Linguistic commentary from a guy who takes things too literally

Acronym Stacking

Posted by Neal on June 25, 2004

In my posting on almost-recursive acronyms, I noted that the company Cygnus, whose name expands to “Cygnus, Your GNU Support,” was not guilty of what I referred to as acronym stacking. This is the name I give to an acronym including a letter that abbreviates a different acronym; as I like to think of it, the first acronym is stacked on top of the second one. The first stacked acronym to catch my attention was the name of an issue-oriented political group called ACT-UP, an acronym for “AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power.” Aside from the awkwardness of the phrase unleash power for the sake of having a meaningful acronym, my complaint was that you couldn’t tell what the A stood for. Yes, it stood for AIDS, but the A in AIDS stands for acquired. Shouldn’t this group more properly be known as AIDSCT-UP?

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