Acronyms that don't stand for anything anymore


Company name used to be “Queensland and Northern Territory Aerial Services Limited” but is now “Qantas Airways Limited.”

SAS (the computer program, not the airline or the special forces). Was Statistical Analysis System. It’s now just SAS.

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.

3M, I think.
TWAIN, a scanner technology, was never an acronym, but people have construed it to mean “Technology Without An Interesting Name”




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.”

How would you classify something like “MP3” which means barely anything and nothing relevant to its main use?

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.

The CN Tower.

ASCII (no one remembers the original acronym)
Basic (the computer language, though I suppose it’s not in use all that much any more).

oops missed

GE still calls itself General Electric Company and GM still calls itself General Motors Company.

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.

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.

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.


Yes. Formerly Minnesota Mining & Manufacturing

Well, I do. American Standard Code for Information Interchange. Now how many of you know what EBCDIC stands for? Or COBOL?

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.