Recursive acronym

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{math, number, function}
{work, book, publish}
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A recursive acronym (synonymous with metacronym[1] , recursive initialism, and recursive backronym) is an acronym that refers to itself in the expression for which it stands. The term was first used in print in April 1986.[2]


Recursive Acronym Phenomenon (RAP)

Recursive acronym phenomenon (or RAP), is an unplanned occurrence of a recursive acronym, initiated without deliberate humorous intent. RAP is observed almost exclusively in acronym rich environments, occurring during the creation of an acronym derived from a title that itself contains an existing acronym. This reduces the new acronym to nothing more than an abstract token to anyone but those knowledgeable in the field.

Computer-related examples

In computing, an early tradition in the hacker community (especially at MIT) was to choose acronyms and abbreviations that referred humorously to themselves or to other abbreviations. Perhaps the earliest example in this context, from about 1977 or 1978, is TINT ("TINT Is Not TECO"), an editor for MagicSix. This inspired the two MIT Lisp Machine editors called EINE ("EINE Is Not Emacs") and ZWEI ("ZWEI Was EINE Initially"). These were followed by Richard Stallman's GNU (GNU's Not Unix). Many others also include negatives, such as denials that the thing defined is or resembles something else (which the thing defined does in fact resemble or is even derived from). An earlier example appears in a 1976 textbook on data structures, in which the pseudo-language SPARKS is used to define the algorithms discussed in the text. "SPARKS" is claimed to be a non-acronymic name, but "several cute ideas have been suggested" as expansions of the name. One of the suggestions is "Smart Programmers Are Required To Know SPARKS".[3]

Notable examples

Noted examples include:

  • AROS — AROS Research Operating System (note: originally Amiga Research Operating System)
  • Allegro — Allegro Low LEvel Game ROutines (early versions for Atari ST were called "Atari Low LEvel Game ROutines")
  • Bing - Bing Is Not Google
  • CAVE — Cave Automatic Virtual Environment
  • Cygnus — Cygnus, Your GNU Support
  • EINE — EINE Is Not Emacs. ZWEI Was EINE Initially
  • GiNaC — GiNaC is Not a CAS (Computer Algebra System)
  • GNE — GNE's Not an Encyclopedia
  • GNU — GNU's Not Unix
  • INX — INX's Not X (a GNU/Linux distribution with a text interface)
  • JACK — JACK Audio Connection Kit
  • KGS — KGS Go Server
  • LAME — LAME Ain't an MP3 Encoder[4]
  • LiVES — LiVES is a Video Editing System
  • MiNT — MiNT is Not TOS (later changed to "MiNT is Now TOS")
  • Mung — Mung Until No Good[5]
  • Nagios — Nagios Ain't Gonna Insist On Sainthood (which is a reference to the previous name of Nagios, namely Netsaint)
  • NiL — NiL Isn't Liero
  • PHP — PHP: Hypertext Preprocessor (originally "Personal Home Page")
  • P.I.P.S.P.I.P.S. Is POSIX on Symbian
  • PINE — PINE Is Nearly Elm, originally; PINE now officially stands for "Pine Internet News and E-mail"[6]
  • PNG - PNG's Not GIF (officially "Portable Network Graphics")
  • RPM — RPM Package Manager (originally "Red Hat Package Manager")
  • Scaled — Scaled Composites: Advanced Link to Efficient Development
  • SPARQL — SPARQL Protocol And RDF Query Language
  • TiLP — TiLP is a Linking Program
  • TIP — TIP isn't Pico (name for earliest versions of nano text editor)
  • UIRA — UIRA Isn't a Recursive Acronym
  • Wine — Wine Is Not an Emulator[7]
  • XBMC — XBMC Media Center (originally Xbox Media Center)
  • XINU — Xinu Is Not Unix
  • XNA — XNA's Not Acronymed
  • YAML — YAML Ain't Markup Language (initially "Yet Another Markup Language")
  • Zinf — Zinf Is Not Freeamp

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