Ben Zimmer bgzimmer at BABEL.LING.UPENN.EDU
Sun Nov 7 02:14:00 UTC 2010

On Sat, Nov 6, 2010 at 9:51 PM, Fred Shapiro wrote:
> Does Jesse know whether the OED is likely to include _backronym_ in the new
> edition?  There are 46,000 Google hits.  Wikipedia says the following:
> A backronym or bacronym is a phrase constructed after the fact to make an
> existing word or words match an acronym. Backronyms may be invented with
> serious or humorous intent, or may be a type of false or folk etymology.
> The word is a portmanteau of backward and acronym, and has been defined
> as a "reverse acronym".[1] Its earliest known citation in print is as "bacronym"
> in the November 1983 edition of the Washington Post monthly neologism
> contest. The newspaper quoted winning reader "Meredith G. Williams of
> Potomac" defining it as the "same as an acronym, except that the words
> were chosen to fit the letters."

Earlier terms for the same phenomenon are "prefabricated acronym"
(Ellen T. Crowley and Robert C. Thomas, _Acronyms and Initialisms
Dictionary_, 1970) and -- as suggested by the Wordspy entry that
Wikipedia cites -- "reverse acronym" (Thomas Pyles, _The Origins and
Development of the English Language_ 2nd ed., 1971).  Both are noted
in John Algeo's article, "The Acronym and Its Congeners" (LACUS Forum

Neither are as snappy as "bac(k)ronym," of course.


Ben Zimmer

The American Dialect Society -

More information about the Ads-l mailing list