Did You Know These Are Acronyms?

Brilliance | Dec. 15, 2017

What do these words have in common: Laser, Snafu, Scuba. Well, none of these words are words at all, in fact. They're all acronyms — as are plenty of other everyday terms that you probably thought were real words.

That's Not Even A Word

While most probably think laser is simply a word, it's an acronym: laser actually stands for "light amplification by stimulated emission of radiation." Taser, on the other hand, stands for "Thomas A. Swift's Electric Rifle." The electro-shock weapon was actually created by a number of men, including John H. Cover, who named the weapon after Tom Swift, a fictional character he loved as a boy, according to Dictionary.com's blog.

There are plenty of surprising acronyms out there: Scuba divers are probably thrilled to be using a "self-contained underwater breathing apparatus," while anyone caught in a snafu is probably not so thrilled about "situation normal all f**d up."

But, There Are Backronyms, Too

With as many acronyms as there are in modern language, there are also plenty of "backronyms," or "an acronym deliberately created to suit a particular word or words, either to create a memorable name, or as a fanciful explanation of a word's origin," according to the Oxford Dictionary blog. Some of these include the Amber in Amber alert — the letters stand for "America's Missing: Broadcast Emergency Response" but that acronym was put together in honor of Amber Hagerman, who was kidnapped as a child in Texas in 1996. The "USA Patriot" at is another backronym: it stands for "Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act" but, again, those words were chosen to create the handy acronym.

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