50 Acronyms and Initialisms All Spelled Out

Saul Loeb, AFP/Getty Images
Saul Loeb, AFP/Getty Images

You know the brands and companies, but do you know what all those letters stand for?

1. BMW

The white and blue BMW logo
Jacques Demarthon, AFP/Getty Images

BMW stands for Bayerische Motoren Werke in German, which translates to "Bavarian Motor Works."

2. L.L. BEAN

A man surrounded by LL Bean boxes.
Joe Raedle, Getty Images

The company is named after its founder, Leon Leonwood Bean.

3. CVS

Justin Sullivan, Getty Images

When it was founded in 1963, CVS originally stood for Consumer Value Stores. At that time, it sold health and beauty products. Only in 1967 did CVS begin operating locations with pharmacy departments. In 1969, CVS was sold to Melville Corporation, and in 1996, it became "CVS Corporation."

4. YKK

Those letters on seemingly every zipper stand for Yoshida Kogyo Kabushikikaisha in Japanese, which translates to "Yoshida Manufacturing Corporation." The first word refers to the founder, Tadao Yoshida.

5. A&W

Scott Olson, Getty Images

The A and W of A&W are founders (Roy) Allen and (Frank) Wright.

6. M&M'S

Spencer Platt, Getty Images

M&M’s stands for Mars & Murrie's, referring to founders Forrest Mars, Sr. and Bruce Murrie.

7. 3M

Koen van Weel, AFP/Getty Images

3M Company—which became its legal name in 2002—is an abbreviation of its former moniker, the Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing Company.

8. HSBC

Miguel Medina, AFP/Getty Images

HSBC stands for Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation.

9. TCBY

TCBY
iStock

TCBY stands for The Country's Best Yogurt. It used to mean This Can't Be Yogurt, but they were sued by the rival frozen yogurt chain I Can't Believe It's Yogurt!, which was founded four years before TCBY.

10. KMART

Kmart
Scott Olson, Getty Images

Kmart is not, in fact, a place to shop for K's. The K is for Kresge, as in founder Sebastian S. Kresge.

11. DSW

DSW
Emmanuel Dunand, AFP/Getty Images

DSW stands for Designer Shoe Warehouse.

12. JCPENNEY

JCPenney
Drew Angerer, Getty Images

JCPenney was founded by James Cash Penney. With a name like that, he was destined to go into the world of business.

13. FIAT

FIAT logo
Joe Raedle, Getty Images

FIAT originally stood for Fabbrica Italiana Automobili Torino, which translates as "Italian automobile factory of Turin."

14. TASER

TASER
Fred Dufour, AFP/Getty Images

The name TASER comes from Tom Swift and His Electric Rifle, a 1911 science fiction novel by Victor Appleton that imagined an electric gun. The device from the book was the inspiration for the real-life TASER.

15. SMART CAR

Smart car
Sean Gallup, Getty Images

A collaboration between Swatch and Mercedes, the "smart" in smart car is short for Swatch Mercedes Art.

16. ZIP CODE

packages
iStock

The "ZIP" stands for Zone Improvement Plan.

17. USA PATRIOT ACT

American flag
iStock

This long acronym means Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism.

18. EOS

Sebastian Reuter, Getty Images for OuterInsight

You might know eos as the cosmetic company that makes those delightful spherical lip balms. The name is short for Evolution of Smooth.

19. MAC

MAC Cosmetics store
Andreas Rentz, Getty Images

MAC (stylized as M·A·C) stands for Make-up Art Cosmetics (saying MAC Cosmetics is technically redundant). It was founded by makeup artist and photographer Frank Toskan and salon owner Frank Angelo with the goal of creating cosmetics that photographed well.

20. P.C. RICHARD & SON

Refrigerators in a P.C. Richard & Son
Mario Tama, Getty Images

This store was named for founder Peter Christian Richard.

21. REI

an REI store
Kena Betancur, AFP/Getty Images

REI = Recreational Equipment, Inc.

22. H&M

Sean Gallup, Getty Images

The company started in 1947 as women's fashion retailer Hennes, Swedish for "Hers." In 1968, they acquired hunting apparel and fishing equipment retailer Mauritz Widforss and the name became Hennes & Mauritz. In 1974, it was simplified to just H&M.

23. IBM

Alexander Koerner, Getty Images

The technology company's name stands for International Business Machines.

24. D.A.R.E.

Lance Cpl. Samantha Foster, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

D.A.R.E. is an acronym for Drug Abuse Resistance Education. It also works as part of the motto "D.A.R.E. to resist drugs and violence," which was emblazoned on t-shirts that became a fad in the '90s.

25. GEICO

Mike Mozart, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

GEICO stands for Government Employees Insurance Company. Why? When GEICO first started, it was targeted to U.S. government employees and military personnel.

26. NECCO

NECCO stands for New England Confectionery Company.

27. FAO SCHWARZ

FAO Schwarz
Jewel Samad, AFP/Getty Images

Frederick August Otto Schwarz founded the legendary toy store, which closed in 2015 only to announce in 2017 that it's coming back to New York City.

28. DHL

DHL truck
Sean Gallup, Getty Images

The shipping and transportation company was christened after the last names of the founders: Adrian Dalsey, Larry Hillblom, and Robert Lynn.

29. JBL

JBL iPod speaker
William B. Plowman, Getty Images

The speaker company was founded by James B. Lansing, and its full name was James B. Lansing Sound, Incorporated. After a legal dispute about their name, the company decided to go by "JBL."

30. ALF

Amazon

The 1986 series ALF follows Gordon Shumway, an extraterrestrial being whose nickname is an acronym for Alien Life Form.

31. UPS

Scott Olson, Getty Images

UPS stands for United Parcel Service. (The company's full name is United Parcel Service of America.)

32. E.L.F.

Shantel Jang, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

This makeup brand's name isn't referring to the mythical creature—e.l.f. is an acronym for eyes, lips, face.

33. PAM

iStock

The cooking spray isn't named after anyone called Pam. It stands for Product of Arthur Meyerhoff, the founder of PAM Products, Inc.

34. BJ'S

Jeff Fusco, Getty Images

The "BJ" in BJ's Wholesale Club refers to Beverly Jean Weich, the daughter of Mervyn Weich, the company's first president.

35. CAPTCHA

iStock

That code you have to type in for security purposes stands for Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart.

36. AFLAC

Dia Dipasupil, Getty Images

The American Family Life Insurance Company of Columbus was founded in 1955, later altering the name to the American Family Life Assurance Company, and the acronym Aflac was adopted in 1989.

37. O.P.I.

Astrid Stawiarz, Getty Images for ELLE Magazine

Nail polish brand OPI (stylized as O·P·I) was originally founded as dental supply Odontorium Products Inc. The company’s CEO made the switch when he realized that their dental acrylics were being used in the manicure industry.

38. L.E.I.

l.e.i. jeans
Walmart

Girls who grew up in the '90s and '00s will remember the denim label l.e.i. (which still exists!). The brand, which was marketed exclusively to teens and young adults, stands for Life Energy Intelligence.

39. HTC

HTC Vive VR headset
Tomohiro Ohsumi, Getty Images

HTC is frequently cited as standing for High Tech Computer Company (yes, there's only one "C" in the initialism), but many point out the coincidence of the co-founder’s name being HT Cho.

40. WWE

John Cena with WWE background
Ethan Miller, Getty Images

WWE is a pretty straightforward initialism: World Wrestling Entertainment, Inc.

41. WWF

paper lantern with WWF logo
Filippo Monteforte, AFP/Getty Images

WWF, with its iconic giant panda logo, stands for World Wildlife Fund in the U.S. and Canada. In other markets, it stands for World Wide Fund for Nature.

42. ESPN

People arrive at the Invictus Games Orlando 2016
Chris Jackson, Getty Images for Invictus Games

ESPN = Entertainment and Sports Programming Network.

43. LG

LG logo
Pau Barrena, AFP/Getty Images

LG used to mean Lucky-Goldstar, but now the company says its initials stand for "Life's Good."

44. UNICEF

Unicef banner
iStock

UNICEF = United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund. As its mandate changed, it became the United Nations Children's Fund.

46. NBC

NBC logo
Michael Nagle, Getty Images

National Broadcasting Company.

47. ABC

ABC logo
Mario Tama, Getty Images

American Broadcasting Company.

48. CBS

CBS headquarters
Andrew Burton, Getty Images

CBS is an abbreviation of the company's former full name: Columbia Broadcasting System. In 1974, it became known as simply "CBS."

49. CNN

CNN building
David McNew, Newsmakers

Cable News Network.

50. H&R BLOCK

H&R Block
Joe Raedle, Getty Images

The tax preparation company was founded by brothers Henry W. Bloch and Richard Bloch.

10 Things You Might Not Know About Robert De Niro

RALPH GATTI, AFP/Getty Images
RALPH GATTI, AFP/Getty Images

Robert De Niro is part of the pantheon of independent-minded filmmakers who cut through Hollywood noise in the 1970s with edgier fare to create what became known as “The New Hollywood.” Following stints with Brian De Palma and Roger Corman, De Niro teamed up with Martin Scorsese for the first time with 1973's Mean Streets, which launched a fruitful artistic collaboration that has produced some of the best movies of the past half-century.

Even after his shift into commercial comedies like Meet the Parents, “dedication” has remained De Niro’s watchword. The two-time Oscar winner has earned Hollywood legend status with panache and bone-deep portrayals. Here are 10 facts about the filmmaker on his 75th birthday. (Yes, we’re talkin’ to you.)

1. HIS FIRST ROLE WAS IN A STAGING OF THE WIZARD OF OZ—AT AGE 10.

Robert De Niro got bit by the acting bug early. He threatened to thrash a hippopotamus from top to bottom-us as the Cowardly Lion in The Wizard of Oz at the tender age of 10. (This is the remake and casting the world needs right now.)

2. HE DROPPED OUT OF HIGH SCHOOL TO PURSUE ACTING.

Robert De Niro arrives at the UK premiere of epic war drama film 'The Deer Hunter', UK, 28th February 1979
John Minihan, Evening Standard/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

De Niro’s mother, Virginia Admiral, was a painter whose work was part of the Peggy Guggenheim Collection, and his father, Robert De Niro, Sr., was a celebrated abstract expressionist painter. So the apple falling into drama school instead of the art studio still isn’t that far from the tree. Having already gotten a youthful dose of stage life, De Niro quit his private high school to try to become an actor. He first went to the nonprofit HB Studio before studying under Stella Adler and, later, The Actors Studio.

3. HE’S A DUAL CITIZEN OF THE UNITED STATES AND ITALY.

De Niro is American, Italian-American, and, as of 2004, Italian. The country bestowed honorary citizenship upon De Niro as an honor in recognition of his career, but it wasn’t all smooth sailing to the passport office. A group called the Order of the Sons of Italy in America strongly protested the Italian government’s plan due to De Niro’s frequent portrayal of negative Italian-American stereotypes.

4. HE GAINED 60 POUNDS FOR RAGING BULL.

Preparing to play the misfortune-laden boxing champ Jake LaMotta in Raging Bull required two major things from De Niro: training and gaining. For the latter, De Niro ate his way through Europe during a four-month binge of ice cream and pasta. His 60-pound-gain was dramatic enough that it concerned Martin Scorsese. It was one way to show dedication to a role, but the training element was even more impressive. De Niro got so good at boxing that when LaMotta set up several professional-level sparring bouts for the actor, De Niro won two of them.

5. HE AND MARLON BRANDO ARE THE ONLY ACTORS TO WIN OSCARS FOR PLAYING THE SAME CHARACTER.

De Niro won his first Oscar in 1975 for The Godfather: Part II, for portraying the younger version of Vito Corleone—the wizened capo played by Marlon Brando, who also won an Oscar for the role (Brando’s came in 1973, for The Godfather). No other pair of actors has managed the feat, although Jeff Bridges came close in 2010 when he was nominated for playing Rooster Cogburn in Joel and Ethan Coen's True Grit (a role originated by John Wayne in Henry Hathaway’s 1969 movie of the same name). Oddly enough, Bridges was in contention for the role of Travis Bickle, the role that earned De Niro his first Oscar nomination for Best Actor in a Leading Role.

6. HE DROVE A CAB TO PREPARE FOR TAXI DRIVER.

If you’re looking for commitment to a role, ask Hack #265216. De Niro got a taxicab driver’s license to study up to play Travis Bickle in Taxi Driver and spent several weekends cruising around New York City picking up fares. It’s possible that having his teeth filed down for Cape Fear is the most intense transformation he’s undergone for a role, but picking up a part-time job to live the lonely life of Bickle is more humane.

7. ONE OF HIS FILMS POSTPONED ONE OF HIS OSCAR WINS.

The 53rd Academy Awards—where De Niro won for playing Jake LaMotta in Raging Bull—were originally scheduled for March 30, 1981 but were postponed until the following day because of an assassination attempt on President Ronald Reagan. The would-be assassin, John Hinckley, Jr., claimed the attack was intended to impress Jodie Foster, who, Hinckley, Jr. grew obsessed with after watching Taxi Driver.

8. HE LAUNCHED THE TRIBECA FILM FESTIVAL IN THE WAKE OF 9/11.

Robert De Niro and Jane Rosenthal speak onstage at the 'Clive Davis: The Soundtrack of Our Lives' Premiere during the 2017 Tribeca Film Festival at Radio City Music Hall on April 19, 2017 in New York City
Theo Wargo, Getty Images for Tribeca Film Festival

Producer Jane Rosenthal, philanthropist Craig M. Hatkoff, and De Niro founded the Tribeca Film Festival in 2001 as a showcase for independent films that would hopefully “spur the economic and cultural revitalization of lower Manhattan” after the devastation of the 9/11 terror attacks. With its empire state of mind, the inaugural festival in 2002 featured a “Best of New York Series” handpicked by Martin Scorsese and drew an astonishing 150,000 attendees.

9. HE WAS ONCE INTERROGATED BY FRENCH POLICE CONCERNING A PROSTITUTION RING.

One of the most bizarre chapters in De Niro’s life came when he was publicly named in the investigation of a prostitution ring in Paris. The 1998 incident included a lengthy interrogation session (De Niro filed an official complaint) and a pile of paparazzi waiting for him when he left the prosecutor’s office. De Niro railed against the entire country, vowing to return his Legion of Honour and telling Le Monde newspaper that, "I will never return to France. I will advise my friends against going to France.” (He had cooled off enough by 2011 to act as the Cannes Film Festival’s jury president.)

10. HE LOVED THE CAT(S) IN MEET THE PARENTS.

Meet the Parents’s Mr. Jinx (Jinxy!) was played by two Himalayans named Bailey and Misha, and De Niro fell in love with them. He played with them between scenes, kept kibble in his pocket for them, and asked director Jay Roach to have Mr. Jinx in as many scenes as possible.

10 Fascinating Facts About Davy Crockett

By William Henry Huddle, American, 1847 - 1892 - State of Texas/Larry D. Moore, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons
By William Henry Huddle, American, 1847 - 1892 - State of Texas/Larry D. Moore, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

Born on August 17, 1786, backwoods statesman Davy Crockett's life has often been obscured by myth. Even during his lifetime, fanciful stories about his adventures were transforming him into a buck-skinned superhero. And after his death, the tales kept growing taller. So let’s separate fact from fiction.

1. HE RAN AWAY FROM HOME AT AGE 13.

When Davy was 13, his father paid for him to go to a school. But just four days in, Davy was bullied by a bigger and older boy. Never one to back down from a fight, one day Crockett waited in a bush along the road home until evening. When the boy and his gang walked up the road, Crockett leaped from the bush and, as he later wrote in his autobiography, set on him like a wild cat.” Terrified that the schoolmaster would whip him for beating one of the boys so severely, he decided to start playing hooky.

His father, John, was furious when a letter inquiring about his son's poor attendance showed up. Grabbing a stick, he chased after Davy, who fled. The teen spent the next few years traveling from his native Tennessee to Maryland, performing odd jobs. When he returned, Crockett’s parents didn’t recognize him at first. Following an emotional reunion, it was agreed that Davy would stick around long enough to help work off some family debts. About a year later, all these were satisfied, and Crockett left for good not long after.

2. HE NEARLY DIED IN A BOATING ACCIDENT.

After serving under General Andrew Jackson in the Tennessee militia, Crockett got into politics. Elected as a state legislator, he served two terms between 1821 and 1823. After losing his seat in 1825, Crockett chose an unlikely new profession for himself: barrel manufacturing. The entrepreneur hired a team to cut staves (the boards with which barrels are constructed) that he planned on selling in New Orleans. Once 30,000 were prepared, Crockett and his team loaded the shipment onto a pair of flatboats and traveled down the Mississippi River. There was just one problem: The shoddy vessels proved impossible to steer.

With no means of redirecting them, the one carrying Crockett ran into a mass of driftwood and began to capsize, with Crockett trapped below deck. Springing to action, his mates on the other boat pulled him out through a small opening. The next day, a traveling merchant rescued them all.

3. HE CLAIMED TO HAVE KILLED 105 BEARS IN ONE YEAR.

If his autobiography can be believed, the expert marksman and his dogs managed to kill 105 bears during a seven-month stretch from 1825 to 1826. Back then, bear flesh and pelts were highly profitable items, as were the oils yielded by their fat—and Crockett’s family often relied on ursid meat to last through the winter.

4. A SUCCESSFUL PLAY HELPED MAKE HIM A CELEBRITY.


By Painted by A.L. De Rose; engraved by Asher B Durand - Museum of Fine Art, Boston, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

Crockett ran for Congress in 1827, winning the right to represent western Tennessee. Four years later, a new show titled The Lion of the West wowed New York theatergoers. The hit production revolved around a fictitious Kentucky congressman named Colonel Nimrod Wildfire, whose folksy persona was clearly based on Crockett. Before long, the public grew curious about the flesh-and-blood man behind this character. So, in 1833, an unauthorized Crockett biography was published.

Sketches and Eccentricities of Colonel David Crockett of West Tennessee became a bestseller—much to its subject’s chagrin. Feeling that Sketches distorted his life’s story (although, to be fair, it began, “No one, at this early age, could have foretold that he was ever to ride upon a streak of lightning, receive a commission to quiet the fears of the world, by wringing off the tail of a comet,” so it's unlikely anyone thought it was a straight biography), the politician retaliated with an even more successful autobiography the very next year.

When The Lion of the West came to Washington, Crockett finally watched the play that started it all. That night, actor David Hackett was playing Col. Wildfire. As the curtain rose, he locked eyes with Crockett. They ceremoniously bowed to each other and the crowd went wild.

5. HE RECEIVED A FEW RIFLES AS POLITICAL THANK YOU GIFTS.

Over the course of his life, Crockett wielded plenty of firearms; two of the most significant were named “Betsy.” Midway through his state assembly career, he received “Old Betsy,” a .40-caliber flintlock presented to him by his Lawrence county constituents in 1822 (today, it can be found at the Alamo Museum in San Antonio). At some point during the 1830s, Crockett’s congressional tenure was rewarded with a gorgeous gold-and-silver-coated gun by the Whig Society of Philadelphia. Her name? “Fancy Betsy.”

If you’re curious, the mysterious woman after whom these weapons were christened was either his oldest sister or his second wife, Elizabeth Patton.

6. HE PUT A LOT OF EFFORT INTO MAINTAINING HIS WILD IMAGE.


By John Gadsby Chapman - Art Collection, Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center, The University of Texas at Austin., Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

For somebody who once called fashion “a thing I care mighty little about,” Crockett gave really detailed instructions to portraitists. Most likenesses, the politician complained, made him look like “a sort of cross between a clean-shirted Member of Congress and a Methodist preacher.” For the portrait above—arguably the world’s most dynamic painting of Crockett, as rendered by the esteemed John Gadsby Chapman—Crockett asked the artist to portray him rallying dogs during a bear hunt. Crockett purchased all manner of outdoorsy props and insisted that he be shown holding up his cap, ready to give “a shout that raised the whole neighborhood.”

7. HE COMMITTED POLITICAL SUICIDE BY SPEAKING OUT AGAINST ANDREW JACKSON'S NATIVE AMERICAN POLICY.

Andrew Jackson was a beloved figure in Tennessee, and Crockett’s vocal condemnation of the President’s 1830 Indian Removal Act didn’t win him many friends back home. “I believed it was a wicked, unjust measure,” the congressman later asserted, “and that I should go against it, let the cost against me be what it might.” He then narrowly lost his 1831 reelection bid to William Fitzgerald, who was supported by Jackson. In 1833, Crockett secured a one-term congressional stint as an anti-Jacksonian, after which he bid Tennessee farewell, famously saying, “You may all go to hell, and I will go to Texas.”

8. HE REALLY DID WEAR A COONSKIN HAT (SOMETIMES).


Harry Kerr/BIPs/Getty Images

Walt Disney’s Davy Crockett TV serial triggered a national coonskin hat craze in the 1950s. Suiting up for the title role was square-jawed Fess Parker, who was seldom seen on-camera without his trusty coonskin cap. Children adored Davy’s rustic hat and, at the peak of the show's popularity, an average of 5000 replicas were sold every day.

But did the historical Crockett own one? Yes, although we don’t know how often he actually wore it. Some historians argue that, later in life, he started donning the accessory more often so as to capitalize on The Lion of the West (Col. Wildfire rocked this kind of headgear). One autumn morning in 1835, the frontiersman embarked upon his journey to Texas, confident that the whole Crockett clan would reunite there soon. As his daughter Matilda later recalled, he rode off while “wearing a coonskin cap.” She’d never see him again.

9. THERE'S SOME DEBATE ABOUT HIS FALL AT THE ALAMO.

It's clear that Crockett was killed during or just after the Battle of the Alamo in 1836—but the details surrounding his death are both murky and hotly-contested. A slave named Joe claimed to have spotted Crockett’s body lying among a pile of deceased Mexican soldiers. Mrs. Suzannah Dickinson (whose husband had also been slain in the melee) told a similar story, as did San Antonio mayor Francisco Ruiz.

On the flip side, The New Orleans True American and a few other newspapers reported that Crockett was actually captured and—once the fighting stopped—executed by General Santa Anna’s men. In 1955, more evidence apparently surfaced when a long-lost diary written by Lieutenant Colonel José Enrique de la Peña saw publication. The author writes of witnessing “the naturalist David Crockett” and six other Americans being presented to Santa Anna, who promptly had them killed.

Some historians dismiss the document as a forgery, but others claim that it’s authentic. Since 2000, two separate forensics teams have taken the latter position. However, even if de la Peña really did write this account, the famous Tennessean still might have died in combat beforehand—perhaps the Mexican officer mistook a random prisoner for Crockett on the day in question.

10. DURING SPORTING EVENTS, A STUDENT DRESSED LIKE CROCKETT RALLIES UNIVERSITY OF TENNESSEE FANS.


Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

Smokey the hound dog might get all the attention, but the school has another mascot up its sleeve. On game days, a student known simply as “the Volunteer” charges out in Crockett-esque regalia, complete with buck leather clothes, a coonskin cap, and—occasionally—a prop musket.

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios