The Secret Life of Acronyms

Years ago I wondered intensely about why some acronyms jarred, and not just government-issue ones either. Let me explain my conclusions.

I'm posting this now because of the push to rename the just-finished QA Hackathon, which personally I feel was marvellous value-for-money.

So, I soon realized the secret is to expand out the words, and them say them in reverse order.

Let's try some:
ISP => Service for the Provision of the Internet (Edit: chopped silly example).
HTTP => Protocol for the Transmission of Hyper-Text.

These 'just work', and also notice that we're happy to spell out the letters. They do not need to be pronounceable words. Sure, some acronyms more or less make a word, but my view is that fabricating a good acronym depends in the word combination in both directions, not the resultant letter combination.

Try a few yourselves.

But beware of concentrating too much on ancient acronyms, since we're more likely to have absorbed them over enough time to overlook any awkwardness they might have.

A note about a bad acronym: CGI. A close examination will tell you that Common, Gateway and Interface all mean more or less the same thing! So what does the word expansion tell you? Nothing! Not convinced? Try telling that word expansion to someone who uses a computer but is not a programmer, and ask them what it conveys. Hint: Their answer will be: Nothing.

Now, gentlemens and ladies (as they say in Blues music), fire up your acronymatrons...

Anyway, I'll start:
PATCH: Perl Annual Toolchain Hackathon => Hackathon on the Toolchain for Perl.

And, hey, Patch has all sorts of coding connotations!

Hmmm. Not too bad for a 1st attempt.

And am I worried about having to explain Toolchain. No! Just use the opportunity to emphasize the incredible breadth of our commitment to Perl testing and quality.

Now to take my other advice, and quit while I'm ahead :-).

1 Comment

Actually, the French Perl Mongers have a claim for prior art. We have been using the name "patch" for our irregular hackathons since 2013:

We're very happy with the name too, as it's one of the first programs published by Larry Wall (in 1985).

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About Ron Savage

user-pic I try to write all code in Perl, but find I end up writing in bash, CSS, HTML, JS, and SQL, and doing database design, just to get anything done...