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Fun with Acronyms

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Maria Hill: What does S.H.I.E.L.D. stand for, Agent Ward?
Grant Ward: Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement and Logistics Division.
Maria Hill: And what does that mean to you?
Grant Ward: It means someone really wanted our initials to spell out "shield".
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. pilot episode

D.E.S.C.R.I.B.E.: Descriptions are Every Sustainably Cool and Rad Trope that begin every said Trope even I've Been Everywhere to find it.

In fictional (and sometimes not so fictional) acronyms, priorities are reversed. It's not so important that the full name be clear, memorable and to the point; it matters much more that the actual acronym spell out a word or phrase, preferably a meaningful, impressive (or just plain funny) one. This results in "backronyms", acronyms created before the names they allegedly stand for — if the acronym even stands for anything at all. In other words, fiction tends to go for Appellations Creatively Relevant, Occasionally Nonsensical, Yet Meaningful. Shit.

For instance, no writer would have allowed New York's police force to come up with the abbreviation "NYPD". That can't even be properly pronounced. No, they'd have named it, ehm... something like the Central Organization of Police Specialists. It doesn't matter so much that the full title is essentially meaningless — we got it to spell out COPS!note  Heck, we can even sell some toys now! Or, you know what would be better than COPS, would be JUSTICE! So what does JUSTICE stand for? Nothing. That's right, we don't even need it to stand for anything if we don't want it to!

This isn't just for names that are cool, of course. It's also for names which accidentally hint at the true nature of an organization (e.g., a pro-tobacco council with the name CHOKE), or just as "accidentally" spell out something naughty or undignified.

Of course, sometimes a neat acronym can be derived from a sensible name. This is what we call the best of both worlds. (Or should that be the best of both words?) For even more fun, make it a Recursive Acronym, or add Acronym Confusion.

In government, military, and engineering contexts, this is absolutely Truth in Television, probably because there are so many acronyms in those fields that nobody can remember them if they don't have a nice mnemonic. That Other Wiki calls it a backronym.

Technically it's only an acronym if you pronounce it as one word (like "laser" or "scuba"), and if you spell out the letters, it's an initialism. In practice, most people just use "acronym" for them all, so feel free to add them as examples.

In case it's still unclear, an ACRONYM is A Concise Representation Of Nomenclature Yielding Meaning.

See also Initialism Title and Acronym and Abbreviation Overload. Many examples involve a Shoehorned First Letter.

Super-Trope of A.I.-cronym and Shoehorned Acronym.

Example subpages:

Other examples:

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  • In Zen Studios' Spider-Man pinball, the SPIDEY Spelling Bonus stands for "Spectacular Score", "Perfect Ball Saver", "Incredible Jumps", "Deluxe Web Shooters", "Enhanced Strength", and "Yeah! Extra Ball!"
  • The tube transport system in Xenon is the Kinetic Molecular Integrated Evolution Cylinder, a tribute to designer Greg Kmiec.
  • The Big Bad of Dialed In! is Dialed In Electronics.

  • The crew of Mission to Zyxx is coordinated by a Missions Operations Manager, Nermut Bundaloy. He takes a lot of flack when he is promoted to Temporary Emergency Emissarial Negotiations Missions Operations Manager.
  • The Player Characters in Trials & Trebuchets are named Serinepth, Winsler, Integrity, and Mira, giving their team the nickname "SWIM". Later, SWIM learn that their mentor Artis's team when he was a student was Dain, Artis, Fidan, and Teb, or "DAFT".

  • Nebulous features both the Key Environmental Non-Judgemental Taskforce, and the Legitimate Organisation Undertaking General Humanitarian Business Operations Requiring Optimum Unconditional Global Harmony. But then, people from K.E.N.T. have always hated people from L.O.U.G.H.B.O.R.O.U.G.H..
  • In an episode of The Goon Show, Neddy Seagoon was appointed to be Britain's Fog And Thick Smoke Officer.
    • In another episode, Major Bloodnok has a washcloth stuffed into his mouth by thieves who stole 10 Downing Street. Ned says, "These initials must mean Winston Churchill!" Bloodnok answers, "I hope so!"
  • One episode of Adventures in Odyssey features the Society for Mental Improvement and Living Enthusiastically, a nationwide organization bursting with Stepford SMILErs.
  • In one episode of Absolute Power (BBC), Charles is tasked with creating a name for a male pressure group. His efforts include British Association of Lovable LadS and GeneraL AsssociatioN for the Support of the Priapically ENdowed In Society.

  • The Cyber Forest [Fantasy Girls] series of mecha musume kits by Nuke Matrix make use of this trope for their naming conventions, being highly mechanical in design and following an animal theme. Of those released as of this writing there are:
    • F.O.X. Long Range Striker Unit, the first and the only one not to play by the trope.
    • Remote Attack Battle Base Info Tactician Lirly Bell.
    • Hurricane Assault Revenger: Prototype Yaeger Amelia Hartmann.
    • Storm Interceptor: Royal ENforcer Tanya Charybdis.
  • G.I. Joe:
    • There's M.A.R.S. (Military Armaments Research Syndicate), Destro's weapons dealing organization.
    • The short-lived spinoff Sgt. Savage and his Screaming Eagles has the I.R.O.N. (Invasion Reconnaisance Occupation and Neutralization) Army. The following spinoff, G.I. Joe Extreme had S.K.A.R., Soldiers for Khaos, Anarchy and Ruin.

    Web Videos 
  • French Baguette Intelligence abbreviates to 'FBI', which is a reference to the Federal Bureau of Investigation's founder Charles Joseph Bonaparte, a descendant of Napoléon Bonaparte.
  • SMOSH has done this more than once. Two examples: from "How To Survive a Burglary", there's Always Silently Shut Doors In Case of Kleptomaniacs, or ASSDICK for short, and in "Stop Miley" there's Stopping Miley From Twerking And Acting Like An All Around Tool Bag, or SMFTAALAAATB for short.
  • Zero Punctuation has a semi-running gag in the early seasons that takes a paragraph-long concept and turns it into an initialism that is still a Wall of Text, only now it's an impossible to remember, contextless screed of letters and periods.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Backronym, Fun With Initialisms, FWA


Red's mind snaps

The normally kind and gentle Red Menace goes berserk after losing a game of Puppies in a Basket. His brawn combined with his unstable mind makes him VERY dangerous, with him easily being able to throw heavy objects around the room and smash through steel doors.

How well does it match the trope?

4.9 (10 votes)

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Main / UnstoppableRage

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