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Recursive Acronym

Dilbert: Wally, would you like to be on my TTP project?
Wally: What does "TTP" stand for?
Dilbert: It's short for The TTP Project. I named it myself.
Dilbert, May 18, 1994

An acronym in which one of the letters inside the acronym stands for the acronym itself. Because of the way English phrases such things, attempting to fully expand the acronym causes an infinite recursive loop.

Extraordinarily overused in computing culture for their giggle value, but absolutely straight-faced serious examples can be found in the business world and elsewhere.

See also Fun with Acronyms. Occasionally overlaps with Shaped Like Itself.

Examples

    open/close all folders 

    Business 
  • BWIA — BWIA West Indies Airways (formerly British West Indian Airways)
  • SAAB — Saab Automobile Aktiebolaget (Formerly Svenska Aeroplan Aktiebolaget)
  • Heil Environmental Industries Limited, founded by Julius P. Heil, makes garbage trucks.
  • ThinkGeek sells compressed air under the brand NINJA, which stands for "NINJA Is Not Just Air." They also carry a rear-view mirror for your computer called CHIMP, which stands for "CHIMP Has Invincible Monkey Powers".
  • Visa (the card company) stands for "Visa International Service Association". This expansion actually came some time after the original name was devised.

    Comic Books 
  • According to Atari Force, "Atari" stands for the "Atari Technology and Research Institute".
  • The Archie Sonic The Hedgehog comics had ADAM (ADAM Determines Anonymous' Movements).

    Computing 
  • Allegro ([1]) — "Allegro Low Level Game ROutines", formerly "Atari Low Level Game ROutines" (Allegro is a low-level game programming library that mostly just provides easy access to the hardware)
  • AROS — "AROS Research Operating System", formerly "Amiga Research Operating System", a free and Open-Source variation on Amiga OS, renamed in order to avoid legal action from the owners of the Amiga trademark.
  • BABOON: BABOON Allows BABOON Objects Over Networks
  • Early versions of the common emails one receives claiming that Bill Gates will give one money for forwarding the email to all one's friends as a test of his newly developed email tracking application often contain a blatant clue that the email is a hoax. The text often refers to the alleged email tracking system as the "Beta Email Tracking Application", which (of course) recursively acronyms to "BETA".
  • Inverting all the "X is not an Y." examples above is BIABI, which is a Brainfuck Interpreter.
  • Cave - Cave automatic virtual environment
  • EINE - "EINE Is Not Emacs" and its successor:
    • ZWEI - "ZWEI Was EINE Initially"
  • A joke from the days of 64k RAM is that Emacs stands for Emacs makes a computer slow.
  • The name of the object-oriented BASIC dialect Gambas stands for Gambas Almost Means BASIC.
  • The operating system GNU — "GNU's Not Unix," named as such because it aims to be compatible with Unix without containing any code from it (with the replacement code being 100% free software).
    • The GNU project's official kernel, Hurd, contains a mutually recursive acronym: "Hurd" stands for "Hird of Unix-Replacing Daemons," and "Hird" stands for "Hurd of Interfaces Representing Depth." (However, as Hurd isn't yet complete, most people using GNU software combine it with Linux, which doesn't stand for anything.)
  • HIPI — HIPI Is a Piet Interpreter
  • JACK -- Jack Audio Connection Kit (a sound system for pro-audio/MIDI work under Linux)
  • LAME — LAME Ain't an MP3 Encoder. Even though it is.
  • MINCE — MINCE Is Not Complete Emacs (Emacs is a text editor)
  • Mini — Mini Is Not IOS (Mini is part of Bootmii, a method to execute a low-level bypass of the Wii System Menu and load homebrew.)
  • NIL — NIL Isn't Liero
  • PHP — PHP: Hypertext Preprocessor
    • It originally stood for "Personal Home Page", but they changed it.
  • Popular text-based email program PINE — Pine Is Not ELM. (ELM standing for E Lectronic Mail). However, PINE's successor, Alpine, does not seem to stand for anything.
  • PNG — PNG's Not GIF (as PNG was conceived as a replacement for static GIF images, though it also stands for Portable Network Graphics.)
  • RPM — RPM Package Manager. Formerly Redhat Package Manager before it started to be used by OS other then redhat.
  • Synthesia, a game to learn how to play piano, was formerly known as Piano Hero. After they got C&D order from Activision, the developer opened a poll for the new name of the game and one of the name requests was as follows: "SINPHONY Is Not Piano Hero Or New York".
  • SPARKS — have the biggest collection of acronyms, including "Smart Programmers Are Required (to) Know SPARKS"
  • The LaTeX package Tikz — Tikz Ist Kein Zeichnungprogramm (Tikz is not a drawing program).
  • UIRA — UIRA Isn't a Recursive Acronym
  • Wine —Wine Is Not an Emulator (it isn't; it's a compatibility layer for the Windows API for non-Windows operating systemsnote )
  • XBMC — used to stand for "Xbox Media Center", but now that the program has been ported to other platforms, it now stands for "XBMC Media Center".
  • Xinu stands for Xinu Is Not Unix.
  • XNA — "XNA's Not Acronymed" (an engine made by Microsoft that make use of the .NET framework to make interactive media such as games. it's commonly used by indie developers to make games for the Xbox, although it can also be used on Microsoft Windows and the Windows Phone 7).
    • On the top of that, XNA's logo is also an acronym. The orange part of logo is actually written in morse code, "-..-" meaning "X" while "-." means "N" and ".-" means "A".
  • YAML — YAML Ain't a Markup Language. It isn't. SERIOUSLY.

    Fanfic 

    Literature 
  • GOD — GOD Over Djinn (from Douglas R. Hofstadter's Gödel, Escher, Bach).
    • Chapter 18 of Hofstadter's Metamagical Themas includes a menu of mutually-recursive food acronyms, such as "TOMATOES on MACARONI (and TOMATOES only), exquisitely SPICED".
  • In More Information Than You Require, John Hodgman advises memorizing names through mnemonics. For example, the name "John" becomes "John Or Hodgman Name".
  • Wyrm features a computer program called TRAP that writes recursive acronyms. Naturally, TRAP stands for TRAP Recursive Acronym Program.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In one episode of Acorn the Nature Nut (a nature show for kids), he received a letter where a kid called their beetle "Black B.B." and the "B.B." stood for "Black B.B."
  • The occasional Colbert Report segment Stephen R.A.P.S., which stands for RAPS And Positive Speaking.
  • In series four of Doctor Who, "The Sontaran Stratagem" takes the "use letters from within the words" cheat to its logical conclusion with ATMOS, which stands for "ATMOSpheric Omissions System". Yes, we know you don't spell "emissions" like that, but it's written on all the stickers on the car windows... and the final S has to come from System, or Rattigan's whining makes no sense. Considering what the device is supposed to do (disregarding the Sontarans' plans), "Omissions" does make sense, as it does omit the emissions on the vehicle the device is installed on.
  • Kamen Rider Blade has the B.O.A.R.D. Organization, which stands for Board Of Archaeological Research Department.
  • In one episode of MASH, Radar defines "AWOL" as "A.W.O.L. without leave".
  • In Twin Peaks, Big Bad "BOB"'s name was a recursive acronym standing for "Beware of BOB".

    Newspaper Comics 
  • Dilbert takes this to its logical extreme with the TTP project, where TTP stands for "The TTP Project". It might also be an example of Redundant RAS Syndrome.

    Tabletop Games 

    Video Games 
  • In Xenosaga, Robot Girl KOS-MOS's name stands for "Kosmos Obey Strategical Multiple Operation Systems."

    Web Comics 

    Web Original 

    Real Life 
  • Liberal activist and former CIA officer Ray McGovern described the foreign policy motives of so-called "neocons" with the acronym OIL: O for oil, I for Israel, and L for logistics (military bases in Iraq).
    Jon Stewart: You can't use the word "oil" in an acronym for "oil"! That's against the acronym rules!
  • RED Corp., one of the casting agencies that provide the stuntmen for Super Sentai and Kamen Rider, stands for "Red Entertainment Deliver".
  • Steven Colbert on the BRAIN Initiative.

Nonsense NomenclatureCircular DefinitionShaped Like Itself
Fun with AcronymsLanguage TropesFun with Foreign Languages

alternative title(s): Ardwlf Recursively Describes Whimsical Linguistic Fascination; ARDWLF
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