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by Davy Kraken
I supply an acronym; you make up what it stands for. My favorite entries win gift points!
Welcome to ACRO*BATICS! As you may know, an acronym is a sequence of letters formed from the initial letters of a group of words. For example, in the case of a SWAT team, SWAT stands for Special Weapons And Tactics. In this game, however, you work in the opposite direction: I will provide a series of letters that will serve as an acronym, and your mission is to offer the most creative answer to the question of what that acronym represents. Technically, an acronym is pronounceable, so SWAT is an acronym, while NFL, standing for National Football League, would be what’s called an initialism. The strings of letters given in this contest will always be initialisms because there are always wild card spaces that don’t allow them to be pronounced; however, “initialism” just isn’t as fun of a word as “acronym,” so I will be using the latter term from here on out.
Please note that the acronyms I supply don’t already stand for something in particular, so there’s no “correct” answer. The letters are generated using a wonderful Excel program, created for me by Robert Waltz , which chooses letters based on the relative frequencies of words in the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary beginning with that letter. For example, many words begin with S, so S will appear often; but you’ll probably need to get out a dictionary to find X words, so X will seldom be seen. Also, most real acronyms are less than ten letters long, but the ones you find here will be anywhere from ten to fifteen. Like the letters themselves, the number of letters in the acronym will be determined randomly from within the possible range.
Which Words (and Symbols) Count?
In practice, there is a high degree of flexibility concerning which letters of a phrase appear in an acronym. In some cases, more than just the first letter of a word could be used. Such is the case with RADAR, which signifies RAdio Detection And Ranging. In other instances, words can be omitted entirely. This generally applies to prepositions, articles, or other small words, as in Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation, better known as a LASER. If every word in that phrase contributed its first letter to the acronym, we would have a LABSEOR instead. For the sake of consistency, I will not allow you to take such liberties here. Only the first letter of each word may appear in the acronym, and each and every word, no matter how small, must be represented.
Although most acronyms are simple phrases with no punctuation, the ones that you devise can be multiple sentences long and use commas, question marks, exclamation marks, periods, and most other punctuation, but symbols, emoticons, or punctuation that stand in for words, such as , #, or &, can’t be used unless there is a letter in the acronym to represent them. As an example, Writing.Com would require the sequence WDC since the period is not silent: it’s Writing Dot Com—and you may only use an acronym in your entry if it appears within the round’s larger acronym, so shortening Writing.Com to WDC doesn’t change the series of letters you’ll need. Contractions, however, should be treated as a single word, so “don’t” would only require a D.
You are welcome to use hyphens, but keep in mind that, for the same reasons I outlined earlier, the word(s), prefixes, etc. before and after hyphens must all appear in the acronym. For example, an acronym would need to have the sequence JITB—not just a J—in order for one to use “jack-in-the-box,” an acronym would need to have the sequence XR—not just an X—in order to use “x-ray,” and an acronym would need to have the sequence EW—not just an E—in order to use “ex-wife.”
On that same note, numbers can be used, but they must be written out in letters, or at least match the acronym as though they were. For example, you’d need the sequence TT for the number 22 (Twenty-Two).
Saying your entry out loud and keeping track of every word you use, then writing out all those words, may be a good habit to develop, since it will hopefully help you avoid forgetting to consider numbers or non-silent symbols as a part of your entry. The number of words—or parts of words around hyphens, as outlined above—should match the number of letters in the acronym. I strongly suggest using words instead of numbers and symbols wherever possible to lessen the chances of ambiguity because it’s not fair, or even feasible, for me to take the time to discuss with entrants how acronyms should be read if that’s not clear. If I don’t feel an entry can be read in a way that fits the acronym, it will be disqualified without warning.
Entries are not automatically disqualified for misspellings, even if using the correct spelling would have rendered the entry invalid. After all, especially when it comes to hyphens, it is not always easy to say whether a word is correct with a hyphen, without it, or either is acceptable. Or maybe there is an intentional play on words, in which case I can’t necessarily say the incorrect spelling wasn’t “meant.” Just because an entry is not officially disqualified, though, does not mean I won’t immediately discount it as a winner.
Once I’ve generated an acronym, I’ll roll the virtual dice to determine which letters of the acronym will become a wild card. Wild cards are represented by the symbol, and, as their name indicates, you can turn them into any letter you wish for the purposes of your entry. However, they must act as a letter, and one letter only. For example, if you see the sequence A C, you could treat it as A A C, A B C, A C C, etc. You could not, however, treat it as A C or A B B C. The number of wild cards depends on the number of letters in the acronym:
10 or 11 letters in acronym 2 wild cards
12 or 13 letters in acronym 3 wild cards
14 or 15 letters in acronym 4 wild cards
You can see the results of the virtual dice rolls here .
The total pot for each round is the number of letters in the acronym multiplied by 5,000. That means the minimum pot is 50,000 gift points, which is if 10 letters are in the acronym, and the maximum pot is 75,000 gift points, which is if 15 letters are in the acronym. One winner will be chosen if there are at least two valid entries, and additional winners will be chosen for every 6 valid entries after that, so there will be 2 winners out of at least 8 valid entries, 3 winners out of at least 14 valid entries, 4 winners out of at least 20 valid entries, and so on. The pot will be distributed such that each winner gets 1.5 times as much as the next place’s share, meaning that the lowest winner gets 1 share, the next highest place gets 1.5 shares, the next highest place gets 2.25 (1.5 x 1.5) shares, etc. Examples of prize distributions:
12 valid entries for an acronym with 12 letters
12 valid entries = 2 winners
12 letters = 60,000 GPs
Second place wins 1/(1+1.5) x 60,000 = 24,000
First place wins 1.5/(1+1.5) x 60,000 = 36,000
15 valid entries for an acronym with 10 letters
15 valid entries = 3 winners
10 letters = 50,000 GPs
Third place wins 1/(1+1.5+2.25) x 50,000 = 10,526
Second place wins 1.5/(1+1.5+2.25) x 50,000 = 15,789
First place wins 2.25/(1+1.5+2.25) x 50,000 = 23,684
Note that each place’s prize is rounded to the nearest whole number, so the total number of GPs awarded may differ very slightly from the advertised pot.
Let’s assume that the acronym for the round is none other than ACRONYM itself, although this would never happen in a real round for two reasons. First, letters are generated randomly, so the probability that an actual word of considerable length would result is infinitesimal. Secondly, ACRONYM is only seven letters, whereas the actual acronyms will be ten to fifteen. Still, let’s go ahead and put 1 wild card in there by rolling 1 virtual die with sides 1 to 7 a total of 1 time, and say it lands on 3. That means the third letter of the acronym will turn into a wild card:
A C O N Y M
Below, you will see five phrases that I came up with for this example. Each of them is an acceptable entry.
Always consume very old nachos, young man.
A cold shower often numbs your muscles.
“Armageddon could interrupt our nuptials,” Yolanda moaned.
Aliens cruised high over Nevada yesterday morning.
Absolute cinematic garbage: Olsens’ New York Minute
Notice how the third word of each acronym can begin with any letter because of the wild card, but all the first words begin with A, all the second words begin with C, all the fourth words begin with O, etc.
As you can see, possible entries could range from humorous to bizarre to insightful. Who ends up being the winner(s) ultimately depends on the particular acronym(s) as well as the competition, but certain practices, such as overusing proper nouns or commas (to create long lists instead of flowing sentences), do not often occur in winning acronyms. I am the only judge for this contest, and for the curious, I have ranked the entries above in what I consider ascending order of quality. If this were an actual round, the top honors would go to the fifth one. Quality is subjective, of course, and I often struggle to choose the winner(s), so do not get discouraged if you don’t win right away. I have no plans to discontinue hosting this contest, so there will likely be dozens more opportunities to win in the future.
Along with the winners for each round, I also list entries that were disqualified. I do this mainly for the sake of transparency, but also to help the disqualified entrants (and others) see what to avoid in the future.
How to Enter
Only one entry per person per round, please. Authorized Secondary Accounts may not enter. If you wish to replace an entry, please note that somehow, whether in the subject or body of your new post or old post(s), or else all your entries will be disqualified. The acronym for each round will appear at the bottom of this forum description, right above the message list. Even if I haven’t made an official post to announce the closing of a round, you must have your entry in by noon on the date specified below the acronym for it to be considered. Be sure to check that due date since I leave an acronym up until a new round starts; just because an acronym appears does not mean the round is currently in progress. I will post a “Round Over” notice in this forum’s title whenever I remember, but I may forget.
To enter, simply post your entry in this forum. You can (and are encouraged to) put your acronym directly in the post, as it is unnecessary to create a whole item for a little acronym and link to it, especially if you have a low level of membership and could put your limited portfolio space to better use. I keep a permanent and public list of the winning acronyms, but if you want to keep any other acronyms for posterity, then you should save them somewhere, since messages in this forum older than three months could be purged at any time.
Adding this contest to your favorites will ensure that you know when a new round begins, but I will also try to announce it on "Writing Contests @ Writing.Com!" [E]. I must have at least two valid entries in order to judge a round and declare a winner. If there is only one valid entry, I will award the author half of the total pot. If there are no valid entries, of course, then nothing will be awarded and there will be no winner.
Be sure to mind the 13+ rating:
This rating signifies that the content of this item is intended for readers 13 years of age and older and may be inappropriate for any minor under the age of 13. We recommend that supervising adults not allow such minors to read 13+ content. Horror and violence may exist at a moderate level, but not extreme. There may be mild references to sex, drugs or alcohol, but do not exceed mild levels. Mild swearing may be used, but no use of the harsher sexually derived words may be found.
While somewhat off-color entries are permitted and may even place if they’re well done, this is not the place for anything gratuitously obscene.
I will not inform people whether or not an entry they submit properly uses the given acronym. Only upon a round’s closing will entrants know whether their submission is disqualified, so it is up to them to check it over.