Obligatory Corporate Initialism
When a company is better known by its initials than its full name. Typically done just for convenience, it might also be used to obscure an Artifact Title
, a case of Values Dissonance
, or a change in what the initials stand for.
Sometimes accompanies Network Decay
- IBM is short for International Business Machines. Very few people ever use the company's full name anymore. IBM prefers it that way, because it wants to avoid the impression that it only makes machines, and sells only to businesses.
- In Canada, Hudson's Bay Company is now HBC. They have one store chain that is just "The Bay."
- Kentucky Fried Chicken famously changed its name to KFC to get away from the "fried chicken" aspect of their business, as the company planned to offer a more varied menu than just chicken, and to a more health conscious public, "fried" carried negative connotations. Ridicule (and conspiracy theories) ensued.
- They have since changed it back in most locations.
- For whatever reason, however, they have remained KFC everywhere in Australia, where they more-or-less sell only fried chicken.
- They remain KFC in Canada for a very good reason: most fast food chains are named after people, are single words, or have initials like A&W so there's no major difference between English and French signs and logos. However, there's a big difference between Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) and Poulet Frit Kentucky (PFK). Using the simple KFC initials eliminates the issue.
- The drugstore chain CVS was originally called Consumer Value Stores. The current CEO claims to prefer the reading "Convenience, Value, and Service".
- With CVS typically being the highest price for what it sells, one customer said the name really stands for "Customers Victimized Severely".
- NCNB (North Carolina National Bank)—which is then renamed NationsBank and then took over the Bank Of America name after they acquired the latter.
- The largest bank in the US that still actively uses initialism is BB&T, still legally known as Branch Banking & Trust Company.
- BP was formerly British Petroleum (and before that, it was the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company, or AIOC). In 2001 it became merely BP plc to reflect its international status and downplay the focus on oil over other forms of energy, as reflected in the strapline "Beyond Petroleum." This didn't prevent anyone (in America at least) from emphasizing that it was British Petroleum after that oil spill.
- BAA, owner of Heathrow Airport, used to be the British Airports Authority until it became a private company and lost its Authority status.
- Most people know the International House of Pancakes better as "IHop" than by its full name.
- DC originally stood for Detective Comics. It doesn't stand for anything anymore, apparently, because that would make the name of the company Detective Comics Comics.
- ITT was founded as International Telephone and Telegraph in the 1920s. The company formally changed its name to ITT (which now means nothing) when they moved away from telephones and telegraph systems.
- Similarly, AT&T was originally the American Telephone and Telegraph Company. It is now just the AT&T Corporation.
- Very common with U.S. television networks. To wit:
- CBS: The Columbia Broadcasting System.
- NBC: The National Broadcasting Company.
- ABC: American Broadcasting Companies.
- UPN: The United Paramount Network.
- HBO: Home Box Office.
- ESPN: Entertainment and Sports Programming Network
- TNT: Turner Network Television.
- TBS: Turner Broadcasting System.
- CBN: The Christian Broadcasting Network.
- TNN originally stood for The Nashville Network. It changed the name to The National Network, but kept the initials, when it decided to shed its "country-fied" rural programming. Of course, it later abandoned the initials entirely and became the Spike network.
- MTV: Music Television.
- PBS: Public Broadcasting Service.
- GSN used to stand for Game Show Network. It changed it name to just GSN while simultaneously inserting a bunch of reality shows into its schedule.
- TLC likewise used to be short for The Learning Channel, and abandoned it to replace all their programming with reality shows and shows about fashion and design.
- In Australia, ABC is the Australian Broadcasting Corporation depending on where you are.
- Frozen yogurt chain The Carolinas' Best Yogurt called itself TCBY. When the company expanded nationwide, it kept the initials, but changed its name to The Country's Best Yogurt. Most people just know it as TCBY.
- A fictional example: RoboCop featured Omni Consumer Products, but everyone just called it OCP.
- Arby's is based on the initials R.B. (for the Raffel Brothers, and for Roast Beef). For a little while they used the full name as an initialism in their commercials, claiming in song that it stood for "America's Roast Beef, Yes Sir!"
- "C&A", in the name of the German clothing store chain C&A, once stood for the names of its founders, the Dutch brothers Clemens and August Brenninkmeijer. No one remembers just what it stood for anymore.
- Hell, we don't even give kids those names any more.
- MCI: The initials stand for Microwave Communications International. By the time anyone had heard of the company, the name was already an anachronism.
- YM Magazine was once "Young Miss Magazine", then became "Young and Modern Magazine", and is now "Your Magazine". Regardless of what they mean, the initials remain.
- ATI Technologies, Inc. "ATI" originally stood for Array Technologies Incorporated, making it like DC Comics only more so.
- For that matter, "Advanced Micro Devices" is the lesser-known expansion of AMD.
- EPCOT Center in Walt Disney World originally stood for Experimental Prototype City Of Tomorrow, which was the original plan for the entire property. Obviously that proved to be economically unfeasible and it became a resort instead. (the city of Celebration is the closest thing to Disney's original idea, essentially a large-scale planned community.) Tram drivers escorting guests at the end of the day joked that it really stood for "Every Person Comes Out Tired". Recently the name was changed to Epcot, removing any trace that it was ever an acronym.
- Makes you wonder why they didn't go with "Experimental Prototype City Of Thirty or so years ago".
- Cast members joke that it stands for "Employee Paychecks Come On Thursday", thanks to Disney's pay schedule.
- ANZ: Australia and New Zealand Banking Group
- RCA Victor had a Japanese branch which split off from its parent company during World War II. In Japan, that branch still refers to itself as Victor; elsewhere, it can't use that name, so instead it's JVC, the Japan Victor Corporation.
- RCA itself, for that matter: the Radio Corporation of America.
- Both JVC and RCA in their respective countries use the famous "His Master's Voice" logo, of a dog listening to a recording of its deceased master. A third company owns the rights to that logo in Europe: HMV Records. Figure that one out yourself.
- For further confusion, HMV retail stores exist in Canada, which originally would've been served through a local office of the U.S. company.
- Averted by VW/Volkswagen: Both the products and the company itself are well-known both by the initials and full name, and have been since The Fifties.
- Canadian Banks:
- CIBC (Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce)
- TD (Toronto Dominion)
- BMO (The Bank of Montreal)
- Canadian Bilingualism would sometimes cause issues, especially if a company wanted to keep both English and French names correspond to the initialism. Case in point: the English name of the Francophone bank Banque Canadienne Nationale has been Bank Canadian National to keep the initials BCN. (They have since given up and changed their name to Banque Nationale/National Bank.)
- RBC (Royal Bank of Canada)
- British TV stations:
- The BBC: British Broadcasting Corporation.
- ITV: Independent Television.
- BSB: British Satelite Broadcasting. It got swallowed up by Sky, which was briefly known as BSkyB.
- Another fictional example: IMC in Doctor Who which is Issigri Mining Company in "The Space Pirates", and Interplanetary Mining Company in Expanded Universe novels set after "Space Pirates".
- UPS, which used to merely stand for United Parcel Service.
- Canadian TV networks:
- CBC: Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.
- The Canadian TV network CTV, whose letters never officially stood for anything, has used "Canadian Television" in its ad campaigns.
- BMW (Bayerische Motoren Werke/Bavarian Motor Works)
- The YMCA originally stood for "Young Man's Christian Association" (and had a Distaff Counterpart, the YWCA, as well as the YMHA and YWHA for Jews, the H standing for "Hebrew"). Eventually, the initialism took over and the alternate versions were phased out as the meaning of the letters was forgotten. The full name now obsolete as it had nothing to do with either men or Christianity anymore, the name was dropped entirely and replaced with the more commonly used name of "the Y". This announcement was met with lots of jokes about how disappointed The Village People were, but curiously no one making light of the fact that based on their original initalism, they are now simply as "The Young".
- Similarly, the FFA originally was named "Future Farmers of America." They changed it to just "The FFA" with no meaning behind the acronym to reflect the broadening view from production agriculture to science, technology, and business aspects of agriculture.
- 3M (Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing.)
- Finnish example: MTV3, originally Mainos TeleVisio (Commercial Television), on channel 3. It's always either MTV3 or just 3.
- BASF is a German chemical company whose name originally meant "Badische Anilin- und Soda Fabrik" (Baden Aniline and Soda Factory). This is now something of an Artifact Title—not because it doesn't produce aniline and soda, but rather because its headquarters—in Ludwigshafen—have not been in Baden-Württemberg since the foundation of the Federal Republic; the post-World War II occupation zones placed it firmly across the border from that state, in Rhineland-Palatinate.
- IKEA. Stands for Ingvar Kamprad Elmtaryd Agunnaryd (the last two words being the farm and parish he grew up in, respectively).
- HSBC used to stand for Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation, a name they dropped since they expanded outside of Asia.
- EMI stands for Electric & Musical Industries. At a certain point, they stopped manufacturing electronics.
- WWF is the World Wide Fund for Nature, also known as the World Wildlife Fund.
- "WWF" also formerly stood for "World Wrestling Federation", which subsequently changed its name to "World Wrestling Entertainment", or "WWE".
- HEB is an interesting example, as the original(no longer used, even legally) expansion, H. E. Butt, never had the first two letters stand for anythingnote .
- The Jeep, whose name comes from G.P. : General Purpose
- SAAB, meaning 'Svenska Aeroplan Aktiebolag' (Swedish Airplanes, Ltd) became Saab AB.
- Subverted by GMC Trucks. Some sources mistakenly claim that it was originally "Grabowsky Motor Company"; actually, General Motors acquired the Rapid Motor Vehicle Company, which had been founded by Max Grabowsky. Max's name never appeared on the vehicles.
- Sometime in The Twenties through the early-postwar carryover models the near-acronymous "GENERAL MOTORS TRUCK" appeared on the hood sides and dash trim along with the "GMC" on the grille, horn button, hubcaps and pickup tailgates.
- The NFL does its best to avoid this as announcers and commentators are seeming obligated to say the full "National Football League" every few minutes or so.
- GEICO, the insurance company with the gecko mascot, recently started an ad campaign that highlighted that their name stood for the Government Employees Insurance Company.
- Swedish retail chain H&M is an abbreviation of its founders, Hennes & Mauritz.
- Though in Sweden, it is arguably better known as Hennes & Mauritz and at minimum as well known (this may be because Swedish pronunciation makes Hennes & Mauritz sound less silly than H & M)
- TRW was originally known as Thompson-Ramo-Woolbridge (having been formed by a merger of Thompson Products and Ramo-Woolbridge Labs), but changed its name to just TRW. Most people knew them as one of the credit reporting agencies, and that department is now known as Experian (the other departments became parts of other companies).