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Recursive Acronym

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

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

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

See also Fun with Acronyms and Shoehorned Acronym. Not to be confused with the RAS syndrome. Occasionally overlaps with Shaped Like Itself.


    open/close all folders 

  • BWIA — BWIA West Indies Airways (formerly British West Indian Airways)
  • DTS — DTS Truck Service (a repair shop for trucks in Central New York)
  • Heil Environmental Industries Limited, founded by Julius P. Heil, makes garbage trucks.
  • MOM: MOM's Organic Market (a Washington, DC area health food store chain)
  • ThinkGeek sells compressed air under the brand NINJA, which stands for "NINJA Is Not Just Air." They also carry a rear-view mirror for your computer called CHIMP, which stands for "CHIMP Has Invincible Monkey Powers".
  • Visa (the card company) stands for "Visa International Service Association". This expansion actually came some time after the original name was devised.
  • The name of Cygnus Solutions, now defunct, stood for "Cygnus, your GNU Support". That wasn't its tagline, however - its tagline was "Making free software affordable".

    Comic Books 
  • According to Atari Force, "Atari" stands for the "Atari Technology and Research Institute".
  • Sonic the Hedgehog (Archie Comics) had ADAM (ADAM Determines Anonymous' Movements).
  • The second Blue Beetle's company, Kord Industries, is sometimes said to be an acronym for Kord Omniversal Research & Development.

    Comic Strips 
  • Calvin and Hobbes: In one story arc, Calvin makes his so-called superhero alias, Stupendous Man, into an acronym. The 'S' in Stupendous stood for... 'Stupendous'. He also doesn't finish the acronym because he doesn't know how to spell 'Stupendous' and is making it up on the spot.
  • Dilbert takes this to its logical extreme with the TTP project, where TTP stands for "The TTP Project". It might also be an example of Redundant RAS Syndrome.

  • Allegro — "Allegro Low Level Game ROutines", formerly "Atari Low Level Game ROutines" (Allegro is a low-level game programming library that mostly just provides easy access to the hardware)
  • AROS — "AROS Research Operating System", formerly "Amiga Research Operating System", a free and Open-Source variation on Amiga OS, renamed in order to avoid legal action from the owners of the Amiga trademark.
  • BABOON: BABOON Allows BABOON Objects Over Networks
  • Early versions of the common emails one receives claiming that Bill Gates will give one money for forwarding the email to all one's friends as a test of his newly developed email tracking application often contain a blatant clue that the email is a hoax. The text often refers to the alleged email tracking system as the "Beta Email Tracking Application", which (of course) recursively acronyms to "BETA".
  • Inverting all the "X is not an Y." examples below is BIABI, which is a Brainfuck Interpreter.
  • Cave - Cave automatic virtual environment
  • EINE - "EINE Is Not Emacs" and its successor:
    • ZWEI - "ZWEI Was EINE Initially"
  • A joke from the days of 64k RAM is that Emacs stands for Emacs makes a computer slow. (It originally stood for Editor MACroS.)
  • The name of the object-oriented BASIC dialect Gambas stands for Gambas Almost Means BASIC.
  • The operating system GNU — "GNU's Not Unix," named as such because it aims to be compatible with Unix without containing any code from it (with the replacement code being 100% free software).
    • The GNU project's official kernel, Hurd, contains a mutually recursive acronym: "Hurd" stands for "Hird of Unix-Replacing Daemons," and "Hird" stands for "Hurd of Interfaces Representing Depth." (However, as Hurd isn't yet complete, most people using GNU software combine it with Linux, which doesn't stand for anything.)
  • HIPI — HIPI Is a Piet Interpreter
  • JACK — Jack Audio Connection Kit (a sound system for pro-audio/MIDI work under Linux)
  • LAME — LAME Ain't an MP3 Encoder. Even though it is.note  The corresponding MP2 encoder is TwoLAME, originally TooLAME (presumably TOOLame Ain't an MP2 Encoder) - which is fittingly even lamer.
  • LISP — LISP Is Stupid Parentheses. This one is actually a joke rather than the programming language's actual name (LISt Processor). All programs in LISP are structured as mathematical phrases, and tend to include phrases-within-phrases-within-phrases ad nauseum, which often leaves a huge number of trailing parentheses at the end. Making sure the right number of closing parentheses are in place is a major headache for LISP programmers.
  • MINCE — MINCE Is Not Complete Emacs (Emacs is a text editor)
  • Mini — Mini Is Not IOS (Mini is part of Bootmii, a method to execute a low-level bypass of the Wii System Menu and load homebrew.)
  • NIL — NIL Isn't Liero
  • PHP — PHP: Hypertext Preprocessor
    • It originally stood for "Personal Home Page", but they changed it.
  • Popular text-based email program PINE — Pine Is Not ELM. (ELM standing for E Lectronic Mail). PINE's Apache-licensed successor, Alpine, subverts this by turning out to officially stand for "Alternatively Licensed Program for Internet News and Email"
  • PNG — PNG's Not GIF (as PNG was conceived as a replacement for static GIF images, though it also stands for Portable Network Graphics.)
  • RIF — rif is fun, formerly known as "reddit is fun", an Android app for accessing Reddit.
  • RPM — RPM Package Manager. Formerly Redhat Package Manager before it started to be used by OS other then redhat.
  • Synthesia, a game to learn how to play piano, was formerly known as Piano Hero. After they got C&D order from Activision, the developer opened a poll for the new name of the game and one of the name requests was as follows: "SINPHONY Is Not Piano Hero Or New York".
  • SPARKS — have the biggest collection of acronyms, including "Smart Programmers Are Required (to) Know SPARKS"
  • The LaTeX package Tikz — Tikz Ist Kein Zeichnungprogramm (Tikz is not a drawing program).
  • UIRA — UIRA Isn't a Recursive Acronym
  • WineWine Is Not an Emulator (it isn't; it's a compatibility layer for the Windows API for non-Windows operating systemsnote )
  • XBMC — used to stand for "Xbox Media Center", but now that the program has been ported to other platforms, it now stands for "XBMC Media Center".
  • Xinu stands for Xinu Is Not Unix.
  • XNA — "XNA's Not Acronymed" (an engine made by Microsoft that make use of the .NET framework to make interactive media such as games. it's commonly used by indie developers to make games for the Xbox, although it can also be used on Microsoft Windows and the Windows Phone 7).
    • On the top of that, XNA's logo is also an acronym. The orange part of logo is actually written in morse code, "-..-" meaning "X" while "-." means "N" and ".-" means "A".
  • XNU stands for "XNU's Not Unix". Ironically, it is used as the kernel for macOS, which IS a certified Unix.
  • YAML — YAML Ain't a Markup Language. It isn't. SERIOUSLY.

    Fan Works 

  • A joke for math buffs. What does the "B." in "Benoit B. Mandelbrot" stand for? Benoit B. Mandelbrot.
  • A band had the name "Our Name Is O.N.I.O.N Now", when asked what it meant, they responded with "Our Name Is O.N.I.O.N Now".

  • Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid contains several of these:
    • GOD stands for "GOD Over Djinn." The acronym is recursive because it represents not an individual being but an infinite set.
    • Lampshade Hanging in the final dialogue, "Six-Part Ricercar":
      Author: Like Bach, I enjoy acronyms. Recursive Acronyms—Crablike "RACRECIR" Especially—Create Infinite Regress.
      Crab: Oh, really? Let's see...Reading Initials Clearly Exhibits "RACRECIR"'s Concealed Auto-Reference. Yes, I guess so...
    • "Six-Part Ricercar" has another one at its very end:
      Tortoise: Reentering Introduction Creates Endlessly Rising Canon, After RICERCAR.
  • Chapter 18 of Douglas Hofstadter's Metamagical Themas includes a menu of mutually-recursive food acronyms, such as "TOMATOES on MACARONI (and TOMATOES only), exquisitely SPICED".
  • In More Information Than You Require, John Hodgman advises memorizing names through mnemonics. For example, the name "John" becomes "John Or Hodgman Name".
  • Wyrm features a computer program called TRAP that writes recursive acronyms. Naturally, TRAP stands for TRAP Recursive Acronym Program.

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


    Tabletop Games 

    Video Games 
  • The first letters of the chapter titles in Dead Space spell out "NICOLE IS DEAD. The last word of the acronym has two chapters that start with the word itself: "Dead on Arrival" and "Dead Space"
  • The Game Mod ALOT (A Lot Of Textures) for Mass Effect 2.
  • Cookie Run Kingdom: For the BTS crossover event, the cookies of darkness form a competing evil band called "B.A.D. 4", in which "B.A.D." stands for "Bad And Dark".
  • In Second Life, the Raglan Shire sim is home to a pub called the Paw And Whisker.
  • Possibly the Webkinz minigame, the Wheel of WOW, which also has "WOW" written on the center on it.
  • In Xenosaga, Robot Girl KOS-MOS's name stands for "Kosmos Obey Strategical Multiple Operation Systems."
  • The Officially Shortened Title for PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds was originally PUBG, but became PUBG: Battlegrounds over time.

    Web Animation 
  • Battle for BFDI was retitled to "Battle For BFB" starting in episode 17. Excluding the infinite loops that could be caused by "BFB", the acronym fully expands to "Battle For Battle For Battle for Dream Island".
  • The titular Team RWBY (pronounced "Ruby") is composed of Ruby Rose, Weiss Schnee, Blake Belladonna and Yang Xiao Long. First episode of Volume 3 has Ruby even admitting to her dead mother that her team having the same name as her has caused some confusion.


    Web Original 
  • Internet slang phrase: RIP in peace (or in pieces).

    Web Videos 
  • Retsupurae: In "Let's Play Resident Evil 5: The Demo!", the video is done by a group called E.P.I.C., which stands for Epic Pwnage In Color.
    Diabetus: What does E.P.I.C. stand for again?
    Proteus: Epic... something, something, something.
    Slowbeef: It's a recursive acronym.

    Western Animation 

    Real Life 
  • Liberal activist and former CIA officer Ray McGovern described the foreign policy motives of so-called "neocons" with the acronym OIL: O for oil, I for Israel, and L for logistics (military bases in Iraq).
    Jon Stewart: You can't use the word "oil" in an acronym for "oil"! That's against the acronym rules!
  • RED Corp., one of the casting agencies that provide the stuntmen for Super Sentai and Kamen Rider, stands for "Red Entertainment Deliver".
  • Many uses of the acronym S.T.O.P. start with the word "Stop". As well as mnemonics (e.g. Stop, Think, Observe, Plan), and protests (e.g. Stop This Outrageous Purge), they include WHO's Stop Transmission Of Polio program.
  • The University of Plymouth has the C.O.A.S.T. Laboratory, which stands for Coastal, Ocean and Sediment Transport.

Alternative Title(s): Ardwlf Recursively Describes Whimsical Linguistic Fascination, ARDWLF