I have seen expansions of many English words such as POLICE, MUSIC, GOD, LASER, where each letter supposedly stands for another word, as in an acronym. Are these expansions in any way real, that is, written in a standard dictionary, or are they just made up?

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    I don't see how "God" or "music" became acronyms or abbreviations... but "laser" certainly is an acronym. – user730 Dec 15 '10 at 12:17
  • In any event... – user730 Dec 15 '10 at 12:18
  • It should be noted that an acronym is just one possible type of abbreviation, they're not necessarily the same thing: encarta.msn.com/dictionary_/abbreviation.html – staticbeast Dec 15 '10 at 13:05
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    This question needs some rewrite, it's not really clear what the question means... – Stein G. Strindhaug Dec 15 '10 at 13:18
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    Only one of the examples you list (laser) is an acronym. In light of that, I have very little idea what you're asking. Please clarify. – Marthaª Dec 15 '10 at 14:26

Police is not an acronym or abbreviation, normally. You could make a backronym for it if you wanted.


People Ostensibly Licensed In Crime Eradication

In general, any word older than the 1950s is pretty much guaranteed not to be derived from an acronym. There are exceptions, but if someone tells you a word is really an acronym, just disbelieve until you've checked a reputable reference.

  • People Of Low Intelligence Collecting Evidence – Orbling Dec 16 '10 at 0:23

The word laser was originally an acronym, which stood for:

Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation - LASER

According to the Oxford on-line dictionary entry for laser, this originated in the 1960s.

However, through common usage, the word laser has been adopted in its own right and is defined as:

a device that generates an intense beam of coherent monochromatic light (or other electromagnetic radiation) by stimulated emission of photons from excited atoms or molecules. Lasers are used in drilling and cutting , alignment and guidance, and in surgery; the optical properties are exploited in holography, reading barcodes, and in recording and playing compact discs.

There are other examples of acronyms that have been adopted into the English language as words in their own right:

RADAR - RAdio Detection And Ranging - defined as:

a system for detecting the presence, direction, distance, and speed of aircraft, ships, and other objects, by sending out pulses of radio waves which are reflected off the object back to the source.

SCUBA - Self-Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus - defined as:

an aqualung.

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    It should be noted that science-fiction writers have back-formed laser into a verb, to lase: "He was lased by the laser." – Mr. Shiny and New 安宇 Dec 15 '10 at 14:13
  • @Mr. Shiny and New - Dictionary.reference.com agrees with you, but the Oxford on-line dictionary provides a slightly different definition and the Cambridge on-line dictionary doesn't contain the verb at all. Do you have a reference I can read? – staticbeast Dec 16 '10 at 12:50
  • I don't have a reference for it. But I have seen it in actual books. I'd call it a recent coining and non-standard. Sci-fi writers are always doing that sort of thing. – Mr. Shiny and New 安宇 Dec 16 '10 at 13:39
  • If you googlesearch google.ca/search?q=%22he+was+lased%22 you'll see that people are using it that way in non-sci-fi writing as well. – Mr. Shiny and New 安宇 Dec 16 '10 at 13:44
  • @Mr.ShinyandNew安宇: It's not just science fiction writers. I've also heard the term used scientifically, to describe the process that occurs in a laser when the ratio of photons stimulated to photons lost exceeds unity. The term may be a back formation, but it would be difficult to discuss concisely the intricacies of lasers without being able to use such a verb. – supercat Oct 1 '14 at 19:00

Some other examples:

  • Maser: "Microwave Amplification..."

  • Modem: "modulator/demodulator"

  • Codec: "coder/decoder"

  • Jeep: "general purpose"

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