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Embarrassing Initials

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"Originally, I was gonna get initials for 'babysitter', but then I'd be going around wearing a big 'BS'. And... you understand why I couldn't go with that."
Syndrome, Jack-Jack Attack

Rounding out the Embarrassing Names Sisters (the others being Embarrassing First Name, Embarrassing Middle Name, Embarrassing Last Name, and Embarrassing Nickname) is Embarrassing Initials—when this common method of abbreviating a name spells out something, well, embarrassing.

Also a Sister Trope to Fun with Acronyms. Sub-Trope of Unfortunate Names. Compare Shoehorned Acronym when the acronym itself is awkward.


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People (Initials):

    Comic Books 
  • Gotham Academy professor Mr. Scarlett has the initials A.S.S., made rather obvious by the fact that his first and middle name are never given more than the initials and he's teaching a bunch of teenagers.

    Fan Works 
  • The Black Sheep Dog Series occasionally lampshades the rather unfortunate initials of Sirius's full name, Sirius Orion Black. Lucretia calls him "Sob" because of this, to Sirius's annoyance, and Remus's amusement.
    Sirius: (to his mother) When you named me, you'd think you'd have a bit more concern about the unfortunate connotations of my initials.

    Films — (Animation) 
  • This trope is discussed in Jack-Jack Attack when Syndrome, whose costume has a big S on it, approaches Kari the babysitter, who assumes that he's her replacement:
    Kari: What does "S" stand for?
    Syndrome: For... uh... Sitter! Yeah, Sitter. Originally I was gonna have initials for BabySitter, but then I would be going around wearing a big BS, and... you understand why I couldn't go with that.

    Films — (Live-Action) 

  • In the first Diary of a Wimpy Kid, we have Preston Mudd, shortened to P. Mudd. Later, we also have Peter Uteger, or P.U.
    It took people about five seconds to realize how "P. Mudd" sounded when you said it out loud, and after that, it was all over for Preston.
  • In The Heroes of Olympus, resident badass praetor Reyna's full name is revealed to be Reyna Avila Ramirez-Arellano... or RA-RA.
  • The Land of Oz book series has Oscar Zoroaster Phadrig Isaac Norman Henkle Emmannuel Ambroise Diggs, OZPINHEAD for short, which he abbreviates to Oz to get rid of the "Pinhead" part. Of course, 99% of the time, he's just referred to as "The Wizard"..
  • Stories For Nine Year Olds: In "What's in a Name?", the titular girl Rozanne "Roz" Andrianov Tompkin gets teased because her initials are R.A.T.

    Live-Action TV 
  • All in the Family: Discussed during one of Mike & Archie's many arguments, which comes about when Mike and Gloria are going to have a baby and are deciding what to name it. Mike wants to name it Stanisalus Archie Stivic, after the two grandfathers: Mike's father Stanislaus and Gloria's father Archie.
    Archie: Well, how come you didn't think about it the other way around — Archie Stanislaus Stivic?
    Gloria: Oh, daddy, you wouldn't want your grandchild to have those initials.
    Mike: Well, it would fit the American grandfather.
  • In the final CSI episode, Grissom takes notice of D.B.'s initials when they're Introduced. DB is CSI shorthand for dead body.
  • The protagonist of The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin, Reginald Iolanthe Perrin (his parents were Gilbert and Sullivan fans).
  • In Family Matters, Carl's full name was Carl Otis Winslow.
  • Blanche Elizabeth Hollingsworth from The Golden Girls got these after she got married and became Blanche Elizabeth Devoreaux. Her initials became more appropriate after her husband died and she started playing the field. Lampshaded in one episode.
  • The Odd Couple's remake notes that Felix Ungar's initials were F.U. Which led to issues when Felix started leaving notes for Oscar signed F.U.

    Web Videos 
  • In Rémi le Radis, the heroes meet Monster of the Week Phillipe Queraldonote  and immediately make fun of his initials (PQ being a term for toilet paper).note  When he reveals that it annoyed him all his life, Rémi suggest him to legally change his name and the rest of the episode is about Obstructive Bureaucracy. Then he finally reveals his new name: Phillipe Deralquo. "PD" is the French equivalent of "faggot".note 

    Western Animation 
  • The Spacecats received their orders from a bodyless head known as the Disembodied Omnipotent Ruler of Cats. He's blissfully unaware that his name abbreviates to "DORC".

    Real Life 
  • In ''The Greatest Baby Name Book Ever," several reasons are given to avoid a name. The paragraph under "The initials spell something silly" gives us one of our quotes.
  • Ulysses Simpson Grant was born Hiram Ulysses Grant, but like many men of the time he went by his middle name, which the family friend who got him into West Point mistook for his first name and simply added Grant's mother's maiden name as his middle name (as was also very common). Grant tried to resist the change but eventually gave up and became U.S. Grant (also the common initials of the United States).
  • Arthur Seymour Sullivan of Gilbert and Sullivan fame quit using his middle name after a German friend poked some gentle fun at him about the resultant initials.
  • David Ivon Gower, England Cricket Captain, 1984-1986 and 1989. Often makes jokes about it before anyone else can.
  • In 2022, this person posted on Reddit asking if she was the asshole for pointing out to her cousin's husband that his unborn child's initials would spell out A-S-S. He was initially mad at her, but later apologized and he and his wife decided to change their child's name before it was born, despite pressure from his parents to "continue the family tradition", as his initials were also A-S-S.
  • Pauline Robinson Bush, first daughter to George H. W. Bush and younger sister to George W. Bush, was initially going to be named Pauline Pierce Bush, until George H. W.'s mother pointed out that her initials would be P.P. Bush, which "would never do".

Organizations, Projects, and Items (Acronyms):

    Fan Works 
  • In Season 10 of My Brave Pony: Starfleet Magic, The name Beaker gives his anti-Starfleet group is the "Industry Dedicated In Overthrowing and Terminating Starfleet". Beaker only realises that the acronym spells out IDIOTS once the other members point it out to him, but he refuses to change it because he already had merchandise made.

    Films — Live-Action 

  • In Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, upon learning how much wizards mistreat house elves, Hermione creates an organization named "Society for Promoting Elfish Welfare", and creates badges for herself and her friends to wear. The others find wearing a badge that spells "SPEW" ridiculous.
  • In STINKBOMB, Yuri "Dr. Doom" Vilenemi plans to name his evil operation "Operation R.A.L.L.Y.", which stands for "Reak Almighty Lawsuits Lots, Yahoo!". Archie and Barney points out that, not only does the phrase not make sense, "Wreak" is spelled with a "W", so he's actually named the job "Operation W.A.L.L.Y."
  • In the later J.P. Beaumont novels, J.P. works with the Special Homicide Investigation Team of the D.A.'s Office. Deadpan Snarker that he is, J.P. sometimes considers the acronym to be all too apt.
  • Timmy Failure: In "Sanitized for Your Protection," the organization Toody creates to help underprivileged classmate Yergi Plimkin is called "YIP YAP" ("Yergi Ismavitch Plimkin, You Are Poor.") Toody later ditches YIP YAP and starts a new group dedicated to remodeling her room, called "REAREND" ("Remodel Everything And Repurchase Entirely New Dresser.")

    Live-Action TV 
  • Ann on Arrested Development belongs to the Church of the Holy Eternal Rapture. This spells the Bluth family's normal reaction to her being mentioned: "HER?"
  • The Big Bang Theory: When the gang enters a trivia tournament, Sheldon insists on naming them after army ants, which isn't so bad except his team shirts just say AA (like Alcoholics Anonymous), which upsets the others. When they make their own team, they miss the irony upon naming themselves the Perpetual Motion Squad.
  • In Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode "Gingerbread", Joyce founds an anti-witch group called "Mothers Opposed to the Occult."
    Buffy: Nice acronym, Mom.
  • In an episode of The John Larroquette Show the bus terminal's resident Angry Black Man complains about the NAACP to a co-worker, also black.
    Dexter: You know what the CP in N-Double A-CP stands for? Colored People. They should call it the National Association for the Advancement of African-Americans.
    Heavy Gene: "NAAAA?" [Beat] Naah.
  • In the Red Dwarf episode "Polymorph", Rimmer's suggestion for dealing with the eponymous alien monster is to form a Committee for the Liberation and Integration of Terrifying Organisms and their Rehabilitation Into Society. He acknowledges that the abbreviation is something of a drawback.

    Video Games 

    Web Comics 
  • In ''Curtailed, one of Mandy's bosses suggests calling a financial app the ""Carry-Over "Calculation Kit," which gives Mandy the giggles. She then suggests the boss tries to abbreviate it, whereupon he realizes what the abbreviation spells. In the comments on the comic, she says "Who knew having a twelve-year-old's sense of humor could be a legit business skill?"

    Web Original 
  • The group of squirrels in The Petri Dish has initials that spell F.A.R.T.

    Western Animation 
  • The Dover Boys has the college that the eponymous boys attend, Pimento University. Pimento U. Good ol' P.U.
  • In The Fairly OddParents!, season 8, "When Losers Attack", when Mr. Crocker, Dark Laser, and Foop form an alliance to take down Timmy, they're trying to think of a name for their group and one of the names Foop cames up with is League Of Super Evil Revenge Seekers. They all agreed to the name being oblivious it spells "LOSERS" and even after getting T-shirts with the acronym on it and Timmy questioning their group name they're still oblivious.
  • On the Futurama episode "Bender Should Not Be Allowed On Television", Prof. Farnsworth forms a protest group against indecent content on television. The name of the group is Fathers Against Rude Television. It doesn't help that Farnsworth keeps using the acronym in dialogue without catching on.
    Prof. Farnsworth: And for what? A cheap laugh? That's not what F.A.R.T. is about!
  • Phineas and Ferb:
    • When Dr. Doofenshmirtz names an organization of evil scientists "League Of Villainous Evildoers Maniacally United For Frightening Investments in Naughtiness", one of the scientists questions if they're seriously going to be called that.
      Dr. Bloodpudding: You want us to be called L.O.V.E.M.U.F.F.I.N.?
      Doofenshmirtz: Oh good grief!! It doesn't matter what we're called.
    • The group of Animal Superheroes that oppose those scientists is called O.W.C.A., which no one finds embarrassing, just disappointing. It does, after all, stand for Organization Without a Cool Acronym.
  • In one episode of the The Simpsons Krusty is hosting a special called the Krusty Komedy Klassic which he refers to as KKK before realizing what that sounds like. For added fun it's being held at the Apollo Theater which is a significant venue for African-American performers.
    Krusty: Hey! Hey! Hey! It's great to be back at the Apollo Theater and...
    Krusty turns around and notices the giant KKK sign behind him.
    Krusty: KKK?! That's not good. Unghhhhh...
  • One rule for the Krusty Krab in SpongeBob SquarePants is People Order Our Patties, which abbreviates to POOP.
  • Storm Hawks: Piper's acronym in her home movie for memorizing crystal health and safety is Use Plenty (of) Caution Handling Unstable Crystals (UPCHUC). Do Piper's teammates UPCHUC? They agree they certainly do — if they're subjected to Junko's awful cooking or they've been flying upside-down!
  • Totally Spies! has the alliance of past one-shot villains called The League Aiming to Menace and Overthrow Spies. The league's founder Terrance doesn't seem to notice the acronym until the other villains point it out.
    Tim Scam: You realize that spells "lame-o's"?
    Terrance: Blast! It's too late to change it now. I've already printed all the stationery and t-shirts and key fobs... We're keeping the name!
  • Transformers: Animated has the Fully Automated Rapid Transit System (FARTS) and the Bi-directional Unified Transit Terminal (BUTT). Professor Sumdac should really have someone to proof read the names of his inventions.

    Real Life 
  • The Canadian Conservative Reform Alliance Party, or CCRAP. Switching "Reform" and "Conservative" was only marginally better.
  • The organization run by Richard Nixon in his 1972 re-election campaign was the Committee to Re-Elect the President, or CREEP. (Though the official Initialism was CRP).
  • The world governing body for taekwondo was named the World Taekwondo Federation until they re-branded by dropping the last word in 2017.
  • The Comitato Ricerche Associazione Pionieri, a committee dedicated to preserving a children's supplement of a historical Italian communist newspaper, has its initials in their speech bubble logo. Hilariously, CRAP also did insert said speech bubble above characters of the Atomino comic.
  • There's the Universal Technical Institute, or U.T.I.
  • Kotobukiya's Frame Arms Girl line of model kits and accessories, or F.A.G.
  • The American conservative advocacy organization Turning Point USA, or TP USA, given that TP is also an abbreviation for toilet paper. Their critics have not hesitated to take advantage of this. Not helping matters is the fact that its members have been known for protesting wearing diapers.
  • The original name for the Paris Réseau Express Régional system was instead the "Metro Express Régional". The potential issues with that name wasn't spotted until a painter was tasked with creating signs for the project's construction sites using a "[System] - [Station]" naming scheme, and painted up the acronym for "Metro Express Régional - Défense Etoile" on a sign. The Réseau Express Régional name was quickly adopted not long afterwards.
  • The city of Seattle installed a trolley line in its South Lake Union neighborhood. Only after realizing that "South Lake Union Trolley" was perhaps not an ideal name for something that people were expected to ride, did the city decide that it was actually a streetcar.
  • The University of Ballart rebraned to Federation University. May people including students noticed that this meant you would tell lots of people to "F.U". The university insists on calling themselves Fed Uni.
  • The Swiss-Italian transit operator Ferrovie Autolinee Regionali Ticinesi (literally, "Railways and Bus Lines of the Ticino Region"). Given that their vehicle branding proudly displays that acronym, at least someone is likely in on the joke.


Video Example(s):


Dr. Havoc's Diary

Von Duct fails to take into considering what else "VD" could possibly stand for.

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