Sunday, 10 March 2013

Backronym

Fiat, Badge, Backronym,
Found It All Ticketyboo

BACKRONYM

Noun.
[Blend of BACK and ACRONYM]

A fanciful expansion of an existing acronym or word, such as "port out, starboard home" for posh.
(definition from OxfordDictionaries.com)

I love acronyms and all their ilk, and I especially love the backronym, in which someone takes a pre-existing word and retrospectively applies an acronym to it. The first time I knowingly experienced this was helping my Dad set up his computer sometime in the 1980s (when everything IT was a big deal) and we read that a mouse was a manually operated user selection entity. It wasn't, of course. The thing we call a mouse just looks like a mouse.

Backronyms are often used popularly to humorous effect. As a previous Fiat owner, for example, I would often hear the joke that it stands for 'Fix it again tomorrow!' (I actually found my Fiat Punto to be thoroughly reliable). There's a similar backronym with Ford: supporters might tell you (facetiously) that it stands for 'First on race day!' while detractors would say it means 'Found on road ... dead.' 

Having previously written about the anacronym (which is an acronym that is in such common use as a word that people generally don't know it's an acronym or what the letters stand for - laser being an example), I did fall to wondering what it would be called if you have an acronym that becomes an anacronym that becomes a backronym. Clearly, there is a gap in the English language here, and I would like to put forward the term banacronym. To use laser again as a theoretical example, its evolution from acronym to banacronym might be this:
  1. The laser is invented, and so called as an acronym for light amplification by stimulated emission of radiation. An acronym is born.
  2. Everyone (with a social life) forgets what laser originally stood for. An anacronym is born.
  3. Knowing it once stood for something, some numb nuts retrospectively makes the anacronym an acronym again, rendering it a luminous and straight energy ray. Booya! The banacronym is born!
I can't help but feel that banacronym has been a long time in coming, and there's a deep sense of relief that this yawning omission in our beloved language has finally been plugged. I shall petition the OED to include it in their next edition as a matter of urgency. In the meantime, any readers who wish to help end this lexicological madness can do so by using the word banacronym at all possible opportunities. 

In the meantime, going back to backronyms, please leave any other examples you know in the comment box, or any other thoughts you have on the oddly exciting world of acronyms in general.

Because luminous and straight energy rays are dangerous

7 comments:


  1. I enjoyed this post as much as the one about backfriend! ha ha! So inventive and witty.

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    1. Backfriend and backronym have been too of my favourite words so far : o )

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  2. I know one, but it's Dutch.

    Our national railways are called NMBS (Nationale Maatschappij der Belgische Spoorwegen - National Society of Belgian Railways). A long time ago, some people once threw bricks from a bridge on a train, and then the backronym Niet Met Bakstenen Smijten (Don't Throw Bricks) was born.

    I guess it's only funny when you know Dutch and are familiar with the backstory...

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    1. This really made me chuckle - I love the morality of it. It says "Look, I'm making a backronym out of this, which is a lot of fun ... but seriously ... throwing bricks at trains is not acceptable!" : o )

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  3. Hi Ed
    I've been thinging about this one for a while and the only thing that comes to mind so far is HP (as in HP Sauce).
    The HP stands for 'Houses of Parliament'. I've asked lots of people over the years what they think it stands for and no-one's got it right yet (despite there being a picture of the Houses of Parliament on the bottle), so I think it qualifies as an anacronym. So I'd like to put forward a banacronym for HP............Hot and Pickley!

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    1. Hahahaha! I *love* it! From this day forth HP will always be hot and pickley to me : o D

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    2. I changed the picture on 'anacronym' to an advert for HP Sauce ... it had to be done!

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