Created By: StevenT on February 22, 2012 Last Edited By: StevenT on May 20, 2012

Meaningless Acronym

An acronym that was never meant to stand for anything.

Name Space:
Main
Page Type:
Trope
Needs A Description


Examples:

Live-Action TV
  • Get Smart: CONTROL and KAOS are always spelled all-caps but they don't "mean" anything.

Video Games
  • Soul Calibur V: According to Namco Bandai, the letters in Z.W.E.I.'s name mean nothing. It's not even his real name; not that that should come as any surprise to anyone.
  • The five regional alliances in Evil Genius that oppose the player all have names that form words, but are presented as acronyms. It's never explained what they stand for.
    • P.A.T.R.I.O.T protects North America and its Pacific allies such as Japan.
    • S.A.B.R.E protects Europe and some of its former colonies.
    • H.A.M.M.E.R protects the Soviet Union and Cuba.
    • A.N.V.I.L protects China and South East Asia.
    • S.M.A.S.H protects South America, North Africa, the Middle East, and Antarctica.

Western Animation
Community Feedback Replies: 43
  • February 22, 2012
    Tropeless
    Does it count for abbreviations too? Because a Truth In Television example exists with Wi-Fi.
  • February 22, 2012
    MiinU

    Video games

    • Soul Calibur V: According to Namco Bandai, the letters in Z.W.E.I.'s name mean nothing. It's not even his real name; not that that should come as any surprise to anyone.
  • February 22, 2012
    NateTheGreat
    Last I checked Marvel Comic's HAMMER never really stood for anything. It was just named that to contrast its predecessor SHIELD (which has stood for a few different things over the years.
  • February 22, 2012
    Shnakepup
    I forget...did "SOLDIER" from Final Fantasy 7 ever mean anything? Similarly, "SEED" from FF 8.

  • February 23, 2012
    Topazan
    • The five regional alliances in Evil Genius that oppose the player all have names that form words, but are presented as acronyms. It's never explained what they stand for.
      • P.A.T.R.I.O.T protects North America and its Pacific allies such as Japan.
      • S.A.B.R.E protects Europe and some of its former colonies.
      • H.A.M.M.E.R protects the Soviet Union and Cuba.
      • A.N.V.I.L protects China and South East Asia.
      • S.M.A.S.H protects South America, North Africa, the Middle East, and Antarctica.
  • February 23, 2012
    lebrel
    Might want to check out Obligatory Corporate Initialism, I think there are some examples there.
  • February 23, 2012
    HereticsHammer
    Some secular scholars speculate* that the "Alef. Lam. Mim." (A. L. M.) characters at the beginning of each Qur'an verse are actually meaningless and were written to show off mystic knowledge.
    • Four word alliteration combo!
  • February 23, 2012
    randomsurfer
    Get Smart: CONTROL and KAOS are always spelled all-caps but they don't "mean" anything.

    @Tropless: I thought Wi-Fi stood for Wireless Fidelity, a play on Hi-Fi: High Fidelity.
  • February 24, 2012
    reub2000
    S.O.S. stands for nothing. It was choose because it's an easy to remember in Morse Code.
  • February 24, 2012
    Lyendith
    Hm... I don't have any inspiration for a description, but contrast Fun With Acronyms.
  • February 24, 2012
    fulltimeD
    The band REM (though they later retconned this)
  • February 24, 2012
    Chabal2
    Discussed in Ciaphas Cain: Inquisitor Veil thinks the Imperial Guard contains so many acronyms as to be classified its own subset of Gothic (and possibly made up to screw with outsiders, when she hears Cain talking about NC Os, Eltees, AP Cs, IF Vs, FN Gs or fungs, and TL As (Non-Commissioned Officers, Lieutenant, Armored Personnel Carrier, Infantry Fighting Vehicle, Frakking New Guys and Three Letter Acronym).
  • February 24, 2012
    KingZeal
    • Parodied in Barkley Shut Up And Jam Gaiden, with terms like B.L.O.O.D.M.O.S.E.S., which mean absolutely nothing.

    • Discussed in Superboy, where it's stated that no one working at N.O.W.H.E.R.E. has any clue what the acronym stands for.
  • February 24, 2012
    ParadiscaCorbasi
    • Interesting fact about the Thunderbirds, the fandom came up with meanings for FAB. The most popular one was "Fully Advised and Briefed".
    • Played with, as one might expect, by Phineas And Ferb. Perry the Platypus' organization has OWCA, which does explode out, to: Organization Without A Cool Acronym.
  • February 24, 2012
    Wackd
    In Marvel Comics, the acronym of SHEILD's evil counterpart HYDRA doesn't stand for anything, but is supposed to be a reference to the indestructible creature from Greek mythology.
  • February 24, 2012
    Sabbat
    • Team America has I.N.T.E.L.L.I.G.E.N.C.E. computer, never explained.
  • February 24, 2012
    Psychobabble6
  • February 24, 2012
    Wackd
  • February 24, 2012
    chico
    THRUSH of The Man From UNCLE didn't stand for anything, though non canon tie in novels created something.
  • February 24, 2012
    Karalora
    ^ Riffing on the above, S.H.U.S.H. in Darkwing Duck.
  • February 24, 2012
    KZN02
    What about letters by themselves? I was thinking from BIONICLE Rockoh T3, Jetrax T6, and Axalara T9.
  • February 25, 2012
    aurora369
    DEFENDER in Age Of Aquarius.
  • February 25, 2012
    JonnyB
    There's a commercial for a pad (I don't recall which one) where a kid is using it so their parents are spelling everything; the mom says it has 4G LTE, and the dad asks what LTE means and the mom says "nothing".
  • February 25, 2012
    Antigone3
    Tabletop Games: VIPER, the main villainous organization in the Champions Universe, was a meaningless acronym for most of the game's history. (A 5th edition sourcebook finally revealed the "true" name of VIPER ... and commented that most VIPER members who find out think it's a stupid name.)
  • February 25, 2012
    reub2000
    ^^ Well obviously a case of Did Not Do The Research. The Other Wiki says it's Long Term Evolution.
  • February 25, 2012
    randomsurfer
    ^^^/^It's not that 4GLTE doesn't stand for anything, it's that it doesn't spell anything. Anyway, that example isn't this, it's Censorship By Spelling.
  • February 25, 2012
    AgProv
    Literature. In Shea and Wilson's Illuminatus! trilogy, the super-secret occult group known only as the A*.*A protects itself against possible infiltration by grinning every time some hopeful claims to have worked out the initials stand for Argentum Astrum, or something equally occult. The truth is that the initials have no meaning at all - anyone claiming the two A's stand for something has automatically outed themself as a fraud and a bluffer.

    Quote: "It's a good gimmick" said Hagbard. "I just wish we'd thought of it a couple of centuries earlier."

  • February 25, 2012
    robybang
    • 30 Rock: Devon's gay rights group PEEN.
  • February 25, 2012
    surgoshan
    • XKCD is entirely this. Not only is it not an initialism, it also isn't an acronym. It means nothing and is utterly unpronounceable.
  • February 25, 2012
    Prfnoff
    Real Life: The name of the programming language INTERCAL officially stands for "Compiler Language With No Pronounceable Acronym."
  • February 25, 2012
    c0ry
    There is a Dilbert strip in which the engineers bandy about meaningless acronyms in an attempt to confuse the Pointy-Haired Boss into believing that they are overworked.
  • February 26, 2012
    Stratadrake
    Related to Fun With Acronyms -- actually, I think this is Fun With Acronyms. Read the page: The acronym part spells our a meaningful word or phrase, regardless of whether or not the individual letters have any meaning.
  • February 29, 2012
    reub2000
    ^First off, an abbreviation doesn't have to spell out anything to be meaningless. This is usually when abbreviation loses it's meaning like the KDE in KDE Plasma Desktop, or the website IGN.
  • February 29, 2012
    Stratadrake
    ^ Which conveniently belong under Artifact Title.
  • February 29, 2012
    reub2000
    Well I still think this is a unique trope. Just because most of the examples also go under another trope doesn't negate that.
  • March 1, 2012
    BlackDragon
    I'm reminded of Troy Rising... each of the 'stages' of Vernon's solar-pumped laser has a different acronym, which has both an 'official' description, and an unofficial, but more appropriate, use. For example, the VDA, Varriable Dialing Array, which can be used to channel varrying ammounts of energy on request, is unofficially known as the Very Dangerous Array.

    The odd one out, however, is the FINAL stage - the combined power of the entire distributed energy-collection system gathered in a single spot - is referred to as the UNG. Which doesn't stand for anything, officially or unofficially, but is simply the sound everybody on the station made the first time they saw it utterly vaporize an asteroid in a split second. "Ung!"
  • March 1, 2012
    PaulA
    The Doctor Who New Adventures novel Just War revealed that UNIT (the United Nations Intelligence Taskforce) was the successor to a League of Nations-era period organization called LONGBOW. The novel doesn't reveal what the GBOW part stands for, and the author later admitted he'd never bothered to figure it out.
  • March 1, 2012
    Stratadrake
    I am still seeing too much overlap with Fun With Acronyms.
  • March 1, 2012
    reub2000
    Fun With Acronyms has nothing to do with whether an abbreviation can be expanded or not. No overlap what so ever.
  • March 2, 2012
    PaulA
    I do see a connection. Fun With Acronyms is what happens when the writer picks an interesting acronym first and only then figures out what it's supposed to stand for; this is the extreme case where the writer picks an interesting acronym first and then doesn't even bother to figure out what it's supposed to stand for.
  • May 18, 2012
    MiinU
    bump.

    Oh, and for the FF8 example, it's SeeD, which does have a meaning. Cid starts to reveal what it stands for, but gets interrupted before he can even begin.

    It's never brought up again, afterwards.
  • May 20, 2012
    nlpnt
    Colbert SuperPAC S.H.H.
  • May 20, 2012
    Desertopa
    Barkley Shut Up And Jam Gaiden has a particularly exaggerated example in the form of B.L.O.O.D.M.O.S.E.S.
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