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An acronym is a word formed from the initial letters of the words in a phrase or a multi-word name. Contrary to popular belief, it’s not an acronym unless it can be pronounced as a word. It doesn’t have to be a real word, it just has to be a string of letters capable of being pronounced as such without the need for any verbal gymnastics.

So, for example, IBM (short for International Business Machines) is not an acronym. It’s initials. It would be an acronym only if people pronounced it as, say, ihbim. They don’t. They say “eye bee em.” So it’s not an acronym.

FUBAR, on the other hand, which is short for fucked up beyond all recognition, is an acronym because it’s pronounced as a word rather than calling out each individual letter. And the acronym FUBAR comes in handy when you want to describe a common condition without using a word, fucked, that will cause prissy ad serving companies to refuse to place ads on your page.

SNAFU is also an acronym. It is pronounced as a word, but it stands for situation normal, all fucked up.

Moving away from the eff word, many people don’t know that laser is also an acronym. It’s short for light amplification by stimulated emission of radiation. Laser is a rare, but not unique, example of an acronym that made it into the dictionary as a word in its own right, with the words that created the acronym all but forgotten by the general public. Scuba (self-contained underwater breathing apparatus) and sonar (SOund navigation and ranging) are two other examples.

By the way, Is anyone seeing an ad on this page now that I’ve told you what FUBAR and SNAFU stand for?

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