Acronym Confusion

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Chief Wiggum: Uh, Mrs. Simpson, I have some bad news. Your husband was found DOA.
Marge: Oh my god! He's dead?
Chief Wiggum: Oh wait, I mean DUI. I always get those two mixed up.
Mrs. Phillips walks in.
Mrs. Phillips: My name's Mrs. Phillips. You said my husband is DUI?

Chief Wiggum: Uh, why don't you talk to that officer over there? I'm going out to lunch.
The Simpsons, "Duffless"

This is for, well, when characters get their acronyms confused, often involving mistaking one for another, and/or misremembering an acronym severely enough to intend to refer to one acronym, but actually mention another.

Subcategories include acronyms being confused due to sharing an initialism, and acronyms getting mixed up for other reasons.

See also Fun with Acronyms.


Examples of Acronym Confusion include:

Acronyms confused because they share an initialism.[edit | hide | hide all]

  • The "Cartman Joins NAMBLA" episode of South Park involves confusion between the North American Man/Boy Love Association and North American Marlon Brando Look-Alikes.
  • From Analyze This:

FBI Agent Steadman: Dr. Sobel, Ma'am: I'm Agent Steadman, Agent Ricci, Agent Provano, Federal Bureau Of Investigation, OCD.
Dr. Ben Sobel: Obsessive Compulsive Disorder?
FBI Agent Ricci: Organized Crime Division. We need to talk.

I'm with the CIA, but I tell people I'm with the CIC, so they think I'm with the CID.

  • In the Polish comic Kajko I Kokosz, an important official comes to visit the town. The whole book constst of the two knights performing all kinds of whacky hijinks to impress him (all the while hiding the fact, that most people in town have been cursed with sloth ) only to find out that... he wasn't quite so important. The acronym was the same... N.I.K. (Which in Poland is Supreme Chamber of Control but here interpreted as "Highest Inspector of Castles" Turned out to be "Junior Instructor of Competitions" ).
  • Ratchet and Clank - Captain Quark offers the heroes a PDA.

Ratchet: A Public Display of Affection?
Quark: No, a Personal Delivery Assistant.

The VC are sick of BNB
The Viet Cong are sick of breakfast in bed?

Krusty: Now it's time for Krusty Komedy Klassics! ...KKK? That's not good!

  • SF Debris: POTC -- The Passion of the Christ or Pirates of the Caribbean?
  • Real life example; the acronym GSA, which can refer to either the General Services Administration, the Girl Scouts of America or the Gay-Straight Alliance, three VERY different organizations. This is made even more confusing at universities that have a Graduate Student Association.
    • Another real life example: ED can stand for Eating Disorder (anorexia/bulemia) or Erectile Dysfunction (impotence). Which makes certain ED drug commercials confusing, disturbing, or hilarious.
  • There are different kinds of "RPG".
  • The World Wildlife Fund/WWF, for some bizarre reason, was worried people would confuse them with the World Wrestling Federation/WWF. After losing a lawsuit over the acronym, the wrestling group changed to WWE and had to go through their video catalog and "erase" all WWF logos.
  • GOW? Gears of War or God of War? Only the two series being Xbox and Playstation exclusive respectively stops this from being extremely confusing.
  • MW2: Mechwarrior 2 and Modern Warfare 2. I doesn't help that both are Activision games.
  • Hey, you wanna play some RO? Yeah, I love that game! *later* Wait, did you mean Red Orchestra or Ragnarok Online?
  • In the Great Lakes Avengers mini-series, Living Lightning thinks 'GLA' stands for 'Gay-Lesbian Alliance.'
  • Dead On Arrival is a standard police or medical initialism. Date Of Accident is a common insurance initialism. Given that, on any given automotive or health insurance claim, the first is a possibility, confusion has arisen on more than one occasion.
    • And neither should be confused with Dead or Alive. This one's worsened by the fact that not only has the Dead or Alive movie used the initialism, but DOA also serves as the title of both a 50's movie and its 80's remake.
  • SWAT, as in "Surface Water Assessment Team," came into the public eye after the 2010 BP Oil Spill.

Cracked.com: Who are likely facing wedgies of historical proportions once the real SWAT find out about their name.

Acronyms confused without a common initialism[edit | hide]

Kirk: Oh, him? He's harmless. Part of the free speech movement at Berkeley in the sixties. I think he did a little too much LDS.

Coconuts: I only wanted to tell you I saw one of those F.O.U's - I mean, C.I.A's, uh, or C.O.D's...
Robotnik: Get to the point or your name will be M.U.D.

  • In The Whole Ten Yards, Lazlo Gogolak often makes mistakes about idioms and terms and hates it when people correct him. For example, he thinks that a DUI and an IUD are the same thing. They're not. Besides, a guy getting an IUD would be a little weird.
  • Suzaku does this continuously in Code MENT.

Suzaku: "Now let me tell ya. HD stands for Internal Affairs."
Lelouch: "That doesn't sound right."