OBGYN -- False acronym?

This has been gnawing at me for quite some time (years):

Every time I hear some bubbly woman say “O.B.G.Y.N.” on screen or on TV (etc.) I want to yank out a tuft of hair because it is a false acronym.

What is an acceptable acronym? What are the acronym basics?

  1. The entity’s full name has more than one word, and
  2. Each of those words is represented in the acronym using the first letter (or couple of letters, as the case may be) of each word.
  3. Linking words (of, and, for, etc.) are usually left out of the acronym

So if we want to refer to an Obstetrics & Gynecology professional using an acronym, wouldn’t it be better for us to refer to the professional as an “O.G.”?

As in, “I saw my O.G. yesterday and she told me to stop taking The Pill.”

I could also stomach a sensible abbreviation:

“I went to see my Ob/Gyn (pronounced as two words: ahb/gain) yesterday.”

The fact is, O.B.G.Y.N. is not a true acronym. As such, it frankly sucks. Somewhere the “Older Boys and Girls of Youthful Notoriety” club is guffawing: “They stole our acronym, the buncha lousy bastards! And it don’t even fit!”

Hi Tom,

“O.G” wouldn’t be an acronym if you pronounced each letter individually. An acronym is a word that has been made up of the first letters of other words. For example, NATO and NASDAQ are acronyms while USA and FBI are abbreviations.

That’s how I see it.[YSaerTTEW443543]

TOEIC listening, photographs: A view of an audience[YSaerTTEW443543]

it’d be a short acronym, sure.

Or a simple abbreviation.

(you could always say “Og” – rhyming with “bog”. hehe)


National Association of Stock Car Aficionado Rednecks

(hehe – that’s not really what it is)

Tortsten is half-correct. O.G., USA, and FBI, are initialisms and not acronyms.

So, what is the difference between an initialism and an alphabetism?[YSaerTTEW443543]

TOEIC listening, photographs: Three skyscrapers[YSaerTTEW443543]

In 1943, Bell Laboratories coined the term acronym as the name for a word (such as SONAR) created from the first letters of each word in a series of words (such as SOund Navigation And Ranging).

Some acronyms have vowels thrown in to make them a word that’s easy to say, for example, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA). Others are rather contrived, for example Citizens for Reliable and Safe Highways (CRASH). Not to mention North American Aerospace Defense (NORAD).

FBI or CIA is know as an initialism, not an acronym as they are simple abbreviations.

There is no agreement on what to call abbreviations whose pronunciation involves the combination of letter names and words, such as JPEG and MS-DOS . These abbreviations are sometimes described as acronym–initialism hybrids, although most would group them under the broad meaning of acronym.


Pronounced as a word, containing only initial letters
laser: light amplification by the stimulated emission of radiation
scuba: self-contained underwater breathing apparatus

Pronounced as a word, containing non-initial letters
Amphetamine: Alpha-methyl-phenethylamine
Gestapo: Geheime Staatspolizei (“secret state police”)
Interpol: International Criminal Police Organization
radar: radio detection and ranging

Pronounced as a combination of names of letters and a word
CD-ROM: Compact Disc read-only memory
IUPAC: International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry
JPEG: Joint Photographic Experts Group
SFMOMA: San Francisco Museum of Modern Art

Initialisms whose last word is a noun, but which are used as adjectives and the final noun stated separately (almost always redundantly)
ABS system (ABS from the German Antiblockiersystem): Anti-lock braking system system
ATM machine: Automated Teller Machine machine
DC Comics: Detective Comics comics
UPC code: Universal Product Code code
PIN number: Personal Identification Number number
KFC Chicken: Kentucky Fried Chicken chicken

Self-referential acronyms
TLA: Three Letter Acronym, i.e. it is an example of what it means