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   » » Wiki: Three-letter Acronym
Tag Wiki 'Three-letter Acronym'.
A three-letter acronym ( TLA), or three-letter abbreviation, is an , specifically an , consisting of three letters. These are usually the initial letters of the words of the phrase abbreviated, and are written in capital letters (upper case); three-letter abbreviations such as etc. and Mrs. are not three-letter acronyms, but "TLA" itself is a TLA (an example of a self-referencing definition).

Most three-letter abbreviations are initialisms: all the letters are pronounced as the names of letters, as in APA . Some are acronyms pronounced as a word; computed axial tomography, CAT, is almost always pronounced as the animal's name in "CAT scan".

  • Countries: UAE and
  • American Presidents: FDR, JFK, and LBJ
  • Computer phrases: CPU, , RAM, , and
  • File extensions: JPG, and XLS
  • Corporations: , and
  • Business: CEO, CFO and other officers
  • Three Letter Agencies: CIA, FBI, CBI, FSB, and NSA
  • Television networks: ABC (Aus., U.S.), (UK), CBC (Canada, Japan), and (Japan)
  • Personal advertisements: SBM for Single Black Male, STR for Short Term Relationship
  • Chemistry, biology, pharmaceuticals: GMO, LSD and MSG
  • Religion: LDS
  • Clinical medicine: CAD and
  • Communications shorthand: and OMG
  • Military and weaponry: and RPG
  • Wars and political conflicts: HYW and WWI
  • ISO currency codes: , and USD
  • IATA airport codes: LAX and LHR
  • Academic testing: ACT,
  • Canine registries: AKC and CKC
  • Sports organizations: NFL, MLB, (North America); AFL and NRL (Australia); NPB (Japan); , LFP (Spain); IPL (India), EPL (England), WBO (Puerto Rico)
  • : HMS, USS and RMS
  • State postal abbreviations: , , VIC and (Australia)

History and origins
The exact phrase three-letter acronym appeared in the sociology literature in 1975. Three-letter acronyms were used as in biological sciences, from 1977 and their practical advantage was promoted by Weber in 1982. They are used in many other fields, but the term TLA is particularly associated with computing. In 1980, the manual for the Sinclair ZX81 home computer used and explained TLA.Steven Vickers ZX81 Basic Programming, Sinclair Research Limited, page 161 "As you can see, everything has a three letter abbreviation (TLA)." The specific generation of three-letter acronyms in computing was mentioned in a report of 1982. TDA Progress Report R. Hull (1982) An Introduction to the new Productivity Information Management System page 176 In 1988, in a paper titled "On the cruelty of really teaching computer science", eminent computer scientist Edsger W. Dijkstra wrote "Because no endeavour is respectable these days without a TLA ..." On the cruelty of really teaching computer science By 1992 it was in a handbook.Dan Gookin (1992) The Microsoft Guide to Optimizing Windows page 211

The number of possible three-letter abbreviations (or ) using the 26 letters of the alphabet from A to Z (AAA, AAB ... to ZZY, ZZZ) is 26 × 26 × 26 = 17,576. Another 26 × 26 × 10 = 6760 can be produced if the third element is allowed to be a digit 0-9, giving a total of 24,336.

In , WWW is the longest possible TLA to pronounce, typically requiring nine . The usefulness of TLAs typically comes from how it is quicker to say the instead of than the phrase they represent, however saying 'WWW' in English requires three times as many syllables than the phrase it is meant to abbreviate (World Wide Web). Consequently, "www" is sometimes abbreviated as "dubdubdub" in speech.

References in popular culture
  • As early as 1967, the musical Hair included the song "Initials", whose final verse consisted only of TLAs, viz: "LBJ IRT USA LSD. LSD LBJ FBI CIA. FBI CIA LSD LBJ."
  • In 1986, Will Shatter of the band Flipper formed a band named "Any Three Initials" (A3I), as a parody of the preponderance of hardcore punk bands with three-initial names.
  • In 1998, the British band Love and Rockets released their last album, Lift, featuring the song "R.I.P. 20 C." that, apart from the refrain, consists only of three-letter abbreviations. A contest was held rewarding the first person to correctly give the meanings of all 69 of them.
  • In 1999, German hip-hop group Die Fantastischen Vier (The Fantastic Four) released the song "MfG" ("Mit freundlichen Grüßen", for "Best regards", literally "With friendly greetings"), also mainly consisting of TLAs. Lyrics of "MfG"
  • In 1999, the author remarked: "The World Wide Web is the only thing I know of whose shortened form takes three times longer to say than what it's short for."Douglas Adams, The Independent on Sunday, 1999
  • In 2001, Portland Oregon songwriter produced a song entitled "BFD" which includes many three-letter acronyms throughout the . It has been recorded by Carothers as well as , and .
  • According to the , a journalist once asked hacker Paul Boutin what he thought the biggest problem in computing in the 1990s would be. Paul's straight-faced response was: "There are only 17,000 three-letter acronyms."
  • The also mentions the abbreviation "ETLA" for "extended three-letter acronym" to refer to four-letter acronyms/abbreviations. "Extended three-letter acronym" is sometimes abbreviated to "XTLA".
  • A Harvard University improv team is named Three Letter Acronym.
  • TLC was a popular girls music group during the 1990's.

See also
  • ISO 4217 (currency code)
  • List of acronyms
  • List of airports by IATA code
  • List of all two-letter combinations
  • List of computing and IT abbreviations
  • List of IOC country codes
  • List of three-letter broadcast callsigns in the United States
  • Photographers' abbreviations

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