Recursive acronym

A recursive acronym is an acronym that refers to itself. The term was first used in print in 1979 in Douglas Hofstadter's book Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid, in which Hofstadter invents the acronym GOD, meaning "GOD Over Djinn", to help explain infinite series, and describes it as a recursive acronym.[1] Other references followed,[2] however the concept was used as early as 1968 in John Brunner's science fiction novel Stand on Zanzibar. In the story, the acronym EPT (Education for Particular Task) later morphed into "Eptification for Particular Task".

Recursive acronyms typically form backwardly: either an existing ordinary acronym is given a new explanation of what the letters stand for, or a name is turned into an acronym by giving the letters an explanation of what they stand for, in each case with the first letter standing recursively for the whole acronym.


Early 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 1960 – is the backronym "Mash Until No Good", which was created to describe Mung, and a while later was revised to "Mung Until No Good". It lived on as a recursive command in the editing language TECO.[3] In 1977 or 1978 came TINT ("TINT Is Not TECO"), an editor for MagicSix written (and named) by Ted Anderson. This inspired the two MIT Lisp Machine editors called EINE ("EINE Is Not Emacs", German for one) and ZWEI ("ZWEI Was EINE Initially", German for two). 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), to indicate that, despite the similarities, it was distinct from the program on which it was based.[3]

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".[4] (this example is tail recursive)



Some organizations have been named or renamed in this way:



Mutually recursive or otherwise special

See also


  1. ^ "Puzzles and Paradoxes: Infinity in Finite Terms" . Retrieved 23 April 2013.
  2. ^ "WordSpy – Recursive Acronym" . Retrieved 18 December 2008.
  3. ^ The Free Software Movement and the Future of Freedom: The name "GNU" , Richard Stallman, March 9th 2006
  4. ^ Fundamentals Of Data Structures (Ellis Horowitz & Sartaj Sahni, Computer Science Press, 1976)
  5. ^ "FALE Association of Locksport Enthusiasts" . Archived from the original on 22 February 2014. Retrieved 12 February 2014.
  6. ^ Wiles, Jack; Gudaitis, Terry; Jabbusch, Jennifer; Rogers, Russ; Lowther, Sean (2 January 2012). FALE Association of Locksport Enthusiasts . ISBN 9781597496650. Retrieved 12 February 2014.
  7. ^
  8. ^ Stenberg, Daniel (20 March 2015). "curl, 17 years old today" . Retrieved 20 March 2015.
  9. ^
  10. ^ "Giantleap" .
  11. ^ "HIME Input Method Editor" . Retrieved 8 May 2019.
  12. ^ "About LAME" . Retrieved 20 February 2016.
  13. ^ "MEGA" . Retrieved 19 January 2013.
  14. ^ "The Jargon File: Mung" . Retrieved 15 October 2007.
  15. ^ "pacc: a compiler-compiler" . Archived from the original on 18 July 2012. Retrieved 14 May 2012.
  16. ^ "History of PHP" .
  17. ^ "What Pine Really Stands For" . Archived from the original on 7 June 2011. Retrieved 6 March 2007.
  18. ^ QINS website
  19. ^ "Reddit is Fun now called 'rif is fun for reddit' due to licensing issues" . Android Police. 7 January 2020. Retrieved 4 March 2020.
  20. ^ .EXE magazine, November 1996
  21. ^ "FAQ – The Official Wine Wiki" . Retrieved 16 January 2009.
  22. ^ "Wine architecture" . Wine HQ. Retrieved 16 June 2012.
  23. ^ "Porting UNIX/Linux Applications to Mac OS X: Glossary" . Apple Computer. 2005. Retrieved 7 June 2017.
  24. ^ Askary, A.; Sanchez-Guardado, L.; Linton, J. M.; Chadly, D. M.; Budde, M. W.; Cai, L.; Lois, C.; Elowitz, M. B. (18 November 2019). "In situ readout of DNA barcodes and single base edits facilitated by in vitro transcription" . Nature Biotechnology. 38 (1): 66–75. doi:10.1038/s41587-019-0299-4 . PMC 6954335 . PMID 31740838 .
  25. ^ "Dilbert's TTP Project" . Dilbert. Retrieved 9 July 2018.
  26. ^ FAQ for JINI-USERS Mailing List , Retrieved 18 November 2013
  27. ^ Introduction to The Jini Specification, Arnold et al, Pearson, 1999, ISBN 0201616343

External links

Categories: Acronyms | Recursion | Rhetoric | Self-reference | Types of words | Word play

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