The trouble with an acronym


The definition of an acronym is “a name formed from the initial components of a longer name or phrase”. They are also chosen to represent brands.

In 1991, It was widely believed that to distance the chain from the unhealthy connotations of “fried”, Kentucky Fried Chicken changed their name to KFC. This was not the case, KFC was in fact in breach of a trademark. A solid business case for an international mega-brand. However, for lesser-known brands, the use of an acronym can be problematic.

Open to interpretation

When I was at primary school, a nearby school named ‘PNEU Primary school’ was cruelly (but also quite cleverly for whoever the 6-11 year old child who came up with it!) nicknamed ‘Pigs National Eating Unit”. I never knew what the actual acronym meant, and still don’t to this day. Although, everyone in my school knew the alternative. Even though it was a ridiculous name, it made my 11 year old self think differently about the school and the students – even though I became friends with many kids who went there.

In my world, another acronym gone wrong is a UK homewares shop named ‘SCS’. My interior designer sister is their target audience and yet she has personally renamed the store, ‘Shit Carpets and Sofas’.

Human nature

There are always going to be those among us who enjoy the sound of a fart, or that label their friends and family with offensively endearing pet names – those that like to poke fun. These people are light hearted, sarcastic, loved and hated and most friendship groups have one. It’s in their nature to effortlessly coin new terms that often draw on slight truths. Much like a caricature artist that can select and exaggerate a feature that sets individuals apart – celebrating them. These are the inventors.

The trouble with an acronym is that a business that chooses to name itself with one leaves itself open to a raft of humorous alternatives created by the inventors. Because the original meaning behind the name is not nearly as humorous or memorable. These catchy, and at times, observable alternatives often stick!

So when thinking about your name, consider that you may have a stronger name than you realise, and shortening it can come at a cost.