Acronyms are undeniably convenient. But sometimes we get so used to the acronym we forget where it came from — or that it’s even an acronym at all. For instance:
You might think the pastime of parachuting off fixed objects was named for the fact that you’re jumping from a base instead of out of an airplane, but actually “base” is an acronym for the four kinds of objects you can leap off: buildings, antennas, spans or the Earth.
Fun fact: there’s no such thing as a canola plant. Canola oil comes from a type of brassica plant that is naturally high in toxic erucic acid. After Canadian breeders developed a new, low-acid strain of the plant, the oil was named “Canada oil, low acid” — what we now know as Canola.
The test may prove you’re not a robot, but the name could well have been designed by one — an acronym for “completely automated public Turing test to tell computers and humans apart”. There’s reason to believe this may in fact be a backronym — an acronym reverse-engineered to fit an existing word (in this case, a play on “capture”).
There’s fairly widespread agreement that “spam” is an acronym, though what it stands for is clouded by debate. “Special processed American meat”, “spiced ham” and “shoulder of pork and ham” have all been put forth as possibilities.
Maybe you already knew GIF is an acronym, and bonus points if you also knew it stands for “graphics interchange format”. The real stumper with this one is… how do you pronounce it? With a hard g (like giggle) or a soft g (like giraffe)? GIF inventor Steve Wilhite advocates for the soft g, but we respectfully disagree: if the g stands for “graphics”, it should be hard — following the precedent of girl, gild, gill, gigabyte, gimmick, gift and more.