acronym

acronym

[ak-ruh-nim]
acronym: see abbreviation.
A pseudo-acronym (or empty acronym) is an apparent acronym or other abbreviation which doesn't stand for anything, or cannot be officially expanded to some meaning. An orphan acronym is a pseudo-acronym that was once a true acronym or initialism. For instance:

  • AIGA, which used to stand for American Institute of Graphic Arts, now does not stand for anything, the organization having broadened its focus.
  • AIESEC, formerly the abbreviation for "Association internationale des étudiants en sciences économiques et commerciales", now does not stand for anything, the organization having broadened its members profile.
  • ECHL, which used to stand for East Coast Hockey League, now does not stand for anything; expansion into Alaska and California effectively made its "East Coast" title incorrect.
  • FFA, which used to stand for Future Farmers of America, now does not stand for anything, the National FFA Organization having broadened its focus.
  • The SAS System, which originally stood for the Statistical Analysis System programming language, has now outgrown its acronym and officially stands for nothing.
  • UNISON, Britain's largest trade union, looks like an acronym, particularly since the names of many British trade unions are acronyms, but it is not.
  • The I.O. Theatre used to stand for Improv Olympic. After a trademark dispute with the Olympics, the theatre agreed to call itself IO, which would officially stand for nothing.
  • ISO, a world-wide standards organization, is formally named the "International Organization for Standardization" in English and "Organisation internationale de normalisation" in French. The term ISO was never an acronym; it's simply a Greek word. ISO are silent regarding their choice to consistently spell the word in all capitals — a practice which causes many English speakers to mistakenly believe that the term is an acronym or initialism for "International Standards Organization".
  • NASDAQ was originally an acronym for National Association of Securities Dealers Automated Quotations.
  • XNA is a framework used for game and application development for the Microsoft Windows and Xbox 360 platforms.

Not pseudo-acronyms (since they are not pronounced as words) but pseudo-initialisms:

  • The Black Sabbath song "N.I.B." is merely the word "nib" spelled as an initialism, often taken to stand for "Nativity in Black".
  • Similarly, the song title "A.M.E.R.I.K.A." by KillRadio is typographic rather than an initialism.
  • The SAT was an initialism for Scholastic Aptitude Test, Scholastic Assessment Test, or Scholastic Achievement Test at various times but now officially stands for nothing in particular.
  • The instant messaging system called ICQ was chosen as a play on the words "I Seek You".
  • The PNC in PNC Bank does not officially stand for anything. The company was formed as a merger between Pittsburgh National Corporation and Provident National Corporation, so the (common) initials of the two companies were used to name the new company.

An anti-acronym is an acronym or other abbreviation which officially stands for something, but pretends not to, such as phrases which paradoxically deny their own existence. (This is very common among computer programs, especially UNIX programs.) For instance:

  • EINE and ZWEI were two MIT Lisp Machine Emacs-like editors from the late 1970s, standing for "Eine Is Not Emacs" and "Zwei Was Eine Initially" (also suggestive of the German first two cardinal numbers "eins" and "zwei" (versions one and two)).
  • GNU, coined in 1983, stands for "GNU's Not Unix" .
  • Jini is said to stand for "Jini Is Not Initials".
  • LAME, an mp3 encoder, stands for "LAME Ain't an MP3 Encoder".
  • Ging stands for "Ging Is Not Ging".
  • PHP stands for "PHP: Hypertext Preprocessor" although it originally stood for "Personal Home Page" (a valid acronym).
  • WINE stands for "WINE Is Not an Emulator" although it originally stood for "Windows Emulator". This was done to state that WINE is not like a traditional platform emulator, but a compatible API and runtime environment.

Because these are also recursive acronyms — in which part of the acronym expands to the original acronym — and can thus never be fully expanded, some prefer to refer to recursive acronyms as pseudo-acronyms instead of anti-acronyms.

References

 

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