‘T.W.O.C’: meaning and sociological background

UK, 1972—the offence of taking a car without the owner’s consent, especially for the purpose of joyriding, which was a social phenomenon prevalent in north-eastern England—acronym for ‘taking without owner’s consent’

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‘backronym’: meaning and early occurrences

USA, 1983—an acronym deliberately formed from a phrase whose initial letters spell out a particular word or words, either to enhance memorability or as a fanciful explanation of a word’s origin—blend of the adjective ‘back’ and of the noun ‘acronym’

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‘Asbomania’: meaning and origin

UK, 2005—the perceived indiscriminate and excessive use by the authorities of anti-social behaviour orders—apparently coined by Álvaro Gil-Robles, the Council of Europe’s Commissioner for Human Rights—‘Asbo’: acronym from the initial letters of ‘anti-social behaviour order’

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history of the acronym ‘ACAB’

1970—British and Irish English—acronym from the phrase ‘all coppers are bastards’—customarily written (tattooed in particular) rather than spoken

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origin of ‘Wasp’ (‘white Anglo-Saxon Protestant’)

USA, 1956—acronym from ‘white Anglo-Saxon Protestant’—‘Wasp’, or ‘WASP’: a person who belongs to, or is thought of, as being part of a white, upper middle-class, northern European, Protestant group that dominates economic, political and cultural activity in the USA

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origin of the word ‘captcha’

early 21st century—acronym from ‘Completely Automatic Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart’, with punning allusion to ‘capture’ and ‘gotcha’

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