A recent post that received a lot of attention on social media indicated the word “news” is actually an acronym standing for “notable events, weather and sports.”

In other subsequent posts, “news” was said to be an acronym for “north, east, west and south.”

When I saw an article about the subject, I was greatly intrigued by the fact I didn’t know that a word that has a lot to do with my occupation was an abbreviation. But alas, it’s not, so I have nothing to be surprised about.

Yep, “news” is simply derived from the French word, “nouvelles,” which basically means “new” or “news.” There’s no evidence in any English language informational source that confirms anything else.

But while news is apparently not an acronym, there are a bunch of words used in every day English that are, but people don’t know it. It’s kind of wild when you find out about some of them.

•Laser.

Lasers are known for numerous applications these days, including life-changing eye surgery, high-tech weaponry and really cool light shows projected on cliffs, dams or other large, flat surfaces.

But while the word is familiar to us, not many people are aware that it’s an acronym for “light amplification by stimulated emission of radiation.”

Whew, that’s a mouthful. Good thing there’s an acronym.

•Taser.

Most people are aware that law enforcement officers nowadays are typically equipped with these electric shock weapons, but few know that the word is an acronym.

It actually stands for “Thomas A. Swift Electric Rifle,” because its inventor decided in 1974 to name it after his favorite children’s book character: Tom Swift.

•ZIP code.

“ZIP” codes aren’t named for zippy mail service or anything like that.

The ZIP actually stands for “Zone improvement plan.”

The plan originated with Robert Moon, a U.S. Postal Service inspector who proposed in 1944 that three-digit codes be assigned to zones across the country. Moon’s idea was implemented in 1963, with the addition two more digits to make the now familiar five-digit codes.

•Scuba.

When someone goes scuba diving, they equip themselves with “self-contained underwater breathing apparatus.”

So basically, a scuba tank is just that.

•“Care” package.

Most college students at some point receive one of these from their parents, and it’s widely accepted that sending one is a way of showing someone how much you care.

But care packages were originally known as “CARE” packages (all uppercase), and following World War II were sent from the U.S. to loved ones via the “Cooperative for American Remittances to Europe.” As the group expanded its charitable reach, it eventually changed its name to “Cooperative for Assistance and Relief Everywhere.”  

The familiar two-word term eventually found its way into every day jargon and has remained.

•Spam.

In the current age of electronic “devices,” the word spam refers to junk messages that weasel their way into email inboxes.

But Spam was, of course, originally known as the name of a canned meat product.

While the origins of the brand’s name aren’t definitively known (as the answer was kept under wraps by a small circle of 1930s food executives), it’s likely an acronym of either “Special Processed American Meat” or “SPiced hAM.”

For the record, a classic 1970 Monty Python sketch set in a cafe where canned meat is pretty much the only thing on the menu (and is relentlessly promoted) is thought to have inspired the modern usage of the word as the term for unsolicited electronic communication.

•Yahoo.

Not many people who have any knowledge of things related to the internet aren’t aware of this website and it’s associated (and very popular) email service.

But who knew Yahoo was an acronym (and a weird one at that)?

The name was conceived when founders David Filo and Jerry Yang decided they needed a catchier name for their business, which they had previously called “David’s and Jerry’s Guide to the World Wide Web.” They landed on “Yahoo” because it was catchy, and easy to say and remember. They later decided to make it into an acronym and came up with the tongue-in-cheek phrase “Yet Another Hierarchical Officious Oracle.”

•Mac.

OK, so this one isn’t an acronym, but rather an abbreviation.

A not-so-well-known fact about those Mac computers that are used by millions of people (and are the chosen brand for most of the newspaper industry) is that they’re from the Macintosh line of gadgets designed, manufactured and sold by Apple Inc.

The company started using the shortened version of the name in about 1999.

Doug Davison is a writer, photographer and newsroom assistant for the Houston Herald. Email: ddavison@houstonherald.com.

Doug Davison

Doug Davison is a writer, photographer and newsroom assistant for the Houston Herald. Contact him by phone at 417-967-2000 or by email at ddavison@houstonherald.com.

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