A Skeptical Engineer
My Favorite Acronym

My Favorite Acronym

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My years in the military exposed me to enough acronyms and jargon to last a lifetime, but the crazy terms and TLAs (three-letter acronyms) just keep coming. Engineering and science projects, in particular, are always good for a giggle with their odd and inventive names. It almost seems like someone on staff is paid to sit around and come up with new and fresh acronyms with clever and nuanced undertones.

For example, Machine Design recently published a news item on a robotic spy fish being developed at the Naval Research Lab that they have named the wrasse-inspired agile near-shore deformable-fin automaton, or Wanda for short. I assume the originator of this term has seen the 1988 comedy classic A Fish Called Wanda.

Going back even further to when I was a kid, you could watch those acronymic forces of good, the folks from U.N.C.L.E. (United Network for Command for Law and Enforcement) battle the evildoers from T.H.R.U.S.H. (the Technological Hierarchy for the Removal of Undesirables and the Subjugation of Humanity). There were also acronyms that made it to the big time and are now recognized as full-fledged words—among them, laser, radar, scuba, snafu, and the zip in zip code.

But my current favorite is taser. The inventor named it after his boyhood here Tom Swift. The inventor, Jack Cover, also had to invent a middle initial for Swift, A. Thus the word “taser” is an acronym for Tom A. Swift’s Electric Rifle.

How about you? Let me know what some of you favorite acronyms are.

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