BACRONYMS: Acronyms in reverse

Bacronyms are regular words that can also double up as acronyms, says Roopa Banerjee

Acronyms, we all know, but, bacronyms? To understand this figure of speech, you need to know more about acronyms. An acronym is an abbreviation formed from the initial letters of words and pronounced as a word — for example, NASA is an acronym for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the space agency of the US. Contrarily, bacronyms are reverse acronyms — Back + Acronym = bacronym (also spelled as backronym).

A bacronym is formed from a phrase whose initial letters spell out a particular word or words. For example Build Absolutely Nothing Anywhere Near Anybody (BANANA). A blog post on says, “…while acronyms are formed from phrases or names that exist beforehand, a backronym is an acronym deliberately created to suit a word or words, either to create a memorable name, or as a fanciful explanation of a word’s origin.” 


According to WordSpy, a website that tracks new words and phrases, bacronym was the brainchild of Meredith G. Williams, winner of the November 1983 edition of the Washington Post monthly neologism contest. She defined it as “the same as an acronym, except that the words are chosen to fit the letters”.

Sometimes, bacronyms are expanded as mnemonics, or memory aids for spelling. For instance, you can help children remember the spelling of BECAUSE by the bacronym ‘Big Elephants Can’t Always Use Small Exits’ or ARITHMETIC if they think of it as ‘A Rat In The House May Eat The Ice Cream’.

Doctors often find it beneficial to use bacronyms in their daily work. For instance, Apgar score is a rating system used to assess the health of newborn babies. This rating system was devised by Virginia Apgar, but the bacronym APGAR was coined in the US as: ‘Appearance, Pulse, Grimace, Activity and Respiration’. 
Bacronyms are catchy and attractive on posters and propaganda material. Some examples:

• POLITICS  —  Power Over Lives Increases Turmoil In Civilised Societies

• UNIVERSE  — Underlying Nanoscopic Infrastructure Versus Endless Reality Spacetime Ether

Witty and wise

A dash of humour finds its way into every aspect of the English language, and bacronyms are no different. Sailors who regret joining the Navy have coined the backronym: ‘Never Again Volunteer Yourself!’ Weary owners of FORD motorcars have been known to joke ‘Fix Or Repair Daily’ while fans of Ford prefer to say ‘First On Race Day’. Similarly, FIAT is often termed ‘Fix It Again, Tom’! while the luxurious JAGUAR is derided as ‘Just Another Gearbox Under Annual Repair’. Software programmes get mocked too — Microsoft’s Bing is merrily described as ‘Because It is Not Google’. 

Many bacronyms also owe their origin to military usage. SPAM was coined as a sarcastic take on army food, ‘Something Posing As Meat’. It was coined by jaundiced soldiers sick of eating canned meat. 
During the 2003 invasion of Iraq, the British contribution was code-named ‘Operation Telic,’ meaning “a purposeful or defined action”. However, the term became known amongst service personnel as a bacronym for ‘Tell Everyone Leave Is Cancelled’. 

Some interesting bacronyms of recent times are:

FOCUS: Follow One Course Until Successful
ASK: Always Seek Knowledge
WORDS: What Objectively Records Definitive Speech.

Say it with bacronymns!

Try and coin your own bacronyms from the following words: QUORA, CHESS, RABBIT, BEST, RAINBOW. 

Answers: (The answers given below are possible bacronyms. Your answers can of course be totally different.)

QUORA: Query Users Or Randomly Answer
CHESS: Clear Head Equals Strategic Success
RABBIT:  Romping And Blissfully Bounding In Tranquillity
BEST: By Every Standard Tops
RAINBOW: Raised Arch, Inimitable Nature’s Bouquet, Omnipotent Wonder.

Also read: Name it with METONYMY

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