All credit to Willem van Schaik, Stephen Turner and Paul Johnston for an amusing Twitter chat that led to this post – and a tip of the hat to Keith Bradnam who has blogged on bad acronyms before.

So here are my top five worst ever acronyms


From this paper in Nature Methods, the technique itself looks very interesting, being able to generate highly accurate OTU sequences from amplicon reads.  However, it’s very clear that the authors, editors and reviewers were not English – for the unenlightened, look here, and clearly I don’t need to tell you what “up” means in this context.

2) That copper nanotube paper

I missed this first time round, but it entered into internet folklore in 2007.  Some unfortunate scientists accidentally dropped the C-bomb right in the middle of figure 2 and throughout the paper.  To add insult to injury, they also used the unfortunate term “BiNT


Continuing on the theme of referring to lower-body parts, this team in Birmingham, UK, describe the use of RUMPS, a system for rules-based administration and prescription of drugs within hospitals.  Apparently, it stands for “Renal Unit Management Protocol System”.  Alternatives included “Drugs Administered by Robots Now (DARN)”, “Cool Robots Administer Prescriptions (CRAP)” and “For Administration of Renal Tests (FART)” *

* these may not be true


No, this term does not refer to what men over 70 need to wear when they sneeze, rather it refers to Man-portable air-defense systems, which is a fancy way of referring to the weapons the infantry use to shoot down enemy aircraft.  I’m pretty sure if any army threatened to attack the enemy with “manpads”, there would be a swift surrender!

5) WinCE

Anyone and everyone who ever used Microsoft Windows CE immediately adopted the shortened version of the name (WinCE) as it so aptly described the correct reaction when trying to get your device to do anything useful!

I am sure there are far more out there, so please add them in the comments!