Methods Acronyms – The Witty
Side of Science
D. Soviæa* and B. Bertošab
aFaculty of Food Technology and Biotechnology, Pierottijeva 6, 10000 Zagreb, Croatia,
b“Rudjer Boškoviæ” Institute, Bijenièka cesta 54, 10000 Zagreb, Croatia
The name of a method usually contains its basic principles. To simplify the name of a method and
make it easier to remember, an acronym is often used. However, sometimes the name of a met-
hod and its acronym are formed in such a way that the result often has quite a different or even
humorous meaning. Here we have sorted out acronyms of scientific methods that have unusual
or humorous meaning. The summation is a list of representative methods that represent the true
face of science: an interesting, skillful and joyful human activity.
Key words: Acronyms, methods, nuclear magnetic resonance, computational chemistry
Scientists are often portrayed in the public as spectacle-
-wearing nerds in white lab-coats with no sense of humor,
while science is generally perceived as a boring human acti-
vity. In some cases this might be true, but the majority of sci-
entists are often frolicking with their jobs. This results in
naming new techniques and methods with a sense of hu-
Usually the names of different techniques are acronyms or
abbreviations derived from the initial letters of the full name
that gives it its description (e. g. NMR stands for Nuclear
Magnetic Resonance).1In order to make it catchier and ea-
sier to pronounce and remember, sometimes an acronym
can be formed from not only the initial letters of the full
name. As a result, sometimes unintentionally, but most of-
ten deliberately, techniques and methods are given funny
abbreviations and acronyms. An example is the method the
acronym of which is NOESY,2representing a nuclear mag-
netic resonance method – Nuclear Overhausser Effect Spec-
trocopY.This acronym is read [nou:zi] which is very similar
to the English word nosey meaning one who has a big nose.
Further, “nosey” is commonly used to describe a person
who pries into other people’s affairs (this makes NOESY a
particularly good acronym for an investigative technique).
Some acronyms are in fact well-known words as the acro-
nym FISH (Fluorescent In-Situ Hybridization)3which is the
cytogenetic technique that can be used to detect and loca-
lize the presence or absence of specific DNA sequences in
Although probably the largest number of new method ac-
ronyms can be found for resonance techniques, in other
fields of science this kind of play is also used. In mass
spectroscopy, one of the examples is the method whose ac-
ronym is MALDI (Matrix Assisted Laser Desorption/Ioniza-
tion)4which is read as [moldi]. Mold is a type of earth that is
friable and suitable for plant growth. Therefore, the mea-
ning of the acronym MALDI can be interpreted as earthy.In
the domain of instrumental analytical methods, specifically
infra-red spectroscopy, there is a method SNIFTIRS (Sub-
tractively Normalized Interfacial FT-IR Spectroscopy).5A
snifter is the name of a glass used to drink spirits such as
brandy designed to allow the drinker a good sniff of the
drink. Often a method has its acronym formed according to
a personal name. An example in astronomy is LISA (Laser
Interferometer Space Antenna)6or in imunoanalytical met-
hods ELISA (Enzyme-Linked ImmunoSorbent Assay)7.So-
metimes an acronym gives a method a powerful name, like
BLAST (Basic Local Alignment Search Tool)8which is an al-
gorithm used in bioinformatics for comparing primary bio-
logical sequence information, such as the amino-acid se-
quences of different proteins or the nucleotides of DNA se-
This paper summarizes some of the funniest and most in-
teresting acronyms used in different fields of science. The
purpose of the paper is to extract the acronyms of scientific
methods that were the most impressive, and to inspire and
encourage readers to exercise playfulness and imagination
when creating their own acronyms.
The most interesting acronyms, which are accidentally or
purposely funny, come from the youngest techniques. The-
se are usually methods of the nuclear magnetic resonance,
computational chemistry and different methods and tech-
niques used in astronomy and similar sciences.
Acronyms of nuclear magnetic resonance methods
Beside the already mentioned, other amusing acronyms
used in techniques of nuclear magnetic resonance are:
–BIRD (BIlinear Rotation Decoupling)9
–BURP (Bnad-selective, Uniform-Response, pure-phase
Pulses).10 Burp has a meaning of the act of belching.11
D. SOVIÆ and B. BERTOŠA: Methods Acronyms – The Witty Side of Science, Kem. Ind. 58 (7-8) 337–341 (2009) 337
KUI – 15/2009
Received March 24, 2009
Accepted May 18, 2009
–CAMELSPIN (Cross-relaxation Appropriate for Minimo-
lecules Emulated by Locked SPINs).12 This acronym can be
divided into two words: camel and spin. Camel is an animal
and spin is rotation. So, this acronym could have a meaning
of a camel that is rotating (spinning).
–CHESS (CHEmical Shift selective Suppression.13 Chess is
a board game.11
–CIDNP (Chemically Induced Dynamic Nuclear Polariza-
tion).14 CIDNP is phonetically equivalent to the English
word “kidnap” which has a meaning of seizing and detai-
ning or carrying away by unlawful force.
–CRAMPS (Combined Rotation And Multiple Pulse Spec-
troscopy).15 Cramps are sharp abdominal pains.11
–CYCLOPS (CYCLically Ordered Phase Sequence phase
cycle).16 Cyclops are one-eyed creatures or giants from
–DANTE (Delays Alternating with Nutations for Tailored
Excitation).17 Dante is the name of the Italian poet from Flo-
rence in the 13rd and 14th century (Dante Alighieri is the
author of The Divine Comedy).
–DISCO (DIfferences and Sums within COSY).18 Disco is
a night club for dancing to live or recorded music.
–DOUBTFUL (DOUBle Quantum Transitions for Finding
Unresolved Lines).19 Doubtful has a meaning of lacking of
definite opinion, conviction or determination.
–DRYCLEAN (Diffusion-Reduced Water Signals in Spec-
troscopYof MoleCules Moving sLowErthAN water).20 “To
dry clean” has a meaning of cleaning with chemicals other
–DRYSTEAM (DRY STimulated Echo Acquisition Mo-
–ENDOR (Electron-Nucleus DOuble Resonance).22 Endor
is the name of the planet in the Star Wars movie serial. It is
inhabited with Ewoks.
–FLOPSY (FLip-FlOP SpectroscopY).23 In English language
“to flop” means to fall down suddenly, especially with no-
–FUCOUP (FUlly COUPled C,H Correlation).24 This ac-
ronym can be phonetically pronounced as [fak ap], which
in a slightly vulgar way has the meaning of ruining or spoi-
ling especially through stupidity or carelessness.
–GRASP (GRadient-Accelerated SPectroscopy).25 “To
grasp something” means to take or seize it eagerly.11
–GROPE (Generalized compensation for Resonance
Offset and Pulse Length Errors).26 “To grope” to search for
something blindly or uncertainly11.
–HEHAHA (HEteronuclear HArtmann HAhn spectrosco-
py).27 This acronym imitates human laughter.
–HOHAHA (HOmonuclear HArtmann HAhn spectros-
copy).28 Same as the previous.
–INADEQUATE (Incredible Natural Abundance DoublE
QUAntum Transfer Experiment)29. Inadequate means not
–INDOR (INternuclear DOuble Resonance).30 This refers
to something that is inside, indoor.
–INEPT (Insensitive Nucleus Enhancement by Polarization
Transfer).31 The word inept has its origin in Latin ineptus.It
refers to something generally incompetent.11
–JUMPRET (JUMP-and-RETurn Water Suppression).32
This acronym is made up of two words: jump and ret. Ret
can be pronounced like the word rat, therefore this ac-
ronym has the meaning of a jumping rat.
–PASADENA (Parahydrogen And Synthesis Allow Drama-
tically Enhanced Nuclear Alignment)33. Pasadena is a city in
–POMMIE (Phase Oscillations to MaxiMIze Editing).34 In
Australia and New Zealand pommie is a derogatory term
for a British person, especially a recent immigrant.
–SEDUCE (SEquence for selective composite pulse Deco-
upling Using shaped pulses).35 Seduce means to lead astray,
as from duty, rectitude.11 The most common meaning of
the word “seduce” in English is to tempt one into sexual
contact. This is an example when all the letters in the acro-
nym of the method are not present in the description of that
–SECSY (Spin-Echo Correlation SpectroscopY).36 This ac-
ronym is read like the word sexy.
–SIMPLTN (SIMulation of PuLse and Two-dimensional
NMR).37 Phonetically, this acronym is read like the word
simpleton, meaning a person lacking common sense.
–STEAM (STimulated Echo Acquisition Mode).38 Steam is
a vapor rising from the heated substance (liquid).
–TANGO (Testing for Adjacent Nuclei with a Gyration
Operator).39 Tango is a Latin-American dance.
–TOE (Truncated driven nOE)40. Toe is one of the digits of
the human foot.11
–WALTZ (Wideband Alternating-Phase Low-power Tech-
nique for Zero residual splitting)41. Waltz (or in German
waltzer) is a ballroom dance.
–WATERGATE (WATER suppression by GrAdient Tailored
Excitation).42 Watergate is the well-known political scandal
that happened in the USA in 1972 and 1973. Water gate is
a regulator or gate that controls the rate of water flow thro-
ugh a sluice.
–WURST (Wideband, Uniform Rate, and Smooth Trunca-
tion).43 Wurst is the German word for sausage.
One interesting acronym that occurs in other spectroscopic
methods is STICS (Space-Time Image Correlation Spectro-
scopy),44 which is read like the English word sticks.
Acronyms of computational chemistry methods
Numerous software, methods and algorithms used in com-
putational chemistry, a young and developing field of scien-
ce, are named with interesting acronyms. A good example
is CHARMM (Chemistry at HARvard Macromolecular Me-
chanics)45 – a widely used molecular simulation program
with broad application in many-particle systems – which is
read as charm (chärm).
Other interesting acronyms used in computational che-
338 D. SOVIÆ and B. BERTOŠA: Methods Acronyms – The Witty Side of Science, Kem. Ind. 58 (7-8) 337–341 (2009)
–BOSS (Biochemical and Organic Simulation System).46
Boss is a person who makes decisions, exercises authority,
–COMBINE (COMparative BINding Energy).47 Combine
means to bring into or join in a close union or whole.
–COMPASS (Condensed-phase Optimized Molecular Po-
tentials for Atomistic Simulation Studies).48 Compass is an
instrument for determining directions, as by means of a
freely rotating magnetized needle that indicates magnetic
–CORINA (COoRdINAtes).49 Corina is a personal name.
–FADE (The Fast Atomic Density Evaluator).50 Fade means
to lose brightness or vividness of color.11
–FANTOM (FAst Newton-Raphson TOrsion Angle Mini-
mizer).51 Fantom is an appearance or an illusion without
material substance, as a dream image, mirage, or optical il-
lusion.11 The term “phantom” (pronounced identically) is
also often used to refer to ghosts.
–GAMESS (The General Atomic and Molecular Electronic
Structure System).52 This acronym is read like the plural of
the word game.
–GRAMM (The Global RAnge Molecular Matching).53 This
acronym is read like a metric unit of mass; one thousandth
of a kilogram.
–MICE (Molecular InteraCtivE).54 The word “mice” is plu-
ral of the word mouse.
–PADRE (Pairwise Atomic Density Reverse Engineering)55.
Padre is the Spanish, Italian and Portuguese word for father.
Acronyms of other scientific methods
As previously mentioned, the most funny and interesting
acronyms are found in the younger fields of science. Astro-
nomy is an ancient science that flourished and grew with
the development and use of spectroscopic methods. In as-
tronomy there are many acronyms that represent personal
names like ADONIS (ADaptive Optics Near-Infrared Sys-
tem)56 and DENIS (DEep Near Infrared Survey of the So-
uthern Sky) 57.
Other acronyms in astronomy that are personal names:
–ALEXIS (Array of Low Energy X-ray Imaging Sensors).58
–AMANDA (Antarctic Muon And Neutrino Detector Ar-
–ARIES (ARizona Infrared Imager and Echelle Spectro-
graph).60 Aries is the first sign of the Zodiac in astrology pic-
tured as a ram.
–DEBRA (Diffuse Extragalactic Background RAdiation).61
–MICHELLE (Mid-Infrared eCHELLE spectrograph).62
There are also acronyms of the systems and procedures in
studies of different effects and occurrences:
–2D-FRUTTI (2-D Photon Counting System).63 This is an
example when the acronym is not made according to the
rule of using the letters of the full name (the letter F in this
acronym is not present in the full name of the system). This
acronym resembles the Italian term tutti frutti (all fruits). In
addition, tutti frutti refers to the ice-cream that contains bits
of candied fruits.
–BOOMERanG (Balloon Observations OfMillimetric Ex-
tragalactic Radiation andGeophysics).64 A boomerang is a
bent or twisted throwing club that is characteristic to Austra-
–CANGAROO (Collaboration between Australian and
Nippon for a GAmma Ray Observatory in the Outback).65
Cangaroo can be read as the word kangaroo which is any of
various herbivorous leaping marsupial mammals (family
Macropodidae) of Australia, New Guinea, and adjacent is-
–CHIPS (Cosmic Hot Interstellar Plasma Spectrometer).66
Chips usually refer to thin pieces of food (e.g. potato chips).
In this case they can mean the plural of a piece of an
electronic circuit, a chip.
–COBRAS/SAMBA (COsmic Background Radiation Ani-
sotropy Satellite/SAtellite to Measure Background Anisotro-
pies).67 Cobra is a well-known venomous family of snakes.
Samba is one of the most popular forms of dance in Brazil.
Therefore, this acronym can have a meaning of samba dan-
ce of cobras.
–DEIMOS (Deep Extragalactic Imaging Multi Object
Spectrograph).68 According to Greek mythology Phobos
(Fear) and Deimos (Dread) accompanied Ares, god of war,
into battle. Deimos is also a satellite of the planet Mars (in
Greek mythology Mars is Ares).
–EROS (Expérience de Recherche d’Objects Sombres).69
Eros in Greek mythology is the god of love.
–FIFI (Far Infrared Fabry-perot Interferometer).70 Fifi is
short for the name Josephine. It is often used stereotypically
(or insultingly) as a name for a small, cute, harmless dog.
–HAWAII (HgCdTe Astronomical Wide Area Infrared
Imager).71 Hawaii is a chain of hundreds of volcanic islands
in the Pacific Ocean.
–MACHO (MAssive Compact Halo Objects).72 A halo is a
visible glowing ring that encompasses a celestial object (e. g.
Sun, Moon, etc). In this case, Halo refers to the outermost
portion of our galaxy, a spherical region that extends be-
yond the galactic disk, and whose composition is unknown.
Macho means someone being aggressively virile.
–WIMP (Weakly Interacting Massive Particles).73 WIMPS
are hypothetical objects that might make up the halo. A
wimp is a weak and/or cowardly person.
Sometimes methods are named after cities. The MONTE
CARLO74 method enables approximate solutions for a wide
range of mathematical problems with the aid of computers.
It is widely implemented in biophysics and modelling of
macromolecules. Similar examples can be found in diffe-
rent fields of sciences, other than chemistry and physics.
CREMONA75 transformations in mathematics are well
known. They are named after Italian mathematician Luigi
Cremona. In architecture, Cremona’s method for graphical
calculus of forces in equilibrium shortened CREMONA.In
psychology there is a scale WAIS (The Wechsler Adult In-
telligence Scale)76 that is frequently used for assessment of
general or global intelligence. This acronym can be read as
the word ways (plural of way). In archeology there is a sim-
ple acronym CLIMAP (paleoCLImatic MAPs)77 that defines
D. SOVIÆ and B. BERTOŠA: Methods Acronyms – The Witty Side of Science, Kem. Ind. 58 (7-8) 337–341 (2009) 339
a project aimed at making paleoclimatic maps showing
temperatures on sea surfaces in different locations in diffe-
rent periods. CLIMAP has a similar pronunciation as climb
map (to climb on the map). It is evident that playing with ac-
ronyms is not specific to natural sciences although it is most
abundant in them.
The featured acronyms are just a small sample, but we cho-
se them because they were the most impressive, whether
they are unusual or humorous. Acronyms can be formed
simply from the initial letters of a method’s description or
by combining the letters from the description. Most often, a
depiction is made deliberately to obtain a funny acronym.
Almost all the presented examples show science in its true
light – as a playful and luxuriant human activity. Every sci-
entist finds satisfaction in his own field and only a scratch is
seen in mentioned acronyms. Humor is a characteristic of
the human race as is inexhaustible thirst for knowledge. Fi-
nally, we hope that our summation of funny acronyms will
be a motivation and inspiration to scientists around the
world to continue coming up with witty, unusual and imagi-
native acronyms that will brighten the often tedious scienti-
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Imena metoda i akronimi – duhovita strana znanosti
D. Soviæa* i B. Bertošab
Ime metode najèešæe sadrÞi opis njenih osnovnih naèela. Kako bi se pojednostavio naziv metode,
a samim time i olakšalo pamæenje naziva, redovito se upotrebljavaju akronimi. Meðutim, èesto se
dogaða da su ime metode i njezin akronim osmišljeni tako da dobiveni naziv ima potpuno druga-
èije znaèenje te ponekad i humoristiènu konotaciju. Izdvojeni su akronimi znanstvenih metoda
koji imaju neuobièajena i èesto humoristièna znaèenja. Pregled ovih akronima je zbir reprezenta-
tivnih metoda koje prikazuju znanost u njezinom pravom svjetlu kao zahtjevnu, zanimljivu i za-
bavnu ljudsku aktivnost.
aPrehrambeno-biotehnološki fakultet, Prispjelo 24. oÞujka 2009.
aPierottijeva 6, 10000 Zagreb, Hrvatska Prihvaæeno 18. svibnja 2009.
bInstitut Ruðer Boškoviæ, Bijenièka 54,
a10 001 Zagreb, Hrvatska