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Shoehorned Acronym

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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.
Hill: And what does that mean to you?
Ward: It means someone really wanted our initials to spell out "shield."

Acronyms are nifty. They make things easier to remember, and sometimes they're just fun. However, sometimes people try too hard, or not hard enough, and end up with a Shoehorned Acronym. There are several ways this could happen:

  • Shoehorned First Letter: Where you simply stick a letter onto one of the words (e.g. "CATS — Creative, Artistic, Talented, S (Individuals).) Being a sub-trope, all examples go on that page.
  • Recursive Acronym: Where one of the initials stands for the acronym itself. Again, this is a sub-trope, so all examples go on that page.
  • The acronym is hard to pronounce, often due to having too many consonants stuck together (e.g. GLPNSF).
  • The acronym misspells a word, possibly using Xtreme Kool Letterz.
  • The acronym uses silent letters.
  • The acronym uses a letter that isn't the first in a word.: (e.g. "STOP — Send The Odious coPs"
  • The acronym puts meaningless words in just for the sake of spelling a word. This can range from the mundane (basically, also) to the nonsensical (pineapple, unicorn).
  • The acronym skips words that are more substantial than "a", "of", "for", etc.
  • The acronym uses multiple letters from some words.

Compare Embarrassing Initials, for when the acronym itself isn't bad, but it spells out something awkward. See A.I.-cronym, Acronym and Abbreviation Overload, and Acronym Confusion for other tropes about acronyms. Also compare Painful Rhyme for a similar trope about rhymes. An Overly Long Name might abbreviate to an unpronounceable acronym.


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  • In the UK in the 1970s, the Green Cross ran a PSA campaign with Jon Pertwee (who had at that time left Doctor Who two years ago but was still obviously playing the same character in the ad) teaching children how to cross the road with the catchy acronym "SPLINK". Almost every single one of the letters is shoehorned, or linked to the most tenuous word in the sentence, which is one of the many reasons why the BBC officially identified it as so bizarre as to be one of the all-time-classics of the PSA genre.
    S — First find a Safe place to cross, then stop
    P — Stand on the Pavement near the kerb
    L — Look all round for traffic and listen
    I — If traffic is coming, let it pass
    N — When there is No traffic near, walk straight across the road
    K — Keep looking and listening for traffic while you cross

    Anime and Manga 

    Comic Books 
  • Atomic Robo and the Agents of C.H.A.N.G.E.:
    Robo: That supposed to mean something or just sound catchy?
    Ada: Criticality of Human Augmentation with Neo-Genetic Enhancements.
    Robo: Oh my god. That acronym had a family.
  • Outlawed: C.R.A.D.L.E. stands for Child Hero Reconnaissance and Disruption Law Enforcement, the 'H' from Hero being ignored.

    Comic Strips 
  • Calvin and Hobbes:
    • The title characters make a club called GROSS— Get Rid of Slimy girlS. Calvin, who came up with it, knows the acronym is bad... but he thinks that it's redundant because all girls are slimy, yet he wanted to have it spell something.
    • Calvin also attempts to make the word "stupendous" into an acronym for his superhero alias of Stupendous Man. However, since he seems to be making it up on the spot, he can't think of appropriate words for each letter (for example, the "S" in stupendous stands for... stupendous), and he also can't spell the word right.

  • Eiga Sentai Scanranger gives us “Mechanized Androids Yoked Hither to Eliminate Mankind”, shortened to Mayhem. The author seems aware of the silliness, as it never appears again after the first episode. Doubles as a Non-Indicative Name, since most of the members are cyborgs or aliens.

    Films — Animation 
  • Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs has Flint Lockwood's Diatonic Super-Mutating Dynamic Food Replicator, which abbreviates to the clunky, hard-to-pronounce acronym "FLDSMDFR" (usually pronounced something like "flid-SMID-uh-fur").
  • The LEGO Movie has a weapon called the Tentacle Arm Kraglenote  Outside Sprayer, or TAKOS, with a silent "S" (pronounced as "taco"). The reason why its creator named it that is so that he can call the day he'll release it "Taco Tuesday".

  • Alex Rider has the criminal organisation SCORPIA. The S, I, and A are Sabotage, Intelligence and Assassination, but then the CORP comes from CORruPtion. The narrator lampshades this by saying "It was a fanciful name, they all knew it, invented by someone who had probably read too much James Bond". (The James Bond analogue is SPECTRE — SPecial Executive for Counter-intelligence, Terrorism, Revenge and Extortion — which takes the first two letters of the first word but is otherwise just a straight acronym.)
  • In A Million Adventures, it's mentioned that the first name suggested for Penelope's capital city was an acronym combined of the names of the planets that took part in building it: ZPPPKRSTFKUG. Of course, it was immediately rejected.
  • Origami Yoda: In "The Surprise Attack of Jabba the Puppett", Professor FunTime from the similarly-named show FunTime says that he's going to help the students PREP (which stands for Preparation and RE-view Period) for their upcoming test.
    Kellen: Wouldn't that be 'PARP'?
    Mr. Howell: Please, Kellen, this is painful enough already.
  • Rivers of London: The UK police database is called HOLMES, the Home Office Large Major Enquiry System. (Truth in Television.)
    The replacement to the old system was due to be called SHERLOCK, but nobody could find the words to make the acronym work so they called it HOLMES 2.
  • In the Star Wars Legends books, the Galactic Empire's State Sec is called "COMPNOR," which is short for "COMmission for the Preservation of the New ORder," which is a doozy of a shoehorned acronym, not only skipping multiple words, but using multiple letters from some of the words it does use.
    • The eponymous organisation stands for Secret Team (of) Intrepid-Natured Kids Battling Odious Masterminds, Basically. It's not too bad, but the last word is a bit forced.
    • The villains' organisation is RALLY, which stands for Reak Almighty Lawsuits Lots, Yahoo!. Not only are the last two letters a bit stilted, but, as the main character pointed out, "Wreak" actually starts with a "W", so the acronym ought to be "WALLY".
  • The Space Quest Companion, a novelization of the Space Quest series, is flooded with these, not seen in the original games. A few include:
    • Space Quest IV: Roger Wilco and the Time Rippers: A master computer and video game processing unit was called "MARIO" — the Massively Awesome aRcade Intelligence Organism. (Averted with its antivirus program, the TROJAN — the Totally Reliable Optimally Judgmental Antivirus Node.)
    • Space Quest V: The Next Mutation: The test-grading computer at StarCon is called the "TOTAL IDIOT": The TOTALly Infallible Digital Inspector of Tests.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Corner Gas: This is a Running Gag in the episode "Doc Small":
    Emma: Anyway, the Committee to Convince a Young Doctor to Live in Dog River or...
    Karen: The C.T.C.A.Y.D.T.L.I.D.R.note  for short.
    Lacey: That's short?
    Emma: Don't make fun of our acronyms.
    Davis: We thought you'd be a good person to meet the doctor and to show off the town.
    Karen: Not just the town, the Greater Regional...
    Davis: Yeah, the G.R.R.A.Z.
  • How I Met Your Mother: In "The Window," Ted gives a lecture on building bridges to his university class, but is itching to get back to his date with his cute neighbor Maggie. He subconsciously writes "MAGGIE" on the chalkboard, then has to hastily make a backronym out of it ("Make Adjustments, Go Get It Energized") that has little to do with bridges.
  • Mr. Young: In "Mr. Roboto", Adam creates an android student he names A.R.T.H.U.R., with the acronym standing for "Automated Robotic Teenager Hippopotamus Umbrella Rainbow". Adam made the last three letters of the acronym random words because he needed something for the "HUR" part.
  • This is a Discussed Trope on Penn & Teller: Bullshit!. After an "expert" misuses the term acronym, Penn explains what the difference is between an acronym (FUBAR - Fucked Up Beyond All Recognition) and an initialism (FBI - Federal Bureau of Investigation). Specifically, acronyms can be pronounced and initialisms can not. Penn caps this off by attempting to phonetically pronounce 'FBI'.
  • A Running Gag on This Morning With Richard Not Judy was that Richard Herring would refer to the show by its acronym ("ter-rum-wun-jer"), with Stewart Lee mocking him for it. Herring's rendering technically didn't even work, as he had the R in the wrong place.
  • Doctor Who:
    • In the story "The War Machines", the world is threatened by an AI supercomputer meant to replace human political leaders because it thinks more objectively. Because it was intended to be a rational overlord it was given the name W.O.T.A.N., which turns out to stand for "Will Operating Thought ANalogue".
    • The classic series featured a military group called "U.N.I.T", or "United Nations Intelligence Task Force", that frequently allied with The Doctor. The revival series, in an attempt to distance the organization from the real-world United Nations, the name was changed to UNified Intelligence Task Force. At one point, a character remarks that somebody must have "really wanted it to spell Unit".

  • Dino Attack RPG features the nonsensical and unpronounceable acronym "H.R.D.B." for the Holographic Robotic Dinosaur Bomb. In Love and War, it's lampshaded by Zero:
    Finister: The Holographic... Robotic... Dinosaur... Bomb! Or, for short, the H.R.D.B.!
    Zero: Which spells... 'Hurduhbuh'? Looks like someone's not very good at coming up with creative acronyms, either.
    Finister: Oh, shut up!

    Video Games 
  • Scrabdackle: The Scrabdackle Exploration sociEty, or S.E.E.
    Blue: Wouldn't that be S.E.S.?
    Guildsman: Well, if you only focus on the wrong letters, sure. Language is *also* an adventure.
  • Tales of Symphonia: Dawn of the New World: Played with. Alice calls Decus a "dumbo", though the latter interprets it as an acronym for "Dashing, Undaunting, Majestic, Brilliant, and Oh-so-handsome", and proudly accepts it.
  • In the Unreal series, there is a weapon called the AVRiL - the Anti Vehicle Rocket Launcher. In-Universe, the inventor added the 'i' to the acronym simply so the weapon's acronym could be pronounced.

  • In Skin Horse the military AI GODOT was programmed to create backronyms, turning words into project titles. It's implied to have been responsible for the U.S.A. P.A.T.R.I.O.T. Act as well. And went insane trying to come up with a backronym for U.N.I.T.Y., Skin Horse's resident zombie Super Soldier.
  • Sleepless Domain: The Alt Text on this page jokes that the Magical Girl Power Training Club is called by a hard-to-pronounce acronym.
    Heartful Punch: Welcome to the Magical Girl Power Training Club! Name subject to change.
    Alt Text: We call it Mgptc *spit flies out of mouth* for short

    Web Original 
  • In the Game Grumps playthrough of Trauma Center: Second Opinion, they interpret Sidney Kasal saying, "They don't even understand what Caduceus stands for" as "Caduceus" actually being an acronym. Arin improvises that it stands for the nonsensical phrase "Cool And Daring Under Cars, Everybody Understands Sue."
  • The GNU Project uses the Recursive Acronym "GNU" which stands for "GNU's not Unix!" only defining what it's not.
  • A common Jacksfilms gag involves turning words into acronyms, most notably as a Running Gag for Audible sponsorships. Very rarely do they ever make sense; words are misspelled to fit the scheme, sometimes only the first few letters are utilized, and they almost never have anything to do with the actual word the acronym is for.
    AUDIBLE stands for...Anchovies, Uhhhhh, Dill Pickles, Iiiiiiiiii, Bacon, Lettuce, Everything.
  • Justified in Protectors of the Plot Continuum: The Disguise-Outfitting Ryticular Kostume System abbreviates to DORKS. However, the "K" in "kostume" was there because of a typo on the patent form. No one knows the meaning of "ryticular", though.
  • All teams including the titular Team RWBY are comprised of the first initials of the first or last names of the members. The teams are supposed to be based around colors, but given that the chances of the students' names making a word are fairly low, the spellings and pronunciations can get creative. There's Team JNPR - Jaune, Nora, Pyrrha, Ren (juniper); CFVY - Coco, Fox, Velvet, Yatsuhashi (coffee); SSSN - Sun, Scarlet, Sage, Neptune (sun); and many more. The villains don't have official team names, but that hasn't stopped fans from coming up with their own.
  • This fan site for Scooby-Doo claims that "Jinkies", Velma's catchphrase, is an acronym for "Just interesting, nutty, krazy, illogical, egads! scary."note 
    Velma: I know it's spelled wrong.
  • H.Bomberguy: Invoked in his Virtue Signalling video as per his typical Stylistic Suck style. Harris' Author Avatar is assaulted near the end by the villainous W.O.M.Z. - the Wicked Omnicidal Matriarchal... Zbadperson. A Freeze-Frame Bonus during the ensuing Beat shows Harris apologizing for being bad at acronyms.

    Western Animation 
  • Codename: Kids Next Door: In "The Grim Adventures of the KND", to combat the Delightful Reaper, Mandy has the KND-turned-MND (Mandy New Dictator) build a giant robot in the likeness of her called the M.A.N.D.R.O.B.O.T., with its acronym standing for "Monkeys And Nice Doggies Relax On Bellies Of Turtles". Mandy complains about the acronym, with Numbuh 3 telling her that she could have come up with a better one if Mandy hadn't rushed her.
  • Godzilla: The Series: Mendel Kraven's Robot Buddy is named N.I.G.E.L., which stands for "Next millennium Intelligence Gathering Electronic Liaison". Randy Hernandez immediately establishes what his relationship with Kraven will be by pointing out the acronym should be "N.M.I.G.E.L."
  • M.A.S.K.: An example of the fourth version, where there heroes' group name is actually "Mobile Armored Strike Kommand." Or, as Robot Chicken put it:
    "M.A.S.K.! Do they know... Command doesn't start with a 'K'?"
  • Milo Murphy's Law: In the climax of "The Phineas and Ferb Effect", Derek reveals his M.U.L.C.H. device, standing for "Machine Used for Literally Converting Humans To Plants". Baljeet and Buford point out that would make the acronym MULCHTP, with Derek shouting at them that the TP is silent.
  • In My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, Twilight calls Shining Armour her Big Brother Best Friend Forever, or BBBFF.
  • Phineas and Ferb: OWCA at first looks like it might stand for something interesting, given that it's the group Perry works for... until you learn it stands for Organization Without a Cool Acronym. Similarly named groups include COWCA (Canadian Organization Without a Cool Acronym), HSWCA (High School Without a Cool Acronym), and SOKWCA (Secret Order of the Knights Without a Cool Acronym). There's also SSSN - Super Secret Spy Network.
  • The Simpsons:
    • "El Viaje Misterioso de Nuestro Jomer (The Mysterious Voyage of Homer)" features the A.I.-cronym EARL (Electronic Automatic Robotic Lighthouse), which Homer initially mistakes for the name of the lighthouse keeper. The first two words are effectively redundant.
    • In "Marge vs. Singles, Seniors, Childless Couples and Teens, and Gays", a riot at a children's concert causes the residents of Springfield to be heavily taxed to pay for the damage. In protest at this injustice, Lindsay Naegle creates a campaign group to promote childlessness: "Singles, Seniors, Childless Couples and Teens and Gays Against Parasitic Parents" (SSCCATAGAPP). Marge in turn sets up a resistance group of her own to defend family values: "Proud Parents Against Singles, Seniors, Childless Couples and Teens, and Gays" (PPASSCCATAG).
    • In "Treehouse of Horror XXVII", Lisa is interrogated by the police about mysterious deaths connected to her, and tells them it might be something to do with her friend Rachel. Playing on the stereotype that nerds have no friends, Wiggum mockingly suggests RACHEL is actually a computer acronym and tries to guess what it might stand for, but ends up digging himself into a hole as he can't think of anything for the last few letters.
      Chief Wiggum: Repeating Algorithm for Calculating...Hotel...ah...come on Lou, help me out here!
      Lou: No, no, no. You got yourself into that acronym. You can get yourself out.
  • SpongeBob SquarePants:
    • "Mermaid Man and Barnacle Boy V": A group of supervillains form the E.V.I.L. organization, which is short for "Every Villain Is Lemons".
    • "Boat Smarts" has the "CoBBUtKSBSPOtRaOoBAT": Citizens of Bikini Bottom United to Keep SpongeBob SquarePants Off the Road and Out of Boats All Together.
    • In "Banned in Bikini Bottom", there's an organization called "The United Organisation of Fish Against Things That are Fun and Delicious", or "TUOoFATTaFaD".
    • "F.U.N." has SpongeBob teach Plankton what "fun" is with the titular acronym: "Friends who do stuff together, yoU and me, aNywhere and any time at all."
  • Total Drama: A Running Gag involves two female contestants referring to each other as "BFFFLs", a cacophonic acronym for "Best Female Friends For Life".
  • W.I.T.C.H.: In the second season, the heroines find out that the previous guardians of Kandrakar were called Cassidy, Halinor, Yan, Kadma and Nerissa. Hay Lin jokingly proposes they refer to the group as "C.H.Y.K.N." (chicken) for short.
  • Naturally with Hulk and the Agents of S.M.A.S.H., when She-Hulk wonders what the S.M.A.S.H. acronym means Rick (A-Bomb) just immediately responds "Who cares? We're awesome!".note 
  • The South Park episode "Canada On Strike" has the W.G.A., or "World Canadian Bureau". More astute viewers may realize that this phrase doesn't even remotely resemble its supposed acronym. This is because the whole episode was a giant Take That! to the Writers' Guild of America, who were on strike at the time.
  • The 2012 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2012) series has Baxter Stockman introduce his Mouser drones as "Mobile Offensieve Underground Search Excavation & Retrieval Sentries", which the Turtles make fun of.
  • Lampshaded in Young Justice when the Team goes on a mission against Professor Ivo's MONQIs (Mobile Optimal Neural Quotient Infiltrators), when he complains that it was difficult coming up with an acronym that's pronounced to match their appearance as the team smashes them.

    Real Life 
  • The 5th grade level of Cub Scouts is named the "Webelos". It was meant to be an abbreviation for "We be loyal scouts".
  • Navy SEAL stands for "SEa, Air, and Land." Presumably, they didn't think "Navy SAL" sounded cool enough.
  • This Karate Club: Kids Adults Real Anti-abduction T Everyone. That's right, they couldn't even think of a suitable word for T.
  • The pair of standards the FCC enforces to prevent caller ID spoofing are STIR and SHAKEN. STIR is relatively okay, standing for Secure Telephone Identity Revisited. SHAKEN, however, stands for Signature-based Handling of Asserted Information Using toKENs. The creators of the standards admit that they "tortured the English language" to come up with it for the sake of the pun.
  • Happens all the time in the U.S. government. When the Congress really wants to pass a law without a whole lot of discussion, they'll give it a catchy name that no one could object to, even (especially!) if it's the complete opposite of what the law actually entails:
    • After all, who could vote against something called the USA PATRIOT Act?note : Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism (USA PATRIOT) Act of 2001,
    • Not even having a word for Y: The Support Anti-Terrorism by Fostering Effective Technologies Act of 2002, or SAFETY Act,