statementOfResponsibility>. Although this routinely caused SGML parsers 
to keel over, it followed the strict logic laid down in some of the 
earliest TEI design documents. I quote from MLW26 (1991) available at
http://www.tei-c.org.uk/Vault/ML/mlw26.htm

--------------
The following recommendations should be applied where possible in
generating names for TEI DTDs, and should govern usage in TEI documents
and examples:
 
1.    TEI documents and examples should give all one-word tag and attri-
      bute names in lowercase; phrasal names should uppercase the ini-
      tial character of each word but the first.
2.    Names should be natural-language words or phrases.
3.    Avoid abbreviation except for very common items.
4.    Where possible, avoid forming names from phrases.
5.    Avoid collisions among names of different types.
6.    Use nouns and adjectives for tag and attribute names; avoid 
verbs.namely use full words wherever possible, unless the tag is likely 
to be used very frequently.
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> The other criterion, of course, is assumed
> frequency of use. You only type "<editionStmt>"
> once, but you type "<p>" a million times
> (if you still do that old-fashioned typing thang
> of course).
>
>   
The document cited points out that frequency is the main reason for 
using abbreviation, the other being that it is commonly done in the 
discipline.

Of course, it's possible that later versions of the TEI have fallen 
short of the initial high aspirations  of its designers but it's 
certainly not the case that abbreviated tagnames were deliberately 
preferred in days of yore.