From the JargonFile entry http://catb.org/~esr/jargon/html/B/backronym.html :
[portmanteau of back + acronym] A word interpreted as an acronym that was not originally so intended. This is a special case of what linguists call back formation. Examples are given under recursive acronym (Cygnus), Acme, and mung. Discovering backronyms is a common form of wordplay among hackers.
Some acronyms get backronymmed as they are invented, and some are backronymmed after the fact.
The JargonFile definition is pretty clear that "backronym" only applies to after-the-fact back formation.
A similar word is AproNym - from a propos/appropriate and acronym. An AproNym is an acronym which means something appropriate to its expanded version, whether created back, forward or sideways, and whether or not the word was originally thought to have stood for something else as in the case of OK (see EtymologyOfOkay) or PCMCIA. 'RESISTORS' as mentioned above is an apronym, as is USA PATRIOT (Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism) Some people enjoy making up apronyms of ordinary words, as a form of wordplay.
So for example "Using Superior Armed Power, America Threatens Recalcitrant Individuals Opposing Them" (courtesy Tony McCoy O'Grady) is a backronym of an apronym.
- BUFFALO - Bit User Fast Friendly Aid to Logical Operations - a monitor operating system for downloading, manipulating, and running machine code programs on the 68HC11 processors.
- DARE - DrugAbuseResistanceEducation
- FUBAR - "F***ed Up Beyond All Repair" arrived after German troops used "Furchtbar" during WWII. Is this really the origin of the FooBar? (See also FuBar)
- Jughead - Jonzy's Universal Gopher Hierarchy Excavation and Display
- Kermit - This file transfer protocol was backronymmed into various forms long after it got invented and named after the Muppet, but they never stuck, and the protocol's author refutes them.
- PING - Packet InterNet Groper
- PLUGH - Procedure List Used to Get Here, a stack trace command on the CP-6 operating system. The meaningless word comes from Colossal Cave Adventure, an early text adventure game.
- SOS - chosen for its MorseCode rhythm, then retrofitted to "Save Our Ship". I always thought it means "Save Our Souls".
- VERONICA - Very Easy Rodent-Oriented Netwide Index to Computerized Archives (successor of "ARCHIE"), see http://www.knowalot.com/nova/gopher.html
Not originally so intended:
- DES: Decrypted Easily by Spooks
- EMACS: see EmacsStandsFor
- ISDN: It Still Doesn't Network -- also heard as -- I Still Don't kNow
- LISP: Lots of Irritating Superfluous Parentheses / Lost In a Sea of Parentheses
- OS/2 Half an operating system.
- PCMCIA: People Can't Memorize Computer Industry Acronyms
- PS/2: Half a computer.
- RSA: Really Secure Algorithm
- TEMPEST: Transient Electromagnetic Pulse Emission Surveillance Technology
- TWAIN: Technology Without An Interesting Name
- Fiat: Futile Italian Attempt at Transportation OR Fix It Again, Tony
- Ford: Fix Or Repair Daily OR Find On Road Dead OR Fuel On Right Door (Because I can never remember...)
- Pontiac: Poor, old Norwegian thinks it's a Cadillac (That's a Minnesota Norwegian, not any Norwegian.)
- Chevrolet: Can hear every valve rattle on long extended trips.
- ALITALIA: Always Late In The Air and Late In Arrival
- BWIA: Better Walk If Able
- Delta: Don't Ever Leave The Airport OR Don't Expect Luggage To Arrive
- NASA (after the Challenger disaster): Need Another Seven Astronauts
- SABENA (Belgian airline): Such A Bad Experience, Never Again!
- SAS (Scandanavian airline): Same As SABENA.
- TAROM (Romanian airline): Terrible And Rusty Old Machines
- ETOPS (Standard for long flights with twin-engine airliners): Engines Turning Or Passengers Swimming
- Acme: A Company Making Everything
- IBM: Itty-Bitty Machines (internally known as I've Been Moved) OR It's Better Manually
- NSA: No Such Agency.
- BANFF: (Vail/Aspen type town in western Canada) Be Aware: Nothing For Free
- fuck: For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge or Fornication Under Consent of the King
Didn't get adopted, but should have:
- VAGINA: We had a competition at our company to name the software framework we had developed. It was built in VisualAgeSmalltalk and was a framework for building applications that had independent windows linked using a generic dialogue flow hander (yawn...) - Anyway, I submitted the proposal of calling it the VisualAGe INfrastructure and Architecture. I received several emails of support from senior management, before the proposal was rejected in favour of something much less meaningful and much more mundane. [DeleteIfOffended?].
Regarding FUBAR, from the JargonFile:
Early versions of the Jargon File interpreted this change as a post-war bowdlerization, but it it now seems more likely that FUBAR was itself a derivative of `foo' perhaps influenced by German `furchtbar' (terrible) - `foobar' may actually have been the original form.
entire entry: http://catb.org/~esr/jargon/html/F/foo.html
OK is the subject of some debate. Some say it was a Dutch abbreviation for "Oll Korrect", but others claim a Wolof ancestry. See EtymologyOfOkay.
This collection wouldn't be complete without "posh" - most commonly said to be derived from "Port Out - Starboard Home", as this was said to keep you on the cooler side of the ship. Also the subject of much debate! Cooler in Northern Hemisphere if your "out" is east and "home" is west. NewYorkCityCulturalAssumption???
Although it appeared in an earlier version of the list above, GNU ("GNU's not Unix") is not a backronym. RMS looked for things fitting the "____ is not Unix" template and, finding none he liked, moved to "____'s not Unix". The acronym does not predate its expansion.
I thought it was a play on YACC (YetAnotherCompilerCompiler). A Gnu is a critter that looks like a Yak, which is a water buffalo.
Is BISON a backronym? Or is it just another play on YACC?
I'm bored, so it's time to be petty : RSA, OS/2, PS/2, IBM, PCMCIA and NSA are not acronyms. Discuss. -- ArnoldLayne
Arnold, "a word interpreted as an acronym," not "a reinterpreted acronym;" it would seem that words or abbreviations that were never intended as acronyms are fair game here. Note that "Ford" is not an acronym, yet it can be "treated" as though it were. -- GarryHamilton
According to MerriamWebster
The point is that, technically, an abbreviation is not necessarily an acronym, although every acronym is necessarily an abbreviation. RSA, for example, is always pronounced as "
- a shortened form of a written word or phrase used in place of the whole <amt is an abbreviation for amount>
- a word (as NATO, radar, or snafu) formed from the initial letter or letters of each of the successive parts or major parts of a compound term.
'are ess ay", that is, it is spelled out, not pronounced as a single word. RSA is therefore an abbreviation, but not an acronym.
And yes, as he said, he is being petty.
One could argue, that OS/2 and especially PS/2 are not BackroNyms using this definition.
OS/2 = "half an operating system" ;->''
IBM = the Itty Bitty Machine company
Is this the same thing as a RetroNym? It looks like, from the examples, that one is an acronym intended to look like a word and the other is an acronym intended to explain a word, but maybe they are synonyms.
A RetroNym is something else entirely, usually not an acronym -- see the RetroNym entry.
What about acronyms (or abbreviations, or whatever!) that were chosen with the short form first? I am thinking in particular of the Beginner's All-Purpose Symbolic Instruction Code, aka BASIC, and the Radically Emphatic Students Interested in Science, Technology and Other Research Subjects, aka the RESISTORS. There are many others.
Those are AproNyms.
Backronym is a particularly clever PortmanteauWord.