7 words you probably didn't know were acronyms
Acronyms show up everywhere in our everyday language.
But sometimes, an acronym is so natural-sounding that we forget it even stands for anything in the first place.
That's certainly the case for Taser - invented in 1974, Taser stands for "Thomas A. Swift's Electric Rifle," an homage to a fictional character from the early 1900s. The word caught on and eventually gave us the verb "tase," meaning to fire a Taser at someone.
Read on for 7 words most people have no idea actually stand for something.
Laser is an acronym describing how the technology works.
Laser stands for "light amplification by stimulated emission of radiation."
Lasers were invented in 1960, but the first use of the term came one year earlier, when physicist Gordon Gould coined it for a paper about the technology.
'Taser' comes from the name of a science-fiction book character.
Tasers sound like an invention taken from science fiction, and as it turns out, the name of the device actually was.
The weapon was invented in 1974 by NASA researcher Jack Cover, and when it was time to give his device a name, he found inspiration in Tom Swift, the title character from a series of adventure books about a teenage inventor from the early 1900s. In one of the books, Swift invented an "electric rifle" that could shoot bolts of electricity and was powerful enough to bring down an elephant.
Cover did have to employ some creativity with the word "Taser" - the books never actually reveal Tom Swift's middle name, but Cover added it to ease the pronunciation.
The 'BASE' in BASE jumping describes the objects people jump from.
For thrill-seekers, BASE jumping is one of the most adrenaline-filled activities out there.
"BASE" is an acronym describing the types of objects the risk-taking parachuters jump from: building, antenna, span (like a bridge or steel beam) and Earth (like a cliff).
CAPTCHA pays homage to an early computer pioneer.
Anyone who's used a computer is probably familiar with CAPTCHAs, the little tests on some webpages that require you to answer a maths problem or type a word to prove that you're human.
But you may not be aware that the word actually stands for something - it's a "Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart."
Turing tests, devised by computer pioneer Alan Turing, are used to judge how convincingly a computer can participate in natural human conversations, so it's fitting the inventors of CAPTCHA gave it a shout-out in their acronym. Of course, it's no accident that the name sounds just like "capture," making this word an example of a "contrived acronym."
Pakistan is an acronym for the five regions it comprised.
One of the most surprising acronyms is the name of a country that's frequently in the news: Pakistan.
The name Pakistan was coined in 1933, 14 years before the country gained independence from British rule, by an activist named Choudhary Rahmat Ali. In a pamphlet called "Now or Never," Rahmat Ali advocated the establishment of a state called PAKSTAN comprising the 30 million Muslims in five northern regions of India: Punjab, Afghan province, Kashmir, Sind, and Baluchistan.
By combining the the first letter of the first four regions and the ending of Baluchistan, Rahmat Ali came up with PAKSTAN (he added an "I" in the middle to ease the pronunciation). Conveniently, Pakistan literally translates to "land of the pure" in Urdu and Persian.
Radar technology was developed so that militaries could use radio waves to detect objects like ships and lanes from long distances.
Although the idea for radar had been around since at least the 1880s, it wasn't until the buildup to World War II that the technology was perfected. In the early 1940s, the US Navy coined the word "radar," standing for "Radio Direction and Ranging" or "Radio Detection and Ranging."
Scuba describes the device divers use to breathe underwater
The "scuba" in scuba diving stands for "self-contained underwater breathing apparatus."
The word was coined in 1952 by Christian Lambertsen, an American scientist who designed a form of the underwater-breathing technology in the 1940s.
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