Follow TV Tropes


Acronym Confusion

Go To
WWF + WWF = Complete pandamonium
Chief Wiggum: Uh, Mrs. Simpson, I have some bad news. Your husband was found DOA.
Marge: Oh my god! He's dead?
Chief Wiggum: Oh wait, I mean DWI. I always get those two mixed up.
[Mrs. Phillips walks in.]
Mrs. Phillips: My name's Mrs. Phillips. You said my husband is DWI?
Chief Wiggum: Uh, why don't you talk to that officer over there? I'm going out to lunch.
The Simpsons, "Duffless"

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.

See also Fun with Acronyms, Shoehorned Acronym, and Acronym and Abbreviation Overload. Can overlap with Name's the Same.



    open/close all folders 

    Anime and Manga 
  • When Rin first introduces herself to Aoba in New Game!, she says she's an AD. Aoba first took it as the Assistant Director,note  then Rin clarifies she's the Art Director.

    Comic Books 
  • 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 Incorporated.
  • Invader Zim (Oni): In Issue 39, Dib is horrified when he thinks he killed Inquisitous the Observer’s "Son", until he's told that "SON" means Sentient Observation ENvoy.

    Fan Work 
  • In This Bites!, when Cross yells about how Kureha might have taught Chopper how to throw knives like the KGB (Komitet Gosudarstvennoy Bezopasnosti), Luffy wonders what does Kyuka Grill and Barbeque have to do with knife throwing. Justified as the KGB as Cross knows them doesn't exist in the One Piece world.

  • 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 LDS.note 
  • 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 
    • Not having seen the movie, I have no idea as to context, etc, but C.O.D. can also mean "cause of death," among police and other emergency services.
  • Cube Zero. The inmates see the words C,I,A and naturally think the CIA built the Cube, but it's just a labelling system for the rooms (hence the commas). Later someone sees the label S,O,S and can only comment, "No kidding!"

  • 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. Sometimes this is told with W.C. (water closet, an old euphemism) being mistaken as an abbreviation for "Wayside Chapel".

  • 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".

    Live-Action TV 
  • 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.
  • A Running Gag in the early seasons of NCIS involves our heroes getting confused with another acronym-based Cop Show.
    Security Guard: that anything like CSI?
    Tony DiNozzo: Only if you're dyslexic.
    • One episode has the team dealing with a group called "Perverts Brought to Justice", or "PBJ". Cue the obligatory "peanut butter and jelly" reference, courtesy of Ziva.
  • In a sketch on Only An Excuse 2019 parodying Line of Duty they start off making fun of all the acronyms and how confusing they are, before deciding that's the obvious joke to make, and they're not going to do it.
  • Immediately following the above, Martin Compston, who stars in Line of Duty, was a guest of Hogmanay Live, and did quite badly in an imprompu acronym quiz.
  • The Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "The Neutral Zone" features a downplayed and implied example when the crew encounter three people who were cryo-frozen in the late 1990's. Upon being revived and told that they're aboard the USS Enterprise, one of them asks if the ship is American, assuming that "USS" stands for "United States Ship" instead of "United Star Ship". Understandable, as everyone is speaking English, he doesn't yet know about The Federation, and there was an aircraft carrier named USS Enterprise (CVN-65) afloat in his time, and the ship he's now on carries on the Legacy Vessel Naming tradition.
  • Exploited in The Lenny Henry Show, in which Lenny's character Delbert Wilkins is a DJ for a pirate radio station called the Brixton Broadcasting Corporation. His producer sometimes phones people up and says he's from "The BBC".

  • In one strip of the Pleasant Goat Fun Class manhua, Paddi hears the acronym "WTF" and thinks, "Where's the food?" It actually means "World Taekwondo Federation".

    Newspaper Comics 
  • Dilbert:
    The VC are sick of BNB
    The Viet Cong are sick of breakfast in bed?

    Professional Wrestling 
  • 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.

  • During one episode of The Men from the Ministry Lennox-Brown is being interrogated by an FBI agent, and assumes he is from Federal British Industries.

    Stand Up Comedy 
  • In one stand-up routine, Dara Ó Briain talks about when he and his wife attended a pre-natal class while she was pregnant. Dara comments that such classes in England are run by the NCT, or National Childbirth Trust. He then points out that in Ireland NCT stands for "National Car Test".
    ''I, like a fuckin' idiot, forgot that, and walked out at the start of this tour saying, "Well I took my pregnant wife in for an NCT," and the whole room recoiled in horror, as if to go, "Why would you do that? Why would you take her into a garage and say, 'Jaysus, the handling is gone, she's all over the road! Mind you, the headlamps, the headlamps are better than I've ever seen them, don't touch them!'"'

    Video Games 
  • 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.
  • 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 
  • Cyanide & Happiness: One character excitedly shows off his MENSA acceptance letter, only for the other character to point out that it's actually from NAMBLA.

    Web Original 

    Web Video 
  • 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.

    Western Animation 
  • The "Cartman Joins NAMBLA" episode of South Park involves confusion between the North American Man/Boy Love Association and the Nation Association of Marlon Brando Look-Alikes. The latter have a grudge towards the former since they managed to grab the "" domain first.
  • The Simpsons:
    • A tragedy of Shoehorned First Letter with the Krusty Komedy Klassic, made worse by the fact that that particular show was being held at the Apollo Theatre:
      Krusty: ...KKK?! That's not good!
    • 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.
    • As the page quote shows, "Duffless" had Wiggum confusing Driving While Intoxicated with Dead On Arrival.
  • 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 the Phineas and Ferb episode "Just Our Luck", Candace celebrates that she's finally gotten a PHD - Perfect Hair Day. Her dad likewise has one for Pillow Hurtling Dexterity.
  • 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.

    Real Life 
  • 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 motoring organisation. 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.
  • In game-related contexts, AC will be mostly associated with Assassin's Creed. Or the term "Armor Class". Nintendo fans, however, may think of Animal Crossing or Astral Chain. Some FROM Software fans may think of Armored Core. Some Namco fans may think of Ace Combat. And Final Fantasy fans may think of Advent Children. It can also stand for "Altador Cup", a major annual event on the online game Neopets. In Japan, "AC" literally stands for "arcade cabinet" and is used to refer to arcade games. Outside the context of gaming, AC can also stand for "alternating current", "air conditioning", and in military usage, "autocannon".
  • 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.
  • AL: American League or Alabama?
  • ALS: Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis or Advanced Life Support? (Of course, the former will likely necessitate the latter.)
  • 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.
  • BBC: A set of British state-owned TV networks, including a news channel, or a porn acronym for "Big Black Cock". Of course, many jokes have been been made at the expense of the British Broadcasting Corporation by its detractors for this.
  • 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?
  • 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 latter is an activist movement. It also could refer to the the minor activist group Bacon Lettece Moms from Shimoneta but this one happenes way less.
  • 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.
  • CBT: If you get a suggestion that somebody can help you improve your life through CBT, you should probably make sure they mean Cognitive Behavioral Therapy rather than Cock and Ball Torture. Detractors have also jokingly proposed this as the new nickname for the Cleveland Baseball Team (which ultimately ended up as the Cleveland Guardians). And jokes about C&B torture abound whenever a major video game has a Closed Beta Test.
  • 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? Don't confuse the "CTR" in the above with Crash Team Racing, either.
  • "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. This also caused problems for people who made YouTube videos about Pokémon GO, as CP stands for "Combat Power" in that game, which confused the website's algorithms into thinking some Pokémon videos were inappropriate.
    Cracked caption: "Sorry for the mistaken subpoenas, fans of Coldplay."
    • In China, CP is short for "couple" (as in shippings). It's also used in Half-Life 2 to refer to Civil Protection, the human police of the alien Combine regime, and in Minion Quest: The Search for Bowser to refer to Captain's Points, which captains use for their special abilities. There's also "Cost Points" in Mighty Gunvolt and "Competence Points" in OFF. My Little Pony fans also use it to mean "Collector's Pose", which is the pose the first few pony toys were released in. The acronym is also used by origami artists to mean "Crease Pattern" - the creases seen when unfolding a model, which are sometimes recreated to fold another one in lieu of standard instructions. Also commonly used for "Cerebral Palsy". Which can make for some very strange moments when you hear someone say "Yeah, my sister has CP."
  • CRT: Cathode-ray tubes or critical race theory? The former is a type of television set and computer monitor that was standard until the beginning of The New '10s and is now primarily associated with retrogaming, the latter is a social justice school of thought.
  • CSA: Confederate States of America, or Community-Supported Agriculture? Or more horrifyingly, Childhood Sexual Abuse, which really changes the tone of any attempt to use the acronym to refer to other things.
  • DDP: Diamond Dallas Page or DoDonPachi.
  • DDR: DanceDanceRevolution, Deutsche Demokratische Republik, or "double data rate."
  • DMC can stand for either Devil May Cry or Detroit Metal City. Or Detroit Medical Center. Or 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. "Dead or Alive" has been used for multiple work titles as well. A videogame series, Dead or Alive (also DOA: Dead or Alive, the movie based on the game), and D.O.A..
  • In the medical field, DNR stands for "Do Not Resuscitate", meaning that for one reason or another, medical staff are ordered not to try to revive a patient if their heart stops beating. People in this field thus get very confused when hotel workers talk about putting a particularly problematic guest on DNR, which in hospitality-speak means "Do Not Rent". And gods forbid you have to put someone on either DNR status in Ukraine or Russia, where "DNR" stands for Donetskaya Narodnaya Respublika (Donetsk People's Republic).
  • 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, in order to avoid confusion. Additionally, neither should be confused with Arthur's little sister. Not even the acronym for the newer Dragon Quest games (DQ) is safe, as it's also the acronym used by ice cream restaurant Dairy Queen.
  • ED can stand for Eating Disorder (anorexia/bulimia) or Erectile Dysfunction (impotence). Which makes certain ED drug commercials confusing, disturbing, or hilarious.
  • EU is either Expanded Universe or The European Union.
  • Talking about "FDA" must be confusing in conversations involving both hotel workers and American pharmacists, as that can either stand for "Front Desk Agent" or the Food and Drug Administration.
  • FF: Final Fantasy, Final Fight or Fatal Fury? Or maybe Fatal Frame? Or Fantastic Four?
  • "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, and for Genetically Modified. Also can refer to GameMaker Studio. In sports, GM stands for General Manager, who is the person in charge of player personnel decisions including drafting, trading, and free agency contracts.
  • GOW? Gears of War or God of War? Only the two series being Xbox and PlayStation first-party exclusives respectively stops this from being extremely confusing. However, the two fandoms are actually friendly with each other about this and aside from the occasional lighthearted jest, refer to either games by the first word of the title (i.e. God or Gears) instead. The former series relented and has its more recent games by the end of The New '10s called just "Gears" (i.e. Gears 5, Gears Tactics).
  • GSA can refer to 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. It can also mean Gender and Sexuality Alliance, a webcomic named after same, or the Galaxy Soldier Army.
  • In the US state of Georgia, "GSU" can refer to two public universities, both members of the NCAA Division I Sun Belt Conference—Georgia Southern University and Georgia State University. The two schools constantly argue over which is "the real GSU" (although Southern consistently uses just "GS" in its athletic branding), and have a rather spicy rivalry known as "Modern-Day Hate" (a nod to the much older rivalry between the state's two most prominent public schools, Georgia and Georgia Tech, known as "Clean, Old-Fashioned Hate").
  • 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.
  • 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 as a reference to Despair being available on HD consoles, while Dissonance originally wasn't (and then later it got ported to 8th- and 9th-generation HD consoles as part of a Compilation Re Release).
  • You would think the acronym for Highschool 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 it's still HotD.
  • One that used to cause a lot of headaches among Blizzard Entertainment fans - HotS: Heroes of the Storm or Heart of the Swarm?
    • Acknowledged in one of Blizzard's April Fools Day jokes where, due to the popularity of that particular acronym, Hearthstone would be changed to "Hearth of the Stone".
  • IP: In the English-speaking world, especially in the U.S., it's the legal speech for Intellectual Property, while in Mexico it means Iniciativa Privada (literally as "Private Initiative", translated context-wise as "Private (non-government owned) enterprises"). However, to computer geeks, this means Internet Protocol instead.
  • IRA has at least two meanings. A big american fast-food company that set up in Britain elected to save a few thousand dollars in overheads by using its original American payroll stationery, figuring that British employees would get that they were being paid in £ rather than $ and most of the standard headings could be transposed. They ran into trouble when employees saw a heading for "IRA Deductions". In British terms, what Americans call an "Individual Retirement Account" might be "Employer/Employee's Pension Contribution". Unfortunately the acronym, in Britain, is most commonly interpreted as "Irish Republican Army" - a terrorist organisation that was very active at the time. and the story went out that employee wages were being deducted as a contribution to terrorism, and what else can you expect from Irish-Americans, they fund most of it anyway... that payroll stationery was very quickly replaced in the British operation.
  • 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.
  • JAL: In both Japan and English-speaking countries, it means Japan Air Lines. In Mexico, the same acronym is used for shortening purposes for describing the state of Jalisco.
  • KKK can mean the infamous Ku Klux Klan and the Kataas-taasan, Kagalang-galang Katipunan ng mga Anak ng Bayan,note  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.
  • Kirby has a problem with two games using the same acronym: is KSS Kirby Super Star or Kirby: Squeak Squad? The latter is sometimes referred to as "KSqSq", but not frequently.
  • L.A.: Los Angeles or Latin America? It doesn't help the fact that Los Angeles has a big Hispanic community (if the city's name, which is Spanish for "the angels", isn't a reason to notice it). Oh, and LA can also refer to Louisiana.
  • An internal example for Left 4 Dead 2: Campaign names are often initialized when referred to, but there are two pairs with the same letters: Dead Center and Dark Carnival, and The Parish and The Passing.
  • In the Philippines, the acronym GMA used to have a strong confusion: When Gloria Macapagal Arroyo became the president of the country, she became very associated by her initials. The problem? There's a long-running TV channel in the country (and its aptly-named subsidiaries) with the same initials. And then there's the even less-related American TV show Good Morning America...
  • 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 due to MILF more commonly meaning "Mother I'd Like to Fuck".
  • Graduating from MIT is a lot less impressive in New Zealand, where it stands for Manukau Institute of Technology, an Auckland-based polytechnic.
  • When you say you play MK, this could mean that you like playing Mortal Kombat. Or Mario Kart. Or that you like to play as Meta Knight in Kirby games and/or Super Smash Bros.. Aside from video games, it could also refer to Magic Kingdom. In Bloons Tower Defense 6, it could refer to Monkey Knowledge
  • MHX: Mysterious Heroine X from Fate/Grand Order, or Monster Hunter X. Even more confusingly, there's also MHXX, as there's also a Mysterious Heroine XX and a Monster Hunter XX. Averted outside of Japan where those two Monster Hunter games are instead called Monster Hunter Generations and Monster Hunter Generations Ultimate respectively.
  • MP: When referring to games, this could be Mario Party or Metroid Prime. It could also just refer to a game being multiplayer. If you're talking role-playing games, it could refer to magic points or something similar.
  • MW2: MechWarrior 2 and Modern Warfare 2. It doesn't help that both are Activision games.
  • NA: North America, naturally aspirated (engine), or a Night Auditor in a hotel.
  • 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.
  • NSW can refer to the Australian state of New South Wales or the Nintendo Switch.
  • Fans of the NWA probably don't want to see the N.W.A
  • PAL can refer to "Phase Alternating Line", an analogue television standard used in Europe, Australia and the eastern half of South America, among other regions. Perhaps it's a good thing the Philippines is among the countries that used the NTSC standard instead of PAL, because PAL also stands for Philippine Airlines.
  • A common joke in speedrun streams is PB: personal best, or peanut butter.
  • PCB can refer to either "printed circuit board", "polychlorinated biphenyl", Perfect Cherry Blossom, or (for aerospace geeks) Plenum Chamber Burning, or the Portuguese acronym for the Brazilian Communist Party.
  • In Portuguese, PCC is usually referred for a notable crime group in Brazil or the Chinese Communist Party, which led to jokes between the two.
  • 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.
  • Back before it was shut down, Miiverse would ban anyone who said "PM" for discussing "criminal activity", seemingly in reference to the Super Smash Bros. Brawl mod Project M. This could kick in even if you were discussing the long-running Paper Mario series - which had its fourth and fifth games, Sticker Star and Color Splash, respectively released on Nintendo 3DS and Wii U, the consoles that supported Miiverse - or even just referring to post meridiem, the span of time that begins at noon and goes until midnight.
  • If you work in hotels and you use the term "PMS" when discussing your work to people who don't work in hotels, you better quickly clarify that you mean "Property Management Software", a generic term for software designed for managing day-to-day hotel operations, and not the nasty pre-period ill effects that are collectively known as "Pre-Menstraual Syndrome".
  • The term PMV can stand for two different kinds of Fan Vid: Picture Music Video, which is a series of still or lightly tweened images set to music, and Pony Music Video, which features imagery from My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic set to music. Some videos are both at once.
  • PNG can refer to Portable Network Graphics, a lossless image file format, PNG Jewelers (where "PNG" stands for the late Purshottam Narayan Gadgil, a jeweler that the business derived their name from in honor), or Papua New Guinea.
  • POS can stand for Point Of Sale, which is mainly used for retail machines that document purchases and accept payment. It can also stand for Piece Of Shit, which is primarily used to disparage the quality of things. User-unfriendly point-of-sale machines qualify as both.
  • 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. Additionally, PSP can also be the art program Paint Shop Pro, which in turn saves pictures as .psp by default.
  • PVA glue is polyvinyl acetate, but the initialism can also stand for polyvinyl alcohol, a different substance. Strangely, either can be used in conjunction with Borax to form slime.
  • QB: The Queen's Blade franchise, a Quarter Back, or the slightly-sinister Mentor Mascot from Puella Magi Madoka Magica?
  • In order to avoid the "RoS" confusion for the Star Wars franchise, fans have taken to abbreviating The Rise of Skywalker as "TRoS," and Revenge of the Sith as "RotS" (itself not to be confused with the "RotJ" of Return of the Jedi).
  • There are different kinds of "RPG".
  • Sonic the Hedgehog has two games that share "SA": Sonic Adventure and Sonic Advance. Adding further confusion, both received numbered sequels; SA2 is usually Sonic Adventure 2, but could also be Sonic Advance 2. However, the confusion ends there and there is only one SA 3 (Sonic Advance 3). Outside of Sonic contexts, SA also stands for South Australia, South America, and South Africa, among other things.
  • 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.
  • 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...
  • SMB could variously refer to Super Mario Bros., Super Monkey Ball, or Super Meat Boy. Outside video games, it refers to Server Message Block.
  • 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.
  • "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. In Malaysia, it can also mean the final exam you take in high school (it's the local equivalent of the British GCSE O Level exams) before you move on to college.
  • SRS: Sex reassignment/reconstructive surgery, or Super Rotation System?
  • SS: Superstar Saga, Sticker Star, or Skyward Sword? Or Stardust Speedway? So Soft? A prefix used to refer to boats? A category of Chevrolet cars which stands for "Super Sport"? Or something to do with Nazis? It could also stand for stainless steel.
  • The updated release of Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga carries the subtitle "Bowser's Minions". Referring to it by "SSBM" can potentially cause some confusion for fans of Super Smash Bros. Melee.
  • When the fifth Super Smash Bros. game was announced as Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, it was quite confusing for those who had previously abbreviated Super Smash Bros. for Wii U as SSBU.
  • "SSSS" is getting a little crowded. It may be a good idea to know what one is searching for between:
  • STI: Sexually Transmitted Infection, or Sega Technical Institute?
  • 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').
  • SWAT, as in "Surface Water Assessment Team," came into the public eye after the 2010 BP Oil Spill. 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.
  • So you're talking about a multiplayer FPS video game that abbreviates to TF2... Team Fortress 2 and Titanfall 2 both fit the bill.
  • The Temiskaming & Northern Ontario Railway (TNOR) was renamed the Ontario Northland Railway due to its reporting name being confused with the Texas & New Orleans Railroad, a Southern Pacific subsidiary.
  • 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.
  • "TT" could refer to Telltale Games or Traveller's Tales, although Telltale is more often abbreviated as "TTG". It could also potentially be the character from Diddy Kong Racing that's named "T.T.", or the character from the also Rare-developed Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts named "Trophy Thomas", of which both are associated with something else starting with the same initials, Time Trials. Finally, there's the Teen Titans to add on.
  • 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.
    • They can't just call themselves UCL, because that's University College London.
  • 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".
  • "UK" stands for the United Kingdom. However, it's also the University of Kentucky... though in most normal usage, the country is referred to as "the UK", with the definite article, while the university is "UK", never taking an article. The University of Kansas averts this; it's always called itself "KU" in both academics and athletics.
  • 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.
  • American universities tend to get this in spades (with the "GSU" entry above as an extreme example). 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 Statenote  or Mississippi State... or Montana State, Morehead State, Morgan State, Missouri Statenote , Murray State, or McNeese State...or Minnesota State, Mountain State (now defunct), Montclair State, Metropolitan State (completely separate schools in Denver and St. Paul), 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. In a similar vein, UM could refer to the University of Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Maryland, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Maine, or Montana. (This is why the "M" will sometimes be followed by a few more letters, like "U-Mich" or "UMass".note ) As noted above, averted by the University of Kansas, which calls itself "KU" and leaves "UK" to the University of Kentucky.
  • Referring to Universal Studios Florida as "USF" around Floridians will often result in a lot of confusion, as the University of South Florida in Tampa also uses "USF" as an abbreviation.
  • In Australia, "WA" refers to the state of Western Australia. In the USA, it refers to the state of Washington.
  • The World Wide Fund for Nature, whose US and Canadian branches still go by the organization's former name of World Wildlife Fund, 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. Though the erasures proved temporary, as the two outfits later agreed that WWE could use "WWF" in archival footage.
  • Probably, made on purpose with the Nobre e Autêntico Suporte Anatômico's viscoelastic foam pillow. Although originally designed for NASA, it was never really used by it, but the company appropriated it for its advertising.
  • IPA can stand for India Pale Ale (a kind of beer), and the International Phonetic Alphabet (an international phonetic transcription system).