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Shoehorned First Letter

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"It must be American. Who else would think 'extra' starts with an X?"

Sometimes a character will need to come up with a word that starts with a certain letter, but wants or needs to say one that doesn't qualify. The solution: stick the necessary letter in front of the desired word and call it a day! Often done to make a word fit into an acronym or Alliterative List. The letters X and Z are the most common victims of this, due to being the least common initial letters in English.

Compare Xtreme Kool Letterz, Recursive Acronym. Sub-trope of Shoehorned Acronym.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • Subverted in Code Geass, where FLEIJA stood for "Field Limitary Effective Implosion Armament". Yes, they didn't even bother to stick anything to the "J". The shameful thing is, the reason for the name is to keep within the Theme Naming of the series, and the accepted fan-made acronym of FREYA (standing for Fusion REaction Yield Armament) works just as well.
  • In Fullmetal Alchemist, this is how Riza manages to tell Roy who Pride's true identity is. She signals Roy with a cup, then talks about certain people and other stuff in a certain order so that Roy is able to list them and have them spell out SELIM BRADLEY IS HOMUNCULUS.

     Audio Play 
  • In the 1965 full-cast audio drama of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, when the Dormouse says that the three girls in her story were learning to draw "everything that begins with an M", the March Hare keeps suggesting things that start with the sound "em", such as "empire".

  • In one of The Simpsons comics, Homer tells Bart about the "Three S's of fishing": Silence, Safety and Sssbait.
  • "QT Bunny" has shoehorned Qs in spades. Starting with the title. Of course it means "Cutie."
  • Similarly, the story Superman Meets the Quik Bunny has a few shoehorned Qs related to the brand, such as Quik Qlub.
  • In Amazing Spider-Man #264, Red 9 tells Spider-Man that he lives by "the three F's - football, fighting, and women." Spidey hangs a lampshade on it by pointing out that Red 9 can't spell.

    Fan Works 
  • Tough Guide to Harry Potter:
    Xnothing is what Rugi and Gwena write when they have no sensible entries for “X.” Sorry everyone, but our ingenuity has given out at this point.

    Film - Animated 
  • In Yellow Submarine, Old Fred does a case that's part this, part bad wordplay given how the first can be pronounced starting with an 'e': "H is for hurry...E is for urgent...L is for love me...and P is for please help!"

    Film - Live-Action 
  • In The Three Stooges short "Sing a Song of Six Pants", the stooges are trying to guess the name of the owner of a suit when they know his initials are TH. They come up with Teddy Hoosevelt and Thomas Hedison.
  • In Dance Flick, after one character says there's no 'I' in 'team', the other character suggests some synonyms, none of which have 'I' either, until he gets to 'i-nsemble'. For his efforts, he is responded with a Lampshade Hanging that he mispronounced the word to make it sound like it had an 'I'.
  • In Beach Party, Cappy recites an acrostic for Big Daddy, the mascot of his club: Dallas, Ah, DNicholas, D-Day, and Y Not.
  • A*P*E officially stands for Attacking Primate MonstEr.

  • Edward Gorey's alphabetical poems would often use, for X, words that actually begin with an E, such as "excited."
  • In The Sacred Diary of Adrian Plass, Adrian has to come up with a sermon based around three alliterative bullet points starting with H, but can't think of a third one and keeps getting absurd unrelated suggestions.
  • A Series of Unfortunate Events has Carmelina Spats singing about herself: ... "R" is for "Ravishing", "M" is for "Gorgeous"
  • James Thurber has a story called "The State of Bontana" in which characters, challenged to think of a state beginning with B (there isn't one), guess "Bontana", "Butah", and "Bassachusetts", among others. The payoff is when the next challenge is to name a bird, and one of them says "Beagle!"
  • 1066 and All That gives the two sides in the English Civil War alliterative epithets, one of them forcing the alliteration: The Cavaliers were "Wrong but Wromantic," whereas the Roundheads were "Right but Repulsive."
  • The Sweet Pickles series of children's books has a cast of 26 animal characters, one for each letter of the alphabet. The letters U and X must have been problematic, hence the presence of Unique Unicorn and X-rating Xerus.
  • According to Sue Grafton, the 'N' volume of The Alphabet Mysteries was originally going to be named "N is for Knoxville."
  • Al Franken in Rush Limbaugh is a Big Fat Idiot proposes complementing the v-chip designed to block violent television programs with a chip for every other letter of the alphabet. The h-chip blocks any program portraying whores, with this excuse provided for the initial: "Research shows most people believe that 'whore' starts with an 'h.'"
  • Dr. Seuss's ABC goes through every letter, naming words that start with each one, even if he has to make up a nonsense word to do it. Except... "X is very useful if your name is Nixie Knox. It also comes in handy spelling ax and extra fox."

    Live-Action TV 
  • A Series of Unfortunate Events (2017) had Carmelita's song and dance routine from the books, where she insists that the "M" in her name stands for "Gorgeous"
    • Count Olaf had a similar song in the first episode that went like this: "C" is for "Courageous" that's another word for "Brave", "O" 's for "Oh my God what a very handsome knave" and actually got worse as it progressed.
  • On one toss between The Daily Show and The Colbert Report, Jon Stewart made fun of Stephen Colbert for playing the letter "Z" on Sesame Street: All-Star Alphabet, leading to this exchange:
    Stephen: Yeah, you know what "z" stands for, Jon: zrevenge!
    Jon: See you in a minute, Stephen!
    Stephen: I will have my zvengeance!
  • During a game of "90 Second Alphabet" on Whose Line Is It Anyway?: Greg Proops was made to start his line with the letter X, and spat out, "X-actly no!" even holding up his arms in the shape of an X for emphasis.
  • Challenging the rest of the family to guess the name of a big-band leader with the initials "EC", Archie Bunker said the answer was "Xavier Cugat". When Mike told him that "Xavier" begins with an "X," Archie insisted that "No human being begins their name with an 'X'!" and that Xavier was spelled "E-G-Z-A-V-E-R."
  • One episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000 featured the 'bots signing up to walk marathons for various long-winded charities. When Crow stated he was walking for WALKATHON, he had to explain to Mike that it was an acronym, not Walk-A-Thon itself.
    Crow: It stands for "Walkers At Large Kinetically Altruistic Through Hygiene Or Nowledge".
    Mike: ..."Knowledge" with an "N"?
    Crow: Yeah, else it would be WALKATHOK, and that doesn't work.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer had weapons from A to Z: from Axe to Z Other Axe.

  • "Loverman" by Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds twice has a somewhat sloppy acrostic.
    L is for Love baby
    O is for Only you that I do
    V is for loving Virtually everything that you are
    E is for loving almost Everything that you do
    R is for Rape me
    M is for Murder me
    A is for Answering all of my prayers
    N is for kNowing your loverman's going to be the answer to all of yours

    L is for Love and
    O is for Oh yes, I do.
    V is for Virtue, so I ain't gonna hurt you
    E is for Even if you want me to
    R is for Render unto me, baby
    M is for that which is Mine.
    A is for Any old how, darling and
    N is for aNy old time!
  • TLC were Tionne, Lisa and Crystal. When the last one was expelled, replacement Rozonda was nicknamed "Chili" to keep the acronym (while retroactively adding monikers T-Boz and Left Eye to the others).
  • A last letter case: *NSYNC is both a pun on "in sync" and references JustiN, ChriS, JoeY, JasoN, and JC...though Jason left before they hit it big, forcing replacement Lance to be nicknamed "LansteN" to keep the theme.

    Tabletop Games 

  • The musical Plain and Fancy brings on a little girl in the middle of "Plenty of Pennsylvania" to list something growing in Pennsylvania for every letter of the alphabet. She stumbles toward the end of the alphabet with "un-i-ons" and "X-plants," and for the final letter weakly suggests "zpinach" and "zauerkraut" before triumphantly emerging with "zucchini."
  • A sketch in Pleasure at Her Majesty's has Alan Bennett dictating a telegram through the phone and having to explain the acronym NORWICH to the operator (NORWICH is an actual World War II acronymn used by servicemen in letters to their sweethearts):
    Alan Bennett: [dictating a telegram into the telephone] I want to end it if I may, "NORWICH". [pause] "NORWICH", yes. Well, it's an idiomatic way of saying, "Knickers Off Ready When I Come Home". You see, it's the initial letters of each word. [pause] Yes, I know "knickers" is spelt with a "K". I was at Oxford, it was one of the first things they taught us.

    Video Games 
  • In Billy vs. SNAKEMAN, one of the 11 D's of Pizza Delivery is D-Speed. Parodied in that Cici runs out of D-words halfway through the description and tells you to just go with it.
  • In one Second Sight level, two guards are playing "I Spy" and the letter is "E". The guesser tries "eeediot".
  • Ultima IV has both a command and a spell for each letter of the keyboard, leading to some oddities like (z)tats and (k)limb.
    • The "up" and "down" spells are respectively Y and Z, justified in universe by Y being the initial of the wizard who invented the up spell and Z being the initial of the unpronounceable Lord of the Underworld.
  • A series-wide example, the Mortal Kombat series tends to change almost any word that starts with a hard C to a K.
  • The KKnD series stands for "Krush, Kill 'n' Destroy". Apparently, CKnD doesn't sound as dynamic.
  • Lampshaded in Impire by the representative of FAKE, the Federation of Abysmal and Kataclysmic Evil. FACE just didn't work as an acronym.
  • One Cosmetic Award in FTL: Faster Than Light is titled "Defence Drones Don't Do D'anything!". Apparently no price is too high for alliteration.

  • Dinosaur Comics: In this comic T-Rex discusses the 10 Fs for living happily: "friendship, fitness, family, financialsuccess, frugality, futrition, flessening salt intake, foderating alcohol intake, fiminishing stress, and fatching your blood pressure." At the end he also answers a question by saying "...FFFROBABLY??"
  • Penny Arcade, in this comic about Kirby.
    General: We call it the Kinetic Ingestion Regulator Bio-Yorganism.
    Meta Knight: Yorganism?
    General: Y is kind of a tricky letter.
  • From Hiimdaisy's Persona 4 comic:
    Shadow Teddie: The word of the day is: FUTILE! As in: "Your futile existence has no meaning." Chie, do you know any other words that start with F?
    Chie: Fsteak.
    Shadow Teddie: Excellent.

    Web Original 
  • TV Tropes' love for Alliterative Name tropes gets us into trouble now and again; witness Pstandard Psychic Pstance, Psmith Psyndrome, Kafka Komedy, and Vampire Vannabe. (The last one is arguably justified by relating to vampires, but it still counts—as does the Vampire Vords trope itself.)
  • This is how Fobbies Are Borange got its name. A forum member suggested a mnemonic to tell apart two Palette Swapped enemies in Earth Bound: "Foppies are pink, and Fobbies are borange."
  • Homestar Runner:
    • In the Strong Bad Email "pizzaz", Strong Bad claims that the secret to his pizzazz involves "the Three Gs": gumption, gum, and "...gargle. Minty gargle."
    • From the sbemail "theme song", "Join the e-niversity e-volution e-day. Uh, well, today. That last one didn't quite work out."
    • In "love poems", Homestar attempts to write an acrostic poem about Marzipan, and uses foodstuffs to begin each line. He tries to get away with "inchiladas" for the "i" and completely fails to come up with anything for the "z".
  • Tobuscus has a Running Gag of trying to make the color of shirt he's wearing in his LazyVlogs match the day of the week, resulting in such gems as "Thpurple Thursday".
  • One of the Running Gags from Cracked TV was Michael Swaim using his last name as an acronym for various things. On the first episode of his newer series Does Not Compute he introduces a new segment: Swaim sWimulates A (human) IMotion, before remarking on how bad the acronym is.
  • In his review of Spider-Man: Web of Shadows, Yahtzee described its predecessor Spider-Man 2 as having a web-slinging mechanic that was "fun, fast, flowing, f... intuitive."
    • "BFE stands for Before First Encounter. Not, as I had first believed, Big Fucking Egun."
  • Two Best Friends Play: A running joke on the podcast is that "MOBA" stands for "Mefense Of Be Ancients."
  • Whenever Markiplier uploads a Reading Your Comments video a day late, he'll refer to it as "Markiplier MTuesday".
  • An online article about what alphabet books used for "X" in the days before xylophones and x-rays includes "xany" (a misspelling of "zany"), as well as "expensive", "extinct", "exit" (written as "Xit" and also including "Xtremely" and "Xquisite"), and "extraordinary".
  • A post on Tumblr jokingly posits that Friends' title is an acronym made up of each of the main characters' names,note  shoehorning most of them to make it work:
    did you know that "friends" stands for:
    * feebee
    * rachel
    * it's joey
    * everyone is friends
    * nonica
    * dross
    * shandler

    Western Animation 
  • Used as a Running Gag on The Simpsons, with Krusty. He's so far had a "Krusty Komedy Klassic" (at the Apollo theatre in Harlem), a Krusty Kharity Klassic, Kamp Krusty, etc.
  • Steven Universe: In "Steven vs. Amethyst", when Pearl explains, with Added Alliterative Appeal of Alliterative Name and Alliterative List:
    Pearl: Pearl points are awarded for punctuality, perseverance, and positivity. We may be smaller, weaker, and less gifted than our opponents but with these P's, we have the keys to success aaaand to the Pearl prize pouch!
    Amethyst: Pamazing.
    Steven: There's some pgreat stuff in that pouch.
  • H.E.L.P.eR. from The Venture Bros. stands for "Helpful Electronic Lab Partner Robot"—the lowercase "E" is just for aesthetic purposes and doesn't stand for anything.
  • In SpongeBob SquarePants, the "F.U.N. Song" declares that 'F' is for "Friends who do stuff together", 'U' is for "yoU and me", and 'N' is for "aNywhere and any time at all".

    Real Life 
  • Almost all software written for KDE has the name with "K", preferably as the first letter. If there's no synonym, "K" may replace "c" or "q". Failing that, it's shoehorned. Killbots, Karbon, Konqueror, KoolDock, Okular, Klear, KBattleship...
  • Steven Tyler's (somewhat tasteless) summary of the Rock n' Roll lifestyle is what he calls The Three M's: "Music, Money, and MmmmPussy!" One comedian mocked him thusly:
    "If my grandfather ever says 'MmmmPussy!', he's thinking about eating the cat."
  • Sometimes seen in posters, books, etc. of the alphabet where each letter is accompanied by a word that starts with that letter. If "x" isn't represented by "xylophone" or "X-ray", it'll be "ox" or "axe".
  • The "three Rs" of Education: Reading, wRiting and aRithmetic. While 'writing' has the excuse of sounding like it starts with an 'R' and the first syllable of 'arithmetic' is how the letter 'r' is pronounced in some dialects, it still counts.
    • In a similar vein: 4X. Should be Four E, but "X" Makes Anything Cool.
    • Words starting with "ex" are almost always abbreviated to X in acronyms, probably because what else are you going to use Xs for? (And it avoids overloading Es, the most common letter in English.)
  • Something very common with crosswords is that people will change the letters in a word in order to make it fit.
  • The Ku Klux Klan is an unfortunate example.
  • Some evolutionary biologists (well, Dr Jack Cohen, anyway) refer to the Four Fs; significant developments that evolved independently multiple times, and that if the whole of evolution was restarted (or we found alien life) we would expect to evolve again. They are Fur, Flight, Fotosynthesis, and, Fsexual Reproduction.
  • Similarly, ethologists sometimes talk about the four Fs of basic animal behavior: Fighting, Fleeing, Feeding and F... ornication.
  • When abbreviating weekdays to their first letters, it isn't uncommon to see Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, thuRsday, and Friday. There are various solutions to the Saturday/Sunday conflict as well.
  • Commonly misunderstood to be the case with the CMYK color scheme (Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, and blacK). It is believed by most that K is used instead of B to avoid confusion with the RGB color scheme (Red, Green, Blue). However, the K actually stands for Key, as in 4-color printing the Black separation is referred to as the Key Plate.
  • There's a perennial Canadian protest politician who changed his name "Above Znoneofthe" so it would appear last in alphabetized ballots (i.e., as "None of the above" with a silent Z).
  • CPU manufacturer Intel was creating a new product after the success of its first x86 processor, the iAPX. It stood for "Intel Advanced Processing Architecture," where allegedly the "X" was the Greek letter "chi".
  • Old versions of the programming language FORTRAN determined the type of a variable by the first letter of its name: names beginning with I, J, K, L, M and N were reserved for integer variables, and those starting with other letters were assumed to represent floating-point values. For this reason, it became quite common in FORTRAN programs to have variables with names like KOUNT. (FORTRAN IV and later versions permit type declaration statements to override the default name-based type assignments, but many FORTRAN programmers preferred to leave variable types implicit.)
  • In 1984, Keith Emerson and Greg Lake wanted to reunite with Emerson, Lake & Palmer, but drummer Carl Palmer was unavailable due to commitments with Asia, so he was replaced with Cozy Powell - when the inevitable jokes were made about purposely picking another drummer with a "P" surname so they could still call the new group "ELP", the band themselves joined in by claiming they had considered hiring "Phil Pollins or Ringo Parr".

Alternative Title(s): Shoehorned Starting Letter