RAS Syndrome

When Jeb and I were over at Mom and Dad’s this weekend working on their computers, I brought up GNU licenses and Jeb pointed out to Dad that GNU is an acronym that refers to itself (GNU’s Not Unix), so really you can substitute any letter you want for the G and it would come out SNU, ONU, or whatever. I knew there was another of these but couldn’t think of it this weekend. I did some research and the word I was thinking of is LAME:

“LAME is an open source application used to encode audio into the MP3 file format. The name LAME is a recursive acronym for LAME Ain’t an MP3 Encoder, reflecting LAME’s early history when it was not actually an encoder, but merely a set of patches against the freely available ISO demonstration source code.” –Wikipedia

Nowadays, it seems, LAME *is* an MP3 encoder, but they haven’t changed the name. That’s irony, right? PHP was another example and there are a number of others. Apparently the whole thing started at MIT in the 70’s. The article on Wikipedia for recursive acronym has all of the examples including fictional ones. In Dilbert there was the TTP project which stood for “The TTP Project”.

That got me thinking about whether there was a name for redundant letters like in “ATM machine” where the M already stands for “machine”. Well, I found out that this phenomenon is called RAS Syndrome (where RAS is Redundant Acronym Syndrome.) I also found a humorless person who has a list of examples and calls his site the Redundant Acronym Phrase Project or RAP Project when, clearly, it should be RAPP Project. PIN number and DC current are the most common examples of other RAS words.

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