In linguistics, an apronym is a word, which as an acronym or backronym, has a meaning related to the meaning of the words constituting the acronym or backronym. For example, the acronym for Seasonal affective disorder, SAD, reflects the actual meaning of the term as denoting the emotion of suffering or sadness. Homonyms of a word may also be used to form apronyms.
Apronyms are a form of word play and may be created for serious purposes or for amusement. Most apronyms are backronyms (ie. reverse or back-formed acronyms), in the sense that they are created from an existing word, or a homophone thereof.
Apronyms are created for several purposes.
- Serious purposes such as the name of an organisation or programme. In such cases usually the apronym and its expanded term are chosen together for their aptness to the thing being named. See the example of SAD in the introduction.
- As mnemonics for difficult-to-spell words. For example, a recursive acronym for "rhythm" is Rhythm Has Your Two Hips Moving.
- In marketing and public relations, as a method of influencing public thought. Examples abound in the names of medical and industry lobby studies, such as "CHEERS", the chemical industry's Children's Environmental Exposure Research Study. Apronyms have also been appearing in government legislation, such as the USA PATRIOT Act (Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism) and the FAIR Act (Fairness in Asbestos Injury Resolution Act)
- As amusement where the objective is the clever and inventive use of words rather than practical or sensible expanded terms. Irishman Tony McCoy O'Grady and others have created thousands of them as word play on the apronyms.com website. For example, infinity - Increment Numbers Forever - It's Nuts, I Tell You!
- Related to the previous is the amusement of creating jocular, and often also derogatory, terms from names of brands, companies, organisations etc. For example, Ford – Fix Or Repair Daily, or NASA - Need Another Seven Astronauts (after the 1986 crash of the Challenger_Space_Shuttle).
Apronyms which are not back-formed are usually unintended apronyms.
- AGE - Advanced Glycosylation Endproducts, an apronym which combines the fact of glycosylation of long-lived proteins, e.g. in connective tissue, as well as the accumulation of irreversibly changed proteins with age.
- BASIC - Beginner's All-purpose Symbolic Instruction Code, a very basic computer programming language
- BLOOD - Black Liberation Organization Of Defense, a street gang. Blood is apropos both because of the threat of injury (drawing blood) and the familial bond between members (blood ties).
- BRIT - British Record Industry Trust, organisers of the Brit Awards
- CAN-SPAM -- Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing Act, 2003 US Congressional act which was intended to reduce deceptiveness in unsolicited commercial email commonly called "spam"; the act is sometimes interpreted as meaning that one can spam.
- CREDIT - Court-Referred Education, Drug Intervention and Treatment, credit given towards completion of the course
- DARE - Drug Abuse Resistance Education, dare to say no.
- HERO - Highway Emergency Response Operators, a hero to a stranded motorist
- HOPE - a lottery scholarship for "helping outstanding pupils educationally", giving them hope for a college education
- MADD - Mothers Against Drunk Driving, mad (angry) about drunk driving
- MACHO - Massive compact halo object, a macho (big and strong) hypothetical particle in physics. This may also be a backronym, chosen to contrast to the WIMP theory (see below), as one of the other main candidates for "cold dark matter."
- SAD - Seasonal affective disorder, a form of clinical depression making people sad, often during cold, dark winter days
- SADD - Students Against Destructive Decisions (an example of an apronym which is a homophone)
- SHAG - Sexual Health Awareness Group, playing on the slang shag for sexual intercourse
- SLAPP - strategic lawsuit against public participation, a slap at whistleblowers
- WIMP - Weakly interacting massive particle, the theoretical WIMPs interact only via the weak nuclear force. See MACHO above.
- WPPSS - Washington Public Power Supply System (a project that is still tied to the moniker Whoops when plans to build nuclear power plants in Washington state collapsed in the 1980s).
In some cases, the names of existing entities are targets for subtle changes to obtain a more apt or amusing acronym.
These often are schools, such as:
- Thousand Islands Technical School in Brockville, Ontario (TITS)
- Amherstview Secondary School in Odessa, Ontario (ASS)
- Ossington Old Orchard Public School in Toronto, Ontario (OOOPS)
- Strategic Automated Command Control System (SACCS)
- British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons (BAAPS)
- College of Notre Dame of Maryland in Baltimore, Maryland (CONDOM)
The same approach may however create names for programmes or administrations which form distasteful or inappropriate apronyms, such as Retire Aged Personnel Early.
And a few which are backronyms:
- APRONYM - A Petite Reminder (Openers Notation) Yields Mnemonic
- INFINITY - Increment Numbers Forever - It's Nuts, I Tell You!
- IRELAND - Independent Republic, English Lodgers Are Nearly Dislodged!
- RHYTHM - Rhythm Has Your Two Hips Moving (this one is a recursive acronym as well)
- FUDGE - Freeform Universal Do-it-Yourself Gaming Engine
- USA PATRIOT - Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism