Interesting facts about acronyms and backronyms

  • RSVP – Some people have thought it to mean Respond So Very Promptly; actually it is French for Respond if you please.
  • SAP  Originally SystemAnalyse und Programmentwicklung ("System Analysis and Program Development") in German, the name of the configurable software package developed by SAP GmbH from 1971 onwards. This has been backronymed by SAP Inc. into English as "Systems, Applications and Products in data processing".
  • Acronyms are frequently re-interpreted by people to give them another meaning, e.g.: 
  • FAQ  Frequently Avoided Questions, 
  • RAM  Rarely Adequate Memory.
  • Science and technologies advance the number of acronyms and frequency of their use. Chat-rooms, e-mails and SMS have given birth to hundreds of acronyms (like LOL – for "Laugh Out Loud", IMHO for "In My Humble Opinion", or ROFL  Rolling on the Floor Laughing).

What does NATO & LASER have in common with ICQ, DVD, SOS, and VISA?

The correct answer: They are all abbreviations.

Here is what they stand for:

UN (United Nations) are initials formed by using the first letters of each word; also referred to as initialism;

NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) is an acronym in its classic sense. It is an abbreviation which is pronounced as a word. Another example is LASER, which though not commonly known, is actually an acronym.LASER stands for Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation.

SOS is a backronym. A backronym is a type of acronym that begins as an ordinary word, and is later interpreted as an acronym. SOS, the international panic signal, was chosen due to its ease of transmission when using Morse code (…—…) but is often understood to stand for phrases that had no role in its original conception. Two of the most common variants are "Save Our Souls" and "Save Our Ship".

ICQ (I Seek You) and IOU (I Owe You) are pseudo-acronyms – when pronounced as intended, they resemble the sounds of other words.

VISA is recursive acronym – it is an abbreviation which refers to itself in the expression for which it stands. VISAstands for Visa International Service Association.

But do not worry – even possessing this secret knowledge about the various kinds of these multi-letter species you can still refer to all of these as acronyms:) The same way like BMX (Bicycle Moto-cross(X)) bike can still be called a bike…. perhaps a bit extreme one 🙂


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