I LOVE today’s word of the day on dictionary.com! Backronym. Not to be confused with its cousin, the acronym, a word formed by using the first letters of a phrase, a backronym is a phrase generated using the letters of existing word or name. The word “Backronym” is itself a portmanteau (Remember that word of the day? A word formed by combining the elements of two words?) Backronym, the word, is formed by combining the word “backward” with “acronym”.
Some of the more common backronyms that you may be familiar with are: AMBER (America’s Missing: Broadcast Emergency Response) Alert, SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder), ZIP (Zone Improvement Plan) Code, and my personal favorite, SPAM (Something Posing As Meat). creating backronyms can be fun, inspirational as in the Alcoholics Anonymous words, SLIP (Sobriety Losing Its Priority) and DENIAL (Don’t Even Notice I Am Lying), and functional, as illustrated by the military’s extensive use of backronyms for various operations: CAT (Crisis Action Team), WASP (World War II’s Women Airforce Service Pilots), the US military’s personnel and benefits database, DEERS (Defense Eligibility Enrollment Reporting System), and WOMBAT (Worldwide Observatory of Malicious Behaviours and Attack Threats) project. The military is a prolific promoter of backronyms. I am reminded of my own days as a young Marine taunted by my male counterparts’ cat-calls, “BAM” (Broad Ass Marine). Yes, the possibilities are endless!
My research into this word revealed an online Backronym Maker and a helpful site that gave the history of words assumed to be acronyms that are actually backronyms. The word was coined by Washington Post reader Meredith Williams of Potomac, Maryland who entered and won the paper’s monthly Neologism Contest in November 1983. She defined it as “the same as an acroynym, except that the words were chosen to fit the letters”. And the rest, as they say, is history! Since it is a relatively new word, it’s worth noting that there are opposing views as to whether a word is a true acronym or if it is, in fact, a backronym. It’s a “chicken or the egg” dilemma, but I think it is safe to assume that if a phrase is formed from an existing word, it might be a backronym.
And then, there are “initialisms”, also called abecedisms (isn’t that an interesting word!) which is a term formed from the initial letter or letters of several words or parts of words, but which is itself pronounced letter by letter. Examples include ABC (American Broadcasting Company), DVD (Digital Versatile Disc), HTML (HyperText Markup Language), IBM (International Business Machines Corporation), and ATM (Automatic Teller Machine) A bit off-topic, I know, but aren’t you glad to know about initialisms too! I know I am! 😉
Here’s a Haiku to put this one to rest. Rather than use the actual word, I decided to create an example of today’s word of the day from the word “HAIKU) Have a great weekend.
Inspirations, oft’ Kitschy,