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Old 03-08-2011, 06:55 PM
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Strinka Strinka is offline
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Acronyms that don't stand for anything anymore

I'm looking for acronyms/initialisms which are still in use, used to stand for something, but no longer do.

One example is BP. It used to stand for British Petroleum, but is now just BP.

Another is CERN. It used to stand for Conseil Européen pour la Recherche Nucléaire (European Council for Nuclear Research in French). The full name was changed to Organisation Européenne pour la Recherche Nucléaire, but the original acronym was kept.

What other examples of this kind of thing are there?
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Old 03-08-2011, 06:57 PM
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Old 03-08-2011, 06:59 PM
Dewey Finn Dewey Finn is offline
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Inevitable Wikipedia list of what they call "orphan initialisms."
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Old 03-08-2011, 07:30 PM
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Old 03-08-2011, 07:30 PM
Gil-Martin Gil-Martin is offline
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Every day I watch train cars owned by BNSF go by my house. Once upon a time these initials stood for the name of a rail company, Burlington Northern Santa Fe. My understanding is that today the company's name is simply BNSF.
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Old 03-08-2011, 07:40 PM
A. Gwilliam A. Gwilliam is offline
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The NatWest (a bank in the UK) used to be the National Westminster Bank.
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Old 03-08-2011, 07:43 PM
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You see this a lot where a company has created a holding company to be a division of, so that the holding company can buy other companies and make then into other divisions. One that I rememver seeing around Toronto is the trucks of "Gordon Food Services, a GFS Holdings Company". For some reason, this naming practice irritates me.
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Old 03-08-2011, 07:50 PM
Lord Mondegreen Lord Mondegreen is offline
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Qantas.

Company name used to be "Queensland and Northern Territory Aerial Services Limited" but is now "Qantas Airways Limited."
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Old 03-08-2011, 07:59 PM
Canadjun Canadjun is offline
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SAS (the computer program, not the airline or the special forces). Was Statistical Analysis System. It's now just SAS.
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Old 03-08-2011, 08:17 PM
Dewey Finn Dewey Finn is offline
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UNICEF. It formerly was an acronym for the United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund but now the organization is called the United Nations Children's Fund.
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Old 03-08-2011, 08:18 PM
AaronX AaronX is offline
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3M, I think.
TWAIN, a scanner technology, was never an acronym, but people have construed it to mean "Technology Without An Interesting Name"
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Old 03-08-2011, 08:36 PM
Snarky_Kong Snarky_Kong is online now
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Old 03-08-2011, 08:42 PM
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BNSF
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Old 03-08-2011, 09:22 PM
Nathan E. Zephyr Nathan E. Zephyr is offline
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AT&T?
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Old 03-08-2011, 09:30 PM
GreasyJack GreasyJack is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sunspace View Post
You see this a lot where a company has created a holding company to be a division of, so that the holding company can buy other companies and make then into other divisions. One that I rememver seeing around Toronto is the trucks of "Gordon Food Services, a GFS Holdings Company". For some reason, this naming practice irritates me.
The BNSF is actually the reverse of this in that the letters actually still stand for something in the holding company. It's "BNSF Railway, a subsidiary of the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Corporation."
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Old 03-08-2011, 10:14 PM
Ellis Aponte Jr. Ellis Aponte Jr. is offline
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How would you classify something like "MP3" which means barely anything and nothing relevant to its main use?
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Old 03-08-2011, 10:21 PM
Martini Enfield Martini Enfield is offline
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I'd put "USB" in this category- the average punter doesn't know (or care) what "Universal Serial Bus" is, but knows perfectly well that their computer has a number of USB ports on it and they can plug pretty much anything with a "USB connection" into it.
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Old 03-08-2011, 10:22 PM
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The CN Tower.
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Old 03-08-2011, 10:25 PM
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GE
GM
Snafu
Radar
Sonar
ASCII (no one remembers the original acronym)
Basic (the computer language, though I suppose it's not in use all that much any more).
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Old 03-08-2011, 10:25 PM
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oops missed

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Old 03-08-2011, 10:48 PM
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GE
GM
GE still calls itself General Electric Company and GM still calls itself General Motors Company.
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Old 03-08-2011, 10:59 PM
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Most of the major banks in Canada have done this, probably so that they don't appear to have weird names when operating in elsewhere (ie, the USA). TD used to be Toronto Dominion, BMO was once the Bank of Montréal, and RBC was the Royal Bank of Canada.

I have no idea whether they've all officially changed their corporate names. They've all certainly gone out of their way to obscure their original names, for whatever reason.
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Old 03-08-2011, 11:08 PM
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There's ASTM International, a standards body that used to be the American Society for Testing and Materials.

And ITT is no longer into telephones and telegraphs.

And LU (a French brand of cookies). That used to be somebody's initials, as I recall.

Last edited by Heracles; 03-08-2011 at 11:08 PM.
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Old 03-08-2011, 11:19 PM
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Originally Posted by medicated View Post
Most of the major banks in Canada have done this, probably so that they don't appear to have weird names when operating in elsewhere (ie, the USA). TD used to be Toronto Dominion, BMO was once the Bank of Montréal, and RBC was the Royal Bank of Canada.

I have no idea whether they've all officially changed their corporate names. They've all certainly gone out of their way to obscure their original names, for whatever reason.
And you forgot CIBC, formerly the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce.

For the Bank of Montréal, there was a debate in the early 1990s about getting rid of the city name because it didn't sound, uh, Canadian enough. They were supposed to rename it First Canadian Bank... but there was no way to make a French version of that name. So eventually they just went with their ticker symbol, BMO.

I suspect most of the other banks went through a similar process. Like you said, expansion into the U.S. probably was a big factor: RBC is just obscure enough, whereas many folks in the U.S. would think the "Royal Bank of Canada" was Canada's Fed.

Last edited by Heracles; 03-08-2011 at 11:20 PM. Reason: tried to clarify
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Old 03-08-2011, 11:21 PM
Pai325 Pai325 is offline
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Scuba?
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Old 03-08-2011, 11:51 PM
St. Urho St. Urho is offline
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3M, I think.
Yes. Formerly Minnesota Mining & Manufacturing
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Old 03-09-2011, 12:41 AM
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ASCII (no one remembers the original acronym)
Well, I do. American Standard Code for Information Interchange. Now how many of you know what EBCDIC stands for? Or COBOL?

Quote:
Basic (the computer language, though I suppose it's not in use all that much any more).
That one I can't remember, which is just as well, I guess. But I rarely programmed in it. Now if I could just remember what the C stands for in the programming language of that name...

I understand that DVD no longer stands for Digital Video Disk. I think it was officially orphaned about 10 or 12 years ago.
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Old 03-09-2011, 12:48 AM
Larry Mudd Larry Mudd is offline
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For the Bank of Montréal, there was a debate in the early 1990s about getting rid of the city name because it didn't sound, uh, Canadian enough. They were supposed to rename it First Canadian Bank... but there was no way to make a French version of that name. So eventually they just went with their ticker symbol, BMO.
I'm not sure what annoys me more -- that they insist on being called "beemo" "("BEEMO? REALLY?) or that my life with for the last several months has been complicated by moving hundreds of millions of dollars worth of accounts from Vancity (a local credit union) to "Beemo" and discovering that they simply don't have the infrastructure in place to support our needs, and appear to be operating from an entrenched position circa 1995. ALL I WANT IS ONLINE STATEMENTS AND THE ABILITY TO ACCESS MY ACCOUNTS IN REAL TIME!

Nah, it's probably the stupid name. I'll just choke down some Kufk, chase it down with some Voh, and keep my tears to myself.

Last edited by Larry Mudd; 03-09-2011 at 12:51 AM.
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Old 03-09-2011, 01:23 AM
bleibtreu bleibtreu is offline
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Well, I do. American Standard Code for Information Interchange. Now how many of you know what EBCDIC stands for? Or COBOL?
For some reason I can't figure out, the original meaning of COBOL has always stuck in my brain as one of the useless bits of information I picked up somewhere and have never forgotten... even though I've never used it (the language or that bit of information). COmmon Business Oriented Language. I think I just thought it was cool, as a kid, that there was a language that claimed to be the one for "business."

BASIC... I remember that the B was for Beginner's. Didn't remember the rest of that one, I guess, because it's obviously not as cool an idea for there to be a language for beginners.

Quote:
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I understand that DVD no longer stands for Digital Video Disk. I think it was officially orphaned about 10 or 12 years ago.
Having actually looked into that about a week ago, my understanding is that it was never "officially" that, or anything else, though "digital versatile disk" also had support.

According to this document, the DVD Forum Steering Committee in 1999 stated officially that as an international standard it's just DVD:
http://www.dvddemystified.com/dvdfaq.html#1.1

That source, by the way, brings up another example: VHS
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Old 03-09-2011, 01:58 AM
JacobSwan JacobSwan is online now
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[QUOTE=dtilque;13549057]Well, I do. American Standard Code for Information Interchange. Now how many of you know what EBCDIC stands for? Or COBOL?



On this side of the pond, a lot of computer books and magazines in the 80's replaced the American with All.

All Standard Code for Information Interchange. It makes no sense!
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Old 03-09-2011, 02:08 AM
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BASIC stands for Beginner's All-purpose Symbolic Instruction Code. I had heard that this was a backronym, but the Jargon File now says that was an error in previous versions.
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Old 03-09-2011, 02:38 AM
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Now if I could just remember what the C stands for in the programming language of that name...
C isn't short for anything, it's just named that for being a successor to B. B takes its name from something else (not 'A') but I don't recall.

I'm pretty sure HSBC is an orphan, given that the British interest in the cities isn't what it once was (it's the erstwhile Hong Kong & Shanghai Banking Corporation).
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Old 03-09-2011, 03:17 AM
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C isn't short for anything, it's just named that for being a successor to B. B takes its name from something else (not 'A') but I don't recall.
BCPL, for Basic CPL. It was a language based on CPL, which stood for Combined Programming Language.
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Old 03-09-2011, 03:21 AM
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I think mp3 and USB still mean things, so they don't count. Even MPEG (mp3 is actually MPEG layer 3) and JPEG still mean things. However, if you want to count them, you might as well add IEEE.
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Old 03-09-2011, 03:23 AM
dtilque dtilque is offline
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C isn't short for anything, it's just named that for being a successor to B. B takes its name from something else (not 'A') but I don't recall.
I know. I was just joking. B comes from the first letter of another language, BCPL, which according to Wiki, is short for Basic Combined Programming Language.
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Old 03-09-2011, 03:59 AM
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I think mp3 and USB still mean things, so they don't count. Even MPEG (mp3 is actually MPEG layer 3) and JPEG still mean things. However, if you want to count them, you might as well add IEEE.
yay, I actually know something - MPEG stands for Motion Picture Experts Group, or somethin', I read somewheres....

Last edited by Cara mel; 03-09-2011 at 04:00 AM.
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Old 03-09-2011, 04:32 AM
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PNC Bank is another. It was once Pittsburgh National Corporation technically, but did business as Pittsburgh National Bank and was known colloquially as PNB, locally. Mergers, acquisitions and so on brought us to PNC today.
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Old 03-09-2011, 04:41 AM
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I think mp3 and USB still mean things, so they don't count. Even MPEG (mp3 is actually MPEG layer 3) and JPEG still mean things. However, if you want to count them, you might as well add IEEE.
Just because it still means something doesn't matter, IMHO, if almost no-one (and by that I mean "the average person") actually knows that the abbreviations mean.

I'd argue more people know that KFC means "Kentucky Fried Chicken" than know that USB means "Universal Serial Bus". And I'd happilly ad IEEE to the list, too.
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Old 03-09-2011, 05:45 AM
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SAS (the computer program, not the airline or the special forces). Was Statistical Analysis System. It's now just SAS.
It applies to the airline and perhaps even the special forces as well.
  #40  
Old 03-09-2011, 06:23 AM
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It applies to the airline and perhaps even the special forces as well.
It applies absolutely to Scandinavian Airlines (previously Scandinavian Air Service), but I would say that the Special Air Service still go by that name. The misnomer was intentional from the start.
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Old 03-09-2011, 07:13 AM
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laser!
  #42  
Old 03-09-2011, 07:37 AM
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I nominate:

GMC
GMAC
IBM
  #43  
Old 03-09-2011, 07:52 AM
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GMC is a good one! I think it means General Motors Commerical, as in commercial vehicles. These days, however, GMC's are consumer vehicles, and the commercial vehicles have Chevrolet badges!
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Old 03-09-2011, 08:17 AM
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SAT used to be Scholastic Aptitude Test and Scholastic Assessment Test, but now is the SAT Reasoning Test and since 1993, the letters SAT haven't stood for anything.
  #45  
Old 03-09-2011, 08:22 AM
Nars Glinley Nars Glinley is offline
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GMC is a good one! I think it means General Motors Commerical, as in commercial vehicles. These days, however, GMC's are consumer vehicles, and the commercial vehicles have Chevrolet badges!
I thought it was General Motors Coach.
  #46  
Old 03-09-2011, 08:33 AM
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GE still calls itself General Electric Company and GM still calls itself General Motors Company.
Officially, but you'd be hard pressed to see them used in anywhere but the fine print on legal documents. GM does seem to use it, but GE always refers to itself and its brands as GE in all advertising.
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Old 03-09-2011, 09:15 AM
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I think mp3 and USB still mean things, so they don't count. Even MPEG (mp3 is actually MPEG layer 3) and JPEG still mean things.
I agree. Just because many people do not know what an acronym stands for does not mean it does not stand for anything.

Quote:
Originally Posted by AaronX View Post
However, if you want to count them, you might as well add IEEE.
Doesn't it still stand for Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers? (And if not, why not? Has the organization's mission shifted or broadened significantly beyond supporting the professional interests of electrical and electronics engineers?)
  #48  
Old 03-09-2011, 09:15 AM
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KFC
No longer true-the official company line is that it once again stands for "Kentucky Fried Chicken." Cite.
  #49  
Old 03-09-2011, 09:18 AM
The Hamster King The Hamster King is offline
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Exxon is a distant echo of Standard Oil --> SO --> Esso.
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Old 03-09-2011, 09:26 AM
Darth Nader Darth Nader is offline
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LG really wants folks to forget they used to be Lucky / GoldStar.
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