My favorite ophthalmologist, Dr. Charles Broman, suggested during my latest annual checkup that I should develop the rest of my query concerning acronyms.

Incidentally, an acronym in which the short form was original, and words made up to stand for it afterward is called a backronym.

Dr. Broman referred to a recent admission that I couldn’t remember what an SUV was and had to look it up to find out about sport utility vehicles.

Acronyms are combinations of letters that stand for something, in case you have forgotten that. Some of them are perfectly plain. Others, no so much.

A friend of mine asked me if my current lung condition, COPD, was chronic. I kindly explained the C in COPD stands for chronic. The rest is obstructive pulmonary disease.

It sounds worse than it is, most of the time. If you see me standing still and breathing, you know it has caught up with me.

Along with SUVs there are ATVs and some new ones that are mixed, somehow. An ATV is an all-terrain vehicle. You can drive it anywhere, obviously.

One combination of letters that I have recently seen over and over, on TV and in the paper, is FIFA. And I had to look that one up. I’ll bet a lot of you just skipped over that, not knowing.

FIFA stands for Fédération Internationale de Football Association. I not only looked it up, I copied it down, so I got it right.

One anagram we hear and use all the time is ACLU. That stands for the American Civil Liberties Union. That one sort of throws me sometimes, because one man’s liberty is another man’s problem, I think.

On TV shows, but not much in real life political parlance, we hear POTUS, which stands for President of the United States.

In the same vein, FLOTUS is his wife, First Lady of the U.S.

And in the same token, SCOTUS becomes the Supreme Court of the United States.

People always refer to the FBI as the FBI and many don’t ever know it stands for Federal Bureau of Investigation.

But also, thanks to TV, we know about NCIS, in all its locations, and that a Navy Crime Investigation Service actually exists.

Do you go to an ATM to deposit or withdraw? Do you know it has a real name? It is an Automated Teller Machine.

Here’s one we use all the time. If it had a name, I surely didn’t know it. It’s RADAR, and I had to look this one up as well. It is Radio Detection and Ranging.

I don’t even have to tell you ASAP or AWOL.

And I certainly hope this column won’t be DOA.

Cathy Gillentine is a Daily News columnist. She may be reached at

(5) comments

Bailey Jones

I use the ATM machine - Automated Teller Machine machine. After moving down here it took a while before I understood that BOI wasn't hip hop slang and IBC wasn't root beer. But the ones that I get tired of are the acronyms now in every medical commercial on TV. It's not hepatitis-C, now it's hep-C. I guess that's supposed to sound cooler. Deep vein thrombosis is DVT, rheumatoid arthritis is RA. Atrial fibrillation is AFIB. Erectile dysfunction is ED. (Actually I think I'm OK with that one.) But it makes for a lot of ER (eye rolling).[rolleyes]

Michael Jozwiak

Oh, yes. It's DOA. WTF? LOL? ROFLMAO? What a POS waste of paper.

Curtiss Brown

One man’s Liberty is another man’s problem? Very profound. And troubling. “Those who deny freedom to others deserve it not for themselves.” ~Abraham Lincoln

Steve Fouga

Yeah, I raised my eyebrows at that one...

Cary Semar

I am tempted to explain why FBI and ACLU are not acronyms yet but eventually they will be because dictionaries simply document usage and you cannot fight the tide of a living language.

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