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Sep 20, 2005
This week's theme
Words about words

This week's words
autonym
backronym
ananym
charactonym
anonym


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A.Word.A.Day
with Anu Garg

backronym

Pronunciation Sound Clip RealAudio

backronym (BAK-ro-nim) noun

A word re-interpreted as an acronym.

[Compound of back + acronym.]

In a backronym, an expansion is invented to treat an existing word as an acronym. An example is the PERL programming language whose name is now explained as an acronym of Practical Extraction and Report Language.

When naming, sometimes a suitable name is chosen and then an acronym is retrofitted on top of it: USA PATRIOT Act (Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism). The clunkiness of the expansion is a quick giveaway. How about forming a backronym for ACRONYM itself: A Contrived Result Of Nomenclature Yielding Mechanism?

Often, backronyms serve a useful purpose as mnemonics. For example, see Apgar Score.

"Some people think chad is an acronym standing for Card Hole Aggregate Debris. But Kevin told me about the cyberlegend that chad is a backronym."
Marsha Mercer; Chad Finds New Meaning in Post-election Verbiage; Richmond Times-Dispatch (Virginia); Nov 19, 2000.

X-Bonus

Insanity in individuals is something rare - but in groups, parties, nations and epochs, it is the rule. -Friedrich Nietzsche, philosopher (1844-1900)

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