Definitive Acrostics

Article excerpt

These are 'backward' acronyms. Instead of abbreviating a given phrase or company name, etc, they start with the abbreviation given, usually a single word, and use its letters as the initial letters of a phrase created to define or relate to the word. Ideally, no words in the acronym should be related to the head word etymologically. A famous Medieval example was the popular Latin graffiti:

Roma Radix Omnia Malorum Avaricia (Rome: the root of all things evil and avaricious).

This game was popular in earlier issues of Word Ways (73-37, 81-244, 82-224), featuring, among others, these gems:

acronym a condensed representation of nomenclature

yielding meaning

bra bust raising apparatus

cigar carcinogenic incendiary gadget attenuating


diet disciplined intake encouraging thinness

ear elementary audio receptor

letters little etchings that transcribe

every readable sound

lights luminous incandescent gadgets helpful

to sight

logophile lovable old gent [or gal] outlandishly

pursuing happiness investigating lexicographic


nose natural olfactory sensor extension

mouth muscular orifice, usually toothed, hungry

shovel sharp, hand operated vertical earth


smile stretched mouth indicating likeable


Having not resurfaced for nearly three decades I thought readers might be ready for a revival. Here I offer at least one for each letter. If the list seems long, it's very short compared to Robert Patton's proposed complete Acronymic Dictionary of English (73-37). It does, however, lend some credence to the possibility of an all-inclusive list, although in reality I expect a majority of words would be intractable, especially those containing jqxyz, very short words and overly specific hard-to-define nouns. And most long words would have to contain lots of 'padding'.

Regarding hyphenated words I cheat and use a double standard: either both elements are counted or only the first. Some of the following run two or more acronyms together, like polyanagrams.

antonym a name taking opposite nuance, yea


antonymic affinity-negative to other name

you mention; in contradistinction

arm articulated reaching mechanism

ass anus, shit sphincter

"asshole" a stupid shit hazarding our level


bears bruins (Eat anything, r eally


bold brazen, of large daring (Brave,

or largely duped?)

bread baked, readily eaten appetising dough

cold chilly, of low degrees [degrees]

cop [n.] constable or policeman

cop [vb] come onto passively, can't

obviate politely

cows [n.] 1. cattle; 2. obese women; [vb] 3.

subdues (is this 3-for-1 cheating, or a bargain?)

ditto Do it thus twice over.

entire Everything's neatly there, isn't

requiring elements.

eyes encryptors yielding electromagnetic


fast for a short time

faster fleet and speedy transit, enhanced


faster than light forbidden acceleration: speedier

than electromagnetic rays

(The heavens await no landings if

glow holds top.)

(ie, the heavens outside our solar system; no neighbourhood stars have solid


fed Finished eating dinner, fulfilled eating


fire flame; ignition-released energy

"Fit in! …