VT5... uses of acronyms

Monday, 9 November 2009
Acronyms are the LASERS of language, the SWAT teams of succinctness, and the semantic equivalent of filling your SCUBA with TNT instead of O2. OMG, acronyms are amazing (as are alliterative annexations).

Acronyms, as you may know, result from taking a group of words, hacking some of the first letters off, and using what results as a brand new term of reference. E.g., AIDS is quicker to say than “Argh! It’s Diseased Severely.”

Businesses do love ‘em, and occasionally sue each other over them. Like when the WWF sued the WWF, even though the WWF used to be the WFN and still is in some countries, and that’s not even considering that the WWF has recently merged with the WCW and ECW. Anyway, the WWF beat the WWF, and now they are the WWE. See how confusing it can get when they have the same name? That’s why it came to court. In fact, you might say it got acronymonious. Eh? Might you? No? Like acrimonious, obviously.


5. Internyms

Don’t know what internet acronyms are all about? Well, RTFM you FOAG, and soon we’ll be BFFs, IMHO. (BTW, FOAG doesn’t mean anything rude; but it sounds like it does, which is what matters.)

Internet acronyms were invented because really cool people were too busy being cool to type whole phrases, and then everyone else started using them because they also wished to appear cool. Alternatively, they were invented by paedophiles trying to corrupt your kiddies by using a code unbreakable by worried parents. (Did you know that that one of the ‘L’s in LOL stands for lick?)

4. Recursonyms

Computery people, particularly those of the Open Source (OS) community, like being clever. They like writing efficient programs, they like sticking two fingers up at the proprietary business model, and as it turns out they also like acronyms.

But! Because they are clever, and pride themselves on their ability to understand things that others do not, they consequently wouldn’t stoop to use regular acronyms when they could instead use recursive acronyms, and in doing so make a hilarious parsing pun and fan the in-joke flames.

For example, GNU means “GNU’s Not Unix,” as does that GNU, etc, etc, ad infinatum, ad hilarium ensuium. There are more, here are some; WINE is “WINE Is Not an Emulator”, and EINE is “EINE Is Not Emacs” and TWATS is “TWATS With Acronyms That Suck.” Although I’m not so sure about that last one.

(I always feel concerned when I bait people online who know more about programming and the internet than me. It’s like jumping into the ocean and telling the sharks that they have stupid looking fins, LOL.)

Actually you shouldn't lick sharks, their skin is very abrasive.

3. Backronyms

Sometimes, words are not acronyms, they are just words. This is fine. But occasionally they are made into acronyms later. This concept was pounced upon during the Second World War, when soldiers would use secret acronyms to delight their sweethearts back home. So FRANCE meant ‘Friendship Remains And Never Can End,’ HOLLAND meant ‘Hope Out Love Lasts And Never Dies,” and so on. How lovely. However, if Wikipedia is to be believed, and I have no evidence to suggest otherwise, then you want to watch out for SOMALIA, ENGLAND and TIBET. Those filthy, filthy sodgers.

(What’s always puzzled me, though, is surely the censors would be far more likely to blank out an apparent place name on a letter than actually writing My Ardent Lips Await Your Arrival (MALAYA)?)

Also, another sort of backronym is when the words of an existing acronym can be modified without changing the acronym itself, like DVD (Digital Video Disk to Digital Versatile Disk.) This is because businesses sometimes want to change their name without having to replace any of their expensive signs and logos.

2. Macronyms

What’s the point of an acronym? It’s supposed to be quick to say. This basic concept flitted briefly through the minds of those who renamed the American Navy’s Administrative Command, Amphibious Forces, Pacific Fleet Subordinate Command. ADCOMSUBORDCOMPHIBSPAC isn’t really what you’d call a handy alternative, though.

Russia is the world’s biggest country, so how fitting it is that they should have the world’s longest acronym to their name too, according to The Guinness Book of Records: NIIOMTPLABOPARMBETZHELBETRABSBOMONIMONKONOTDTEKHSTROMONT "The laboratory for shuttering, reinforcement, concrete and ferroconcrete operations for composite-monolithic and monolithic constructions of the Department of the Technology of Building-assembly operations of the Scientific Research Institute of the Organization for building mechanization and technical aid of the Academy of Building and Architecture of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics."

Oh those Soviets, they were well known for their jokes.

1. Contrivonyms

Acronyms are very 21st C. You want a groovy acronym to make yourself sound all hip. But occasionally fate conspires against you and your acronym of choice, formed from the words which describe your business or product best, unfortunately reads as something hilariously misleading and salacious.

For example, two Regional Technical Colleges in Ireland (Galway and Tralee) had to think fast when they were upgraded to Institutes of Technology, otherwise they would have gone respectively from GRTC and TRTC to GIT and TIT.

Saying that, there is the Technological Institute of Textile & Sciences in India which decided to go with TITS.

As for the Canadian ‘Conservative Reform Alliance Party’, and the German telenovella ‘Alles Nur Aus Liebe,’ they didn’t think far enough ahead, did they?


I’d end with an acronym, but C U l8r is a group of contracted homophones, and I wouldn’t want you to think I was into that sort of thing. TTFN.


Angie said...

ROTFL... great post, imho :)

Ewan said...


Very Top Five said...
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Ewan said...