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Acronym and Abbreviation Overload
Yeah, we TTC (Turned The Corner) Had an RHG (Red Hot Go) We OTFG (Opened the Flood Gates)) We got BIT (Back in Town) Yeah, we LOG (Lifted Our Game) Took a good hard look at ourselves
Fan communities create their own acronyms and abbreviations, to make it easier to speak about the works they love. An AaAO is when this is taken so far that it is downright confusing
For example, if you have visited online gaming communities, you've likely seen it already many times. You're simply SIL against the BBEG
, so you GFGI
to find a FAQ
for how to get to the PoPL
so you can LG
to godly levels and render him FUBAR
. And the FAQ is composed entirely of shorthand, rendering it illegible.
When used in media (as opposed to being used in talking about media), it tends to feature in an Expospeak Gag
or aiding the resident MM
. Or both.
Not to be confused with Fun with Acronyms
, because that trope is about acronyms that are humorous rather than accurate, as opposed to simply having too many acronyms to remember, or acronyms that you'd have to be an insider of the community to know.
When writers include an overload of acronyms, they usually do so in the hope that you'll end up R.O.T.F.L.O.L.Y.F.A.O. Occasionally they'll throw in some acronyms that refer to Deadly Euphemisms
along with more benign euphemisms in the hopes that you'll do a mental Double Take
and think O.M.F.G.
open/close all folders
- Balaclavaed soldiers armed with a bottle of HP sauce crash through the window in front of a startled general at his dinner table because "an SOS from HQ said that a VIP with an OBE was tucking into a baked potato with no HP!" Everything's better with HP.
- From Good Morning Vietnam:
Adrian Cronauer: Excuse me, sir. Seeing as how the V.P. is such a V.I.P., shouldn't we keep the P.C. on the Q.T.? 'Cause if it leaks to the V.C. he could end up M.I.A., and then we'd all be put out in K.P.note
- In Renaissance Man, Danny DeVito's character, who is teaching a class at a military base, is first very confused when a serviceman gives him directions like this, eventually asking if he can "buy a vowel". Later in the movie, once he's gotten used to being on the base, the situation is reversed when a civilian asks him for directions and he gives the same acronym-filled one he received earlier.
- In the opening scenes of I Was a Male War Bride (1949) — one of the earliest American films to address this trope — French army captain Henri Rochard (Cary Grant) approaches the guard post at an Allied armed forces office building in post-war Germany. He asks the guard for directions to the "OICAMGWAC". (Being Cary Grant, he reads it rhythmically and deliberately so it sounds like "O.I.C. - A.M.G. - W.A.C.") Directed to the first floor, he finds office doors labeled "WAIRCO" (which he reads as "War Administration Industrial Relations Coordinator's Office") and "SOSDPPDD" ("Service of Supplies Displaced Persons Property Disposal Department") before finding the ladies restroom. He begins to misinterpret this as "Labor Administration Department Inter..." when a WAC (Women's Army Corps) tech corporal exits. She directs him across the hall to yet another door labeled "CDMTWR". The meanings of the first and last acronyms are not explained.
- From Loaded Weapon 1:
Luger: There's something between you and this General Morters.
Colt: He was my C.O. in 'Nam. CIA listed him as M.I.A., but the V.A. ID'd him and so we put out an APB.
Luger: Oh, I see.
- From Spy Hard:
Dick Steele: You carry a UB-21 Schnauzer with a Gnab silencer. That's KGB. You prefer an H&K over an A.K. Your surveillance technique is NSA. Your ID is CIA. You received your Ph.D. at NYU. Traded in your GTO for a BMV. You listen to CDs by R.E.M. and STP. And you'd like to see J.F.K. in his BVDs, getting down with O.P.P. And you probably put the toilet paper back on the roll with the paper on the inside.
- In Die Hard 2, McClane uses this technique to create confusion while he illicitly fingerprints a corpse:
Morgue Worker: Hey! You're supposed to do that at the morgue.
John McClane: Not anymore. Got a new SOP for DOA's from the FAA.
- Monty Python's Flying Circus: An MPFC LP had this as the basis for a sketch IIRC.
Gentlemen, our MP saw the PM this AM and the PM wants more LSD from the PIB by tomorrow AM or PM at the latest. I told the PM's PPS that AM was NBG so tomorrow PM it is for the PM nem. con.
- The dialogue in The Sandbaggers uses so many acronyms that the DVDs have an acronym glossary as a bonus feature.
- Only Fools and Horses: At one point Del Boy insists that "Modern businesspeople only speak in initials!" He initializes everything — examples include the GLC: "General 'Lectric Company" and PMA: "Positive Mental Attitude". He also tries to initialize "Trotter's Independent Trader's" and Rodney's "Diploma In Computerization", the results of which are duly pointed out.
- JAG uses lots of military terminology. Often played straight, but sometimes used for laughs.
Lt. Cmdr. Harmon Rabb: You grounded Lieutenant Isaacs after a substandard landing. The LSO log indicates: OSCB, EGAR, DNKH.
Capt. Thomas Boone: That's correct.
Maj. Sarah Mackenzie: Can you tell me what those initials stand for, sir?
Capt. Boone: OSCB, Over Shot Came Back. EGAR, Eased Gun At Ramp.
Maj. Mackenzie: What about, uh... DNKH?
Capt. Boone: Well, that's the technical one, Major. Damn Near Killed Herself.
- In the Leverage episode "The Boiler Room Job", Hardison, posing as a fake stockbroker, claims to be a member of several alphabetic organizations, including the JLA.
- A M*A*S*H episode has Hawkeye and Trapper trying to procure an incubator for the 4077. At one point they're summoned to Henry Blake's office and, after turning down his offer of a drink, are introduced to an Obstructive Bureaucrat sent from headquarters:
Henry: Captain Sloan here is with supply.
Sloan: More accurately, I'm with the 375th Q.M.H.Q., COMSEAPAC, SEOULSEC REPDEP.
Hawkeye: Maybe I'll have that drink.
- London's Burning is littered with Fire Brigade jargon, like ADO, DO, ACO, FIT, FRU, EVAC, BA, DSU, RTA and ALP. Likewise, its counterparts Casualty, Holby City and The Bill.
- Awkward.'s Tamara's way of talking comprises both this and an overload of Buffy Speak.
- Vernon from You're The Worst talks mostly like that:
Becca: Vernon left to go do his rotation, or as he calls it, his "rotaish."
- The song "MfG" by the German rap band Die Fantastischen Vier is composed almost entirely of acronyms and abbreviations.
- Greg Champion's "Red Hot Go" is another example, with an acronym almost every line, as well as explaining what they stand for. Some lines invert this, such as "My game had been bad (B-A-D)", and "The coach pulled me out (O-U-T)".
- "Alphabetical Order" by Joe Walsh.
- This is common on pinball forums and websites, where regulars will use acronyms to refer to any game with more than one word in its title. If you're new to the hobby, you're sure to have a hard time deciphering what TOTANnote , NBAFBnote , RBIONnote , WOZnote , METLEnote , or CFTBLnote refer to. And that's before getting into non-title acronyms, such as HUO (home-use only) or VUK (vertical up-kicker)...
- The Party Zone does this with two of its target sets — "WOOC" is "Way Out Of Control", while "EDBM" is "Eat, Drink, & B. Merry".
- Dungeons & Dragons: DND tends to suffer from this, because of the number of precise terms; AC, DR, CL (this one's even context-sensitive), DC, etc. etc. Oddly enough, there's no way to abbreviate "Denied your dex bonus to AC" any further.
- Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War wiki has many acronyms made up by players. The Dakkadakka Forum even has tooltips for the most commonly used initialisms. Which isn't to say that the tabletop game itself doesn't have its own crunchers. The best is probably AP — standing for Armor Piercing, the mechanic and rating that counters personal armor, although you could be forgiven for thinking that it meant Armor Penetration, the mechanic that affects vehicle armor. When talking about statlines, expect to see the terms GEQ (Guardsman EQuivalent), MEQ (Marine EQuivalent), and TEQ (Terminator EQuivalent) a lot.
- And if you think that's bad, you should see Exalted. Acronyms like VAPnote , PoCBnote , SSEnote , GSNFnote and SCSnote are all thrown around. Exalted terminology is so flowery that typing all the Charms out in full could take weeks.
- And then you realize none of these hold a candle to HERO System, FREd (itself an acronym). Not only are the 11 some-odd ability scores abbreviated, but then there's the OCV, the DCV, OSL, DSL, RSL, HKA, RKA, OAF, OIF, etc.
- The song "Arse End of the Earth" from Keating! The Musical.
- Hair uses a lot of acronyms in the lyrics of "Hashish" and "Initials." Appearing in both are "L.S.D." and "I.R.T."
- Ancient Domains of Mystery: (ADOM) The guidebook has all kinds of abbreviations that make it downright illegible unless you read the compiled list of acronyms and abbreviations. And the equipment pages in said guidebook have their own specific abbreviations that aren't in the list of abbreviations. One of the biggest offenders is the TotRR, which has tags like Ma+24, =Elec, +WBre, +SeeI, -Deth, and !Demo. Oh, and it increases your DV/PV by 12.
- The original NES Final Fantasy I contains hundreds of these due to space issues. Enemy varieties often have their special adjectives cut down to two or three letters, meaning that instead of Grey Imps and Green Ogres, you have to face down armies of much funnier-sounding GrIMPs and GrOGREs.
- Super Smash Bros.: (SSB) guides will have all kinds of acronyms, sometimes making the simplest things hard to read; for instance, DI, or Directional Influence; your ability to move left or right a little bit in midair, etc.
- Dwarf Fortress: Done deliberately by the DF community; talk of the GCS's, FB's, and the HFS prevents spoilers. Also overlaps with Insistent Terminology. The succession LP's also have lots of FWA just FTW.
- Nethack: The IRC channel often combines this with the in-game symbols used to represent the various items; so a late game ascension kit might contain (among other things) [oMR, "oLS, a cursed !oGL and plenty of /oD.
- The Game FA Qs Naruto boards has JnJ, PnJ, ET, SST, CT, FRS, 0TK, 3TK, 4TK, 8TK, nTK, MS, EMS…
- Mega Man Battle Network: In-Universe, actually. Mostly to preserve memory space, but also has a nice futuristic look. Its Spiritual Successor series, Starforce, does this on the Nintendo DS, simply for the latter reason. It also forces this on the player, due to little paragraph space for the parts you have to write yourself, such as naming your "Best Combos".
- StarCraft I: Most of the Goliath's Stop Poking Me quotes. The Goliath in StarCraft II has many quotes reused, but also has the previous quote from GoodMorningVietnam.
Go ahead, TACCOM. Milspec ED 209
on. USDA selected. FDIC approved. Checklist complete... SOB.
- The Battle for Wesnoth community has a lot of this. HttT, TSG, AoI, SoF, THoT, DA, HI, WM, ZoC, CtH, HAPMA... almost all campaigns, units and gameplay elements are abbreviated; see also here.
- The Rock Band fan community reduces song names to acronyms, such as GGaHT (that's Green Grass and High Tides).
- World of Warcraft has its own horde of acronyms and abbreviations, Dal, Org, TB, Oc, pat, spriest, Demolock, ToT, ToC, LF5MDPS, H25LK, TG vs SMF... to the point that some instances had similar acronyms that one of them had to be acronymed after its final boss. DM (Dire Maul) and VC (Deadmines, after the last boss). More information here
- The Web Game Sryth has a lot of acronyms, most of them fan-made. There's a forum thread that provides a complete list.
- The English-speaking Touhou fan community tend to use these for the titles of the games. The only exception so far is the fighting spin-off Hisoutensoku, which is usually shortened to Soku.
- In the Dota 2 and The Stanley Parable crossover, the narrator of TSP opens dota games with this on occasion.
Stanley Parable Narrator:
GL, HF, L2P, VD, MP3
, OBGYN, 3DPDB1D9G note
- The Paradox Interactive community has this for most of its games and expansions, as well as popular mods. For example, one might say that you're playing HoI with TFH and BLICE note . The only game to escape this is Victoria. Instead its namesake's nickname is used, Vicky. But it still applies to the expansions and mods.
- A Bug's Life has Flik shouting out random abbreviations to Atta in order to make his meeting with the "warriors" sound official and top-secret. His choices? "F.Y.I.", "B.Y.O.B."...
- In one episode of Yogi's Treasure Hunt, Top Cat calls the treasure hunters this way:
Top Cat: Attention! This is T.C. calling with an A.P.B.. Report to the treasure room A.S.A.P..
- An episode of Hong Kong Phooey had Sgt. Flint asking for a criminal's M.O. on an A.P.B., and Rosemary said "A.O.K. I'll get right on it P.D.Q.!"
- The Danger Mouse episode "Journey To The Earth's 'Cor!" had our heroes in the center of the earth with DM's car frozen in mid-air. They come to a door marked "C.H.M.F.F.G." (which Penfold phonetically pronounces as "Chimuffguh"). It stands for "Car Holding Magnetic Force Field Generator."
Penfold: Ooh...how'd you know that?
- According to Homer Simpson, BTO are Canada's answer to ELP, and their big hit was TCBnote . Also, according to him, that's how they talked in The Seventies.
- Blythe Baxter from Littlest Pet Shop (2012) often uses acronyms in place of short sentences, such as G.M.M.T. ("Good morning, Mrs. Twombly"), or D.W.A.A.T. ("Don't worry about a thing"), claiming it's a "way more efficient way" of saying things. Mrs. Twombly, the elderly owner of Littlest Pet Shop, even lampshades this at one point.
Mrs. Twombly: Don't these youngsters realize it takes twice as long to decipher their silly abbreviations as it does to state them normally in the first place?
- TV Tropes itself. Those new to the community might have to have CMoA's, YMMV, and YKTTW explained to them.
- Truth in Television: The United States armed forces do this, to the point where two members of the same branch (say an artilleryman and a tanker, both Army) can't understand each other. Much worse if it's members of two different branches: especially if it's Army and Navy. They abbreviate in different ways: the Navy likes to use entire syllables. (thus, Commander IN Chief PACific FLeeT—> CINCPACFLT. SUBmarine SAFEty program —>SUBSAFE. NAVal SPECial WARfare GRoUp—>NAVSPECWARGRU. Feed those abbreviations to an Army soldier to watch him try to separate it letter by letter.)
- The Armed Services see this extensively. "Private Bob! Gimme a SITREP on the PMCS of that APC ASAP!".
- A lot of personnel use this for Fun with Acronyms. A radar operator might call in "An unidentified B-1-R-Delta (bird) possible hostile G-U-Eleven (gull) class" Or a technician might report an "ID-ten-T (id10t) user error" or "Equipment inoperable in O-F-F Mode"
- The latter is taken from a supposedly real maintenance discrepancy log in which a pilot reported a device did not work while in the O-F-F position. The corrective action is said to have stated that no actions taken because it is not supposed to work in that position.
- It is said (somewhat tongue-in-cheek) that the American armed forces run on TLAsnote , ETLAsnote , and MTTLAsnote .
- One base reportedly had a sign which read "No POVs permitted." This stood for "Personally Owned Vehicle," which was presumably short for the word "car." Of course, it could also cover trucks, scooters, farm tractors, or any other form of motorized transport-that's the Army's Point Of View.
- Calling a privately-owned vehicle a POV is more than just a convoluted way of referring to someone's car. A GOV is a government-owned vehicle and depending on where you are on a particular base, one may be permitted while the other is prohibited. Unfortunately, visitors of the base who are unfamiliar with there's and other terms may find themselves in trouble.
- Civilian aviation inherited this from the military for the same reason they us it: brevity is important over crowded radio channels and there are lot of technical terms in use. For example: "I'm gonna study the SOP, refer to the FAR/AIM and the POH, then go up and practice an ILS, VOR, NDB and GPS approach out of EVB. Oh, not GPS, cause RAIM is inop."
- Or: "I am going to study the standard operating procedure, refer to the federal air regulations aeronautical information manual and the pilots operating handbook, then go up and practice an instrument landing system, very high frequency omnidirectional range, non directional beacon and global positioning system approach out of New Smyrna Beach municipal airport. Oh, not global positioning system, because the receiver autonomous integrity monitoring is inoperable." Suddenly the acronyms seem godsend instead of an annoyance.
- Also related to the military's use of acronyms is the unique language of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. Given that the organization's staff was originally largely military, it should come as no surprise that just about everything anyone at NASA might refer to has an acronym - which frequently is a disguise for a needlessly-wordy description. Extra points are apparently given if one makes an acronym that is pronounceable as a word.
- Laptop computers used to use a type of expansion slot known as PCMCIA, an acronym for the Personal Computer Memory Card International Association, the group of companies that got together to develop the hardware standard. Owing to what a mouthful the acronym was (not to mention how non-descriptive it proved to be once you bothered to unroll it), the acronym is jokingly said to mean "People Can't Memorize Computer Industry Acronyms".
The name was eventually changed to the much shorter "PC Card", before the format was replaced entirely by Express Card.
- Old hacker anecdote: When asked what "the biggest problem in computing in the '90s" would be, one hacker is said to have quipped, "there are only 17,000 three-letter acronyms". When you have joke acronyms bemoaning the plethora of acronyms in your profession, it's pretty bad.
- There's an old song by Allan Sherman Harvey and Sheila that celebrates the acronyms of life in the USA.
- Anybody who studies biology for long enough, particularly metabolism or genetics, quickly finds the acronyms getting out of hand. We have acronyms made of acronyms.
- In Chemistry, abbreviation is necessary to use the completely-descriptive but incredibly long formal names of most chemicals. Or they're simply referred to by some kind of informal or brand name. At the extreme end of this scale is Titin, the largest known protein, which has an incredibly lengthy chemical name.
- How lengthy? Titin's full name has 189,819 letters.
- Many Mormons know what RM, BYU, PEC, BYC, YM, YW, and many others mean.
- A lot of work places (especially corporate ones), have company-specific acronyms and abbreviations
- Target has elaborate titles for employees, such as the Guest-Service Team Leader (a sort of Political Correctness Gone Mad), abbreviated to G.S.T.L.
- Pizza Hut has C.H.A.M.P.S. (Cleanliness, Hospitality, Accuracy, Maintenance, Product, Speed) for a guide to their food service
- Wikipedia has several lists of acronyms. Be forewarned: A person can easily get lost on a Wiki Walk through these pages. Good starting points include:
- Augustine's Laws, a satirical yet serious book on how NOT to run a military research and development program, has a chapter on this topic. It includes a graph of acronym activity index listing government papers that have acronyms for over 10% of their words, and declares an "acronym gap" between the West (26 letters in the Roman alphabet), the East (32 letters in the Cyrillic) and Far East (14,000 characters in the Chinese).
- The Soviet/Russian bureaucracy ran on abbreviations and acronyms. The secret police in particular were at times the Cheka (from the abbreviation ChK, or Che-Ka for the "Special Committee"), the GPU, OGPU, NKVD, MVD and KGB, not to mention the modern FSB (all Russian-language abbreviations). GULAG was another abbreviation - note that many abbreviated names in Russian are formed of the first syllables of individual words; lager means a prison camp. A lot of them were "State" (Gosudarstvo)-Something, so they ended up with the GosKino studios (State Cinema) as well as "MosFilm" and the infamous post-Soviet gas company GazProm. Immediately after the revolution, popular names for children were even abbreviations of revolutionary concepts or the names of dignitaries, for instance Vladilen (Vladimir Lenin). In Solzhenitsyn's First Circle novel, there is a female character sporting the name Datoma, which is short for "Daughter of the Toiling Masses" as rendered into English (though the Russian version would still have a similar sound to it). Solzhenitsyn's famous word "zek", meaning gulag inmate, was formed from the abbreviation "Z/K", denoting zakluchenniy or prisoner. A Russian/Soviet poet, writer and translator Korney Chukovsky devoted a whole chapter to Soviet bureauspeak in general and misuse/overuse of abbreviations in particular in his book on Russian language "Alive as Life Itself".
- Anyone who's ever tried text messaging with anyone under the age of 25 has probably run into this. Anybody older that that probably needs to look up things like: IDK, SMH, MHM, ROTFL, LMAO, NP, WU, TY, etc. Some aren't too difficult to figure out, but then they throw in emoticons and half words, and the messages are so far from English that you need a decoder.
- In Germany acronyms and abbreviations had been largely a preserve of the military and academia, but after the First World War they spilled over into everyday life, partly under the additional influence of the names of commercial enterprises etc. (for instance Degussa, which stands for "Deutsche Gold- und Silberscheideanstalt - "German gold and silver refining facility"). This tendency became mocked in a few jokes and is still sometimes referred to as Aküfi (Abkürzungsfimmel, "abbreviation craze").
- Those Wacky Nazis were infamous about it, some of their acronyms and abbreviations like SS and Gestapo (Geheime Staatspolizei, secret state police) even entering other languages. On the other hand, they were also mocked with abbreviations, indeed the very word Nazi (short for Nationalsozialist) has negative connotations as before it was applied to Hitler's party it had been a diminutive form of the Catholic given name Ignaz (German form of Ignatius) and carried similar implications as the name Rube in America. Another well known example was the acronym Gröfaz (also spelled GröFaZ) for "Größter Feldherr aller Zeiten" (greatest commander of all time), which sounds like the name of a mean little gremlin. This spread among Germans after the battle of Stalingrad and mocked both the Nazi proclivity for abbreviations and acronyms as well as the way Hitler had been hailed as the greatest military commander of all times after the fall of France in 1940.
- The common names of birds are standardized, and each is given a four-letter code. For example, American Crow is AMCR.
- If you have been speaking Indonesian language for some time, you'd notice that Indonesians love to abbreviate just about anything. Notable examples include:
- Puskesmas= Pusat Kesehatan Masyarakat (Community Health Center, think of clinics)
- Kopaska= Kommando Pasukan Katak (Frog-Diver Command, think Indonesian equivalent to Navy SEALs)
- DPR= Dewan Perwakilan Rakyat (People's Representative Council, one of the legislative houses).
- TNI= Tentara Nasional Indonesia (Indonesian National Military Forces).
- KPK= Komisi Pemberantasan Korupsi (Anti-Corruption Agency)
- And many others
- The Church of Scientology has seldom met an abbreviation it didn't like. Examples include OTs (Operating Thetans, people enlightened through Scientology), Orgs ('Organisations', Scientology buildings and departments), SPs ('Suppressive Persons', enemies of Scientology), and the GO ('Guardian's Office', the Church's intelligence department, later renamed to the OSA or 'Office of Special Affairs').
- Computers in general. You can count the number of hardware that isn't commonly referred to by an acronym or abbreviation with one hand.
- Similarly early programming languages and assembly language is made up of really short words. Assembly in particular is usually restricted to 4 letters.
- Electronic musical instruments are similar. Not only do they naturally require the use of technical terms, no matter on which tech level they are, but using synthesizer terminology in full would inevitably border on Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness, so using abbreviations like BPFnote , LFOnote , FMnote , VAnote and of course MIDInote is a lot easier. Also, space on front panels and displays is limited, and the writing has to be large enough to be readable on gloomy live stages, so the instruments themselves are overusing abbreviations even more egregiously.
- Franklin D. Roosevelt created roughly 100 government agencies in order to help jumpstart the economy during The Great Depression. They all had acronyms, and were derisively referred to as "alphabet soup."
- Modern medicine is loaded with acronyms and abbreviations. It's actually important that this is done, as it allows medical professionals to rapidly give short but extremely detailed descriptions in emergency situations where seconds literally count.