Characters get their acronyms confused, often involving mistaking one for another, and/or misremembering an acronym severely enough to intend to refer to one acronym, but actually mention another.
Subcategories include acronyms being confused due to sharing an initialism, and acronyms getting mixed up for other reasons.
- When Rin first introduces herself to Aoba in New Game!, she says she's an AD. Aoba first took it as the Assistant Directornote , then Rin clarifies she's the Art Director.
- In the Polish comic Kajko I Kokosz, an important official comes to visit the town. The whole book consists of the two knights performing all kinds of whacky hijinks to impress him (all the while hiding the fact, that most people in town have been cursed with sloth) only to find out that... he wasn't quite so important. The acronym was the same... N.I.K. (Which in Poland is Najwyższa Izba Kontroli (Supreme Chamber of Control) but here interpreted as Najwyższa Inspekcja Kaszteli (Highest Inspector of Castles). Turned out to be Niższy Instruktor Konkursów (Junior Instructor of Competitions)).
- In the Great Lakes Avengers mini-series, Living Lightning thinks 'GLA' stands for 'Gay-Lesbian Alliance.'
- When She-Hulk starts working as a bounty hunter enforcing supervillain court dates, she typically tells people she's with the FBI. Most don't think to ask, and it actually stands for Freeman Bonding Inc.
- From Analyze This:
FBI Agent Steadman: Dr. Sobel, Ma'am: I'm Agent Steadman, Agent Ricci, Agent Provano, Federal Bureau Of Investigation, OCD.Dr. Ben Sobel: Obsessive Compulsive Disorder?FBI Agent Ricci: Organized Crime Division. We need to talk.
- In National Security, Earl (Martin Lawrence) spots a file in Da Chief's office labelled "CIA Heist". Hank (Steve Zahn) assumes Earl is making this up. Later, though, they find that the bad guys have been raiding warehouses for kegs made of a new space-age alloy worth millions. They confront Da Chief with it, who confirms the CIA connection. Hank is incredulous, assuming they're talking about the Central Intelligence Agency. Both Earl and Da Chief look at him like he's an idiot and explain that they mean Crupps International Aerospace. Earl later asks why Hank thought he meant the actual CIA.
- In the Woody Allen film Bananas, the dictator of San Marcos discusses the possibility of a rebel overthrow:
General Vargas: “If they should try to overthrow, I have made a deal for reinforcements. With the UJA.”Aide: “You mean the CIA, excellence? The UJA is the United Jewish Appeal.”General Vargas: “Uh oh.”
- Cut to Ashkenazi Jews roaming the wartorn streets of San Marcos collecting donations from soldiers.
- In Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home: Kirk tries to explain Spock (still not himself post-resurrection) to Gillian.
Kirk: Oh, him? He's harmless. Part of the free speech movement at Berkeley in the sixties. I think he did a little too much LDSnote
- In The Whole Ten Yards, Lazlo Gogolak often makes mistakes about idioms and terms and hates it when people correct him. For example, he thinks that a DUI and an IUD are the same thing. They're not. Besides, a guy getting an IUD would be a little weird.
- For some reason, a character from R.O.T.O.R. uses "C.O.D."note as a Bond One-Liner, even though it makes no sense in context. One would surmise they had intended "D.O.A."note
- There's an old one about a genteel woman inquiring about toilet facilities at a campground - she even found her euphemism 'bathroom commode' too vulgar and shortened it to 'B.C.' which causes some confusion.
- Dies The Fire. An ex-recon Marine is asked post-coitus about a scar he got during Desert Storm. He says it's from an RPG, causing the puzzled woman to wonder how you get a scar during a Role-Playing Game.
- In The Laundry Files by Charles Stross, the organisations formerly known as MI5 and MI6 have invoked and exploited Acronym Confusion by changing their initialisms to DI5 and DI6 respectively and having their old initalisms reassigned. This way, the government can honestly claim that MI5 is certainly not doing whatever Orwellian thing they're being accused of while forgetting to explain that this is because MI5 is the organisation in charge of rubbish collection.
- The Munchkin's Guide to Power Gaming's list of roleplaying terms defines RPG as "Rocket-Propelled Grenade".
- T*A*C*K: The kids use their initials to make the name of their group, but decide to give Will the code name "K" because it turns out no one can pronounce "T*A*C*W".
- Invoked by Colonel Flag on M*A*S*H.
I'm with the CIA, but I tell people I'm with the CIC, so they think I'm with the CID.
- In the Get Smart episode "A Man Called Smart", Max is looking for someone known only as 'T.B.O.'. While standing at a catering truck, this exchange occurs:
Maxwell Smart: Bediyoskin told us to contact you. He even wrote your initials on a slip of paper. T.B.O.Tom Orlando: T.B.O. can mean a lot of things.Maxwell Smart: Oh really? For instance, give me another T.B.O.Caterer: One T.B.O. forty cents.Maxwell Smart: T.B.O.?Caterer: Tomato and bacon on an onion roll.
- The Golden Girls: Blanche's middle name is Elizabeth, and she keeps a journal with her initials on the cover. Her initials spell BED, and the girls mistake it for a logbook of people she's slept with.
- Veep: In "The Choice" the characters have difficulty differentiating between the pro-life and pro-choice organisations because of their similar acronyms.
- In Grounded for Life, Lily placed some ads to get friends for her grampa Walt. Seeing it in other adverts, she lists as one of the interests of his grandfather t/v, thinking that it means to watch TV, without realizing that it's a reference to transvestism. The replies that Walt get to these ads are surprising, to say the least.
- Given an extra-confusing twist in one of the "Get Me Hennimore!" sketches in That Mitchell and Webb Look - the hapless Hennimore has to look after two different groups, the Murder In The Dark (MITD) club, and a wine-tasting day for a charity for nervous incontinents (Nervous Incontinents Tasting Day - NITD), while simultaneously having to deal with a printing press that keeps switching Ns for Ms. What a mightnare.
- In The Big Bang Theory episode "The Bat Jar Conjecture," Sheldon decides to name the team "Army Ants" due to the insects' strength. He even gets team T-shirts, which have "AA" written on them. Leonard points out how people may mistake the initials may make people think of something else. Sheldon doubts anyone will mistake them for "Anodized Aluminium." There's also Raj, Leonard, Howard, and Leslie's team, "Perpetual Motion Squad" or "PMS" for short.
- In the Gilmore Girls episode "In the Clamor of the Clangor", Lorelai says that Luke should be working for the CIA because he's so inscrutable. Sookie, thinking Lorelai meant the Culinary Institute of America, says "I have friends there." An understandable mistake since Sookie is a chef and a Cloud Cuckoo Lander.
The VC are sick of BNBThe Viet Cong are sick of breakfast in bed?
- Unfortunately common. On top of the International Wrestling Association, a group of territories banded together to compete against the National Wrestling Alliance, being in a few different countries as IWA, and another International Wrestling Association, a collaboration between promoters in Puerto Rico and Japan, there is also and Independent Wrestling Association and an Independent Wrestling Alliance, so if you get fans from different regions together, throwing around IWA without context is liable to confuse them. Occasionally promotions in the same country will have the same acronym, such as Ultimate Pro Wrestling and United Pro Wrestling in the USA (though they were on opposite sides of the country), Pure Wrestling Association and Prairie Wrestling Association in Canada. Then there are unfortunate cases such as Warriors Of Wrestling, a program from the 1990s and Women Of Wrestling, a program from 2001, which both got revivals around the same time, meaning there were two WOWs at once. The National Wrestling Alliance itself was preceded by the National Wrestling Association, which went out of business one year after the Alliance was founded but whose Midwest Tag Team titles were defended on the independent circuit as late as 2013.
- The Chicago based Windy City Wrestling changed its name in 1997 to Windy City Pro Wrestling as World Championship Wrestling had really taken off the previous year and continued to.
- X Wrestling in Florida is ran by the FEW (Fanatics Enjoying Wrestling) and has a working relationship with FEW (Fighting Evolution Wrestling).
- At one point, there were four known AAs in WWE at the same time: Arn Anderson, American Alpha, Austin Aries, and John Cena's Finishing Move Attitude Adjustment.
- From the first Ratchet & Clank - Captain Qwark offers to sell the heroes a PDA.
Ratchet: Public Display of Affection?Qwark: No, a Personal Delivery Assistant.
- A variation in The Pandora Directive. When kidnapped by the guys who introduce themselves as the NSA, Tex knows they're not talking about the National Security Agency but by the National Surveillance Agency. Either the Real Life NSA became this after World War III, or it's a completely different agency. The confusion comes on the part of the players.
- Actually Truth in Television, as evidenced by Edward Snowden's leaks in 2013: with modern technology all communications go through a single, global channel, which means you can't tap foreign communications without intercepting your own too. Also, 9/11 led to the American government passing a number of aggressive measures to ensure it wouldn't ever happen again. The funny thing is that most security experts agree that those measures don't help, and indeed they haven't help foil any terrorist plot so far.
- In Animal Crossing: New Leaf, a Snooty villager may ask if you believe in UFOs: Unidentified Floor Oranges.
- In ARMS, when Mechanica fights Helix, Biff will explain that Helix is a living blob of DNA, but admits he doesn't know what that means. His hypothesis is "Do Not Attack" and warns Mechanica not to fall for it.
- Hey, you wanna play some RO? Yeah, I love that game! *later* Wait, did you mean Red Orchestra or Ragnarok Online?
- Mulberry explains that the World Wrestling Federation became World Wrestling Entertainment because the titular heiress found it confusing that both they and the World Wildlife Federation went by, "WWF". This took just minor liberties with real events.note
- Trent Hamilton got the meaning of USSR wrong when discussing a Soviet Cornet (he thought it stood for United States of Soviet Russia). In a second video, he apologized, and said USSR stood for the United Stitching and Sewing Ring, the Underground Society of Secret Rhythm, Uninterrupted Silent Sustained Reading, or the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics—whichever the watcher liked best.
- The "Cartman Joins NAMBLA" episode of South Park involves confusion between the North American Man/Boy Love Association and North American Marlon Brando Look-Alikes. The latter have a grudge towards the former since they managed to grab the "nambla.com" domain first.
- More from The Simpsons, as a tragedy of Shoehorned First Letter with the Krusty Komedy Klassic:
Krusty: ...KKK?! That's not good!
- Made worse by the fact that that particular show was being held at the Apollo Theatre.
- In an episode where Bart makes a deal with some Chinese spies and gets stalked by a CIA (Central Intelligence Agency) van... which turns out to stand for the Chinese Intelligence Agency instead, who congratulate him for giving them information about the Springfield Nuclear Power Plant. Afterward, the French Bureau of Investigation arrives, followed by the A Team of Finland.
- And the FBI van that says "Flowers By Irene" on the side.
- There is also the page quote which comes from "Duffless".
- From the "Zoobotnik" episode of Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog:
Coconuts: I only wanted to tell you I saw one of those F.O.U.s - I mean, C.I.A.s, uh, or C.O.D.s...Robotnik: Get to the point or your name will be M.U.D!
- In one episode of Pinky and the Brain, when the duo commandeer a submarine, Brain has Pinky alter the acronym signal it gives out so no one will know it has been stolen. Pinky therefore changes the signal to say N.A.R.F. Unfortunately, the Pentagon thinks it stands for Nuclear Attack Readiness Formation and has the sub bombed with depth charges.
- During the Soviet Invasion of Afghanistan, a group of German forwarding agents was captured and killed by a Mujaheddin militia after they were Mistaken for Spies. The reason? They were driving lorries with Bonn number plates, all of which read "SU" (which stands for the district of Siegburg, not 'Soviet Union').
- GSA can refer to either the General Services Administration, the Girl Scouts of America, or the Gay-Straight Alliance, three VERY different organizations. This is made even more confusing at universities that have a Graduate Student Association.
- ED can stand for Eating Disorder (anorexia/bulemia) or Erectile Dysfunction (impotence). Which makes certain ED drug commercials confusing, disturbing, or hilarious.
- For a time during the early 1930s, the NRA (National Recovery Administration) and the NRA (National Rifle Association) both had their main offices in the same building in Washington DC.
- Which C.I.A. do you want; the Central Intelligence Agency or the Culinary Institute of America?
- Or "CTR Importable Archive", a common format for sideloading Nintendo 3DS software, known by its file extension .CIA?
- There are different◊ kinds of "RPG".
- The World Wildlife Fund/WWF, for some bizarre reason, was worried people would confuse them with the World Wrestling Federation/WWF. After losing a lawsuit over the acronym, the wrestling promotion changed to WWE and had to go through their video catalog and "erase" all WWF logos.
- A.A. can stand for Alcoholics Anonymous. Or you could be talking about the Argentium Astrum, a magical order founded by Aleister Crowley. The latter is spelled A∴A∴ for some mystical reason, or to avoid the confusion — take your pick.
- In the UK AA can also stand for the Automobile Association, a motorists' club. Conversely, in America, AAA means American Automobile Association—or Anti-Aircraft Artillery, or the Archives of American Art.
- There are currently three TV networks called ABC: the commercial American Broadcasting Company, the government-funded Australian Broadcasting Corporation, and Asahi Broadcasting Corporation, which serves in the Kansai region of Japan. There's also the former ITV station Associated British Corporation.
- GOW? Gears of War or God of War? Only the two series being Xbox and PlayStation exclusive respectively stops this from being extremely confusing.
- In the US, the early Dragon Quest games were called Dragon Warrior, leading to the DW# abbreviation. Around the time the switch back to Dragon Quest was made the Digimon World series was also starting up with the DW# abbreviation. Fans of both instead insisted Digimon World was DMW#.
- MW2: MechWarrior 2 and Modern Warfare 2. It doesn't help that both are Activision games.
- DMC can stand for either Devil May Cry or Detroit Metal City.
- DeLorean Motor Company? It's on the front of their cars.
- Dead On Arrival is a standard police or medical initialism. Date Of Accident is a common insurance initialism. Given that, on any given automotive or health insurance claim, the first is a possibility, confusion has arisen on more than one occasion.
- SWAT, as in "Surface Water Assessment Team," came into the public eye after the 2010 BP Oil Spill.
cracked.com: Who are likely facing wedgies of historical proportions once the real SWAT find out about their name.
- There was a joke submitted to the Humor In Uniform section of Reader's Digest. A new graduate's parents were visiting on base and saw a van pull up that said SWAT on the side. The parents were concerned until the graduate informed them that it was the landscapers and stood for Seeds, Weeds, And Trash.
- KKK can mean the infamous Ku Klux Klan and the Kataas-taasan, Kagalang-galang Katipunan ng mga Anak ng Bayannote , the most famous La Résistance group in the colonial Philippines and widely considered and revered in the nation the forerunner of the First Philippine Republic. This has caused some shock for American tourists when they see murals or paintings of the group with "KKK" proudly displayed therein.
- Also in the Philippines, we have the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, which, when referred to solely by its acronym in the international media, can lead to some Unfortunate Implications.
- Fans of the NWA probably don't want to see the N.W.A.
- There's potential transatlantic confusion with A&E: in the US, Arts and Entertainment Network; in the UK, (Hospital) Accident and Emergency department. If a British visitor to America asks for A&E, you'd better assume they're not looking for the network.
- SNK can stand for video game company SNK, or the Japanese title of the anime Attack on Titan (Shingeki no Kyojin). Some fans of the anime refer to the series by its English name to avoid confusion.
- You would think the acronym for High School of the Dead would be "HSotD". Nope, it's "HotD". Poor, poor House of the Dead fans. To add to that, the title of the games usually read "The House of the Dead" which could easily be written as THotD but its still HotD.
- FF: Final Fantasy, Final Fight or Fatal Fury? Or maybe Fatal Frame? Or Fantastic Four?
- When you say you play MK, many gamers will probably think of Mortal Kombat. But just as many gamers, mostly Nintendo fans, will probably think of Mario Kart. If you say it to a Kirby fan instead, they might think of Meta Knight.
- Playing AC will be mostly associated with Assassin's Creed. Nintendo fans, however, may think of Animal Crossing. Some FROM Software fans may think of Armored Core. And some Namco fans may think of Ace Combat. In Japan, "AC" literally stands for "arcade cabinet" and is used to refer to arcade games.
- You like to play BB? Why not, Bloodborne is a critical and commercial success so far. Wait, you were talking about BlazBlue? Or, who knows, maybe Bubble Bobble?
- QB: The Queen's Blade franchise, a Quarter Back, or the Fan Nickname for the slightly-sinister Mentor Mascot from Puella Magi Madoka Magica?
- In the United States, "SC" refers to the state of South Carolina. Within Northern California, it means the city of Santa Cruz...unless you're in the Silicon Valley area, in which case it refers to the city of Santa Clara.
- Gets even more fun among fans of Kingdom of Loathing, as it can stand for 'Softcore' (to differentiate from hardcore) or 'Seal Clubber', one of the classes. So you can be an SC SC from SC.
- PCB can refer to either "printed circuit board", "polychlorinated biphenyl", Perfect Cherry Blossom, or (for aerospace geeks) Plenum Chamber Burning.
- PNG can refer to Portable Network Graphics, a lossless image file format, or PNG Jewelers, where "PNG" stands for the late Purshottam Narayan Gadgil, a jeweler that the business derived their name from in honor.
- In Portugal, PSP can stand for two things: PlayStation Portable or Public Safety Police (Polícia de Segurança Pública). Considering the police meaning of PSP has been around since the 1800s, whenever you mention PSP you usually mean the police.
- GTA is either the Greater Toronto Area or a crime-oriented action game series. Or a DJ duo from Miami whose name means Good Times Ahead.
- S.F. is either San Francisco or the initials and an alias of Konami in-house musician Sota Fujimori. Or you could be talking about science fiction, although God help you if you dare to use the initials around Harlan Ellison®...
- Graduating from MIT is a lot less impressive in New Zealand, where it stands for Manukau Institute of Technology, an Auckland-based polytechnic.
- The Temiskaming & Northern Ontario Railway was renamed the Ontario Northland Railway due to its reporting name being confused with the Texas & New Orleans Railroad, a Southern Pacific subsidiary.
- Acronym confusion appears to have been deliberately invoked by the University of Central Lancashire (UCLAn) The former Preston Polytechnic sailed close to the wind of legal action by seeking to style itself UCLA - University of Central LAncashire. While the chances of Preston being confused with Los Angeles are vanishingly small - save by those who seriously failed Geography - legal advice suggested that a small case n" should be added. The "n", in the form "UCLAn", is very small and inobtrusive.
- American universities tend to get this in spades. The University of Southern California is rarely referred to by anything other than "USC", but alumni of the University of South Carolina always insist that they're "the real USC". Likewise, Oregon State, Ohio State, and Oklahoma State all use the "OSU" initialism, "UNH" is both the University of New Hampshire and the University of New Haven (Connecticut), and "MSU", um...yeah. That could be Michigan State or Mississippi State...or Montana State, Morehead State, Morgan State, Missouri State, Murray State, or McNeese State...or Minnesota State, Mountain State, Montclair State, Metropolitan State, or Minot State. And that's just in the United States; there's also the Russian universities Maritime State and Moscow State, as well as the Indian Maharaja Sayajirao and Manonmaniam Sundaranar. Or Moldova State University, the Mahendra Sanskrit University in Nepal, the Mindanao State University in the Philippines, the Imam Muhammad ibn Saud Islamic University in Saudi Arabia, the Mahasarakham University in Thailand, the Mimar Sinan University of Fine Arts in Turkey, and Zimbabwe's Midlands State University.
- The Brazilian Universidade Federal do Ceará (Federal University of Ceará) is officially abbreviated as UFC. The university once considered changing the acronym because of the other UFC. It helps that the official acronym for the state of Ceará is "CE", which would mean that the place should have been called "UFCE".
- TPP: Twitch Plays Pokémon, The Phantom Pain, or the Trans-Pacific Partnership? Searching for "TPP Bill" will get you results for the American approval of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, although you may be looking for Bill as the villain of Twitch Plays Pokémon.
- BBC News once used the logo of Halo's United Nations Space Command instead of that of the United Nations Security Council, probably because searching for images of "UNSC" online only returns results for the former.
- PDF is known primarily as the "Portable Document Format" file format, but it's also shorthand for "Probability Density Function" for statisticians. Search engines can interpret the keyword "PDF" as searching for the file type, making it harder to look up the latter term.
- BLM: "Bureau of Land Management" or "Black Lives Matter"? The former manages the land for 1/8 of the United States landmass (government-owned public land), while the later is an activist movement.
- DDR: DanceDanceRevolution, Deutsche Demokratische Republik, or "double data rate".
- BMS can refer to either the Be-Music Source file format used widely for chart files for beatmania and beatmania IIDX simulators, or Battle Music Stages in Theatrhythm Final Fantasy. Yeah that's right, it stands for two different things within the same genre.
- AU: an acronym for Gold (Aurum), Australia, or fanspeak for Alternate Universe? Jokes have been made about an alternate Australia being made out of gold, but one can still never be too sure.
- One that used to cause a lot of headaches among Blizzard Entertainment fans - HotS: Heroes of the Storm or Heart of the Swarm?
- Amongst Castlevania fans, "HoD" can cause a bit of confusion as it can stand for both Harmony of Dissonance and Harmony of Despair. Fans usually use "HD" for the latter to get around this, which doubles a reference to Despair being on an HD console, while Dissonance isn't.
- Most Americans know IRS as the Internal Revenue Service, aka that damn bureau that residents have to pay taxes to by April of every year. Fans of Tetris: The Grand Master instead or also think of Initial Rotation System, a mechanic for making Tetris pieces spawn pre-rotated, and car enthusiasts will think of Independent Rear Suspension, a type of suspension that allows rear wheels to move up and down independently of each other.
- "GM" within the context of tabletop RPGs and MMOs means "game master"; for the former, it refers to the one in charge of the game, and in the latter, they perform administrative and moderative tasks such as dealing with problematic players. Amongst Tetris TGM players, it refers to "Grand Master", the highest possible rank in every arcade TGM game. It also stands for the American automobile company General Motors.
- IP: In the English-speaking world, especially in the U.S., it's the legal speech for Intelectual Propierty, while in Mexico it means Iniciativa Privada (literally as "Private Initiative", translated context-wise as "Private (non-government owned) enterprises")
- "SPM" can refer to either the third game in the Paper Mario series, Super Paper Mario, or the third game in the LittleBigPlanet series, Sackboy's Prehistoric Moves.
- NCR: New California Republic, or the U.S. corporation formerly known as National Cash Register? Fans of the Fallout games working for the company might find their brains a little twisted.
- "CP" is commonly used on the internet to refer to child pornography, which this poor Redditor found out the hard way when they used it to refer to Club Penguin.