This morning I was having a conversation with Leila about the word “phat” which she informed me stood for “pretty hot and tempting.” Surprised, I turned to the internet, specifically Snopes (I think someone needs to come up with a term for the feeling you get when you just know you’ll find something in Snopes and turn out to be right).
According to the site, phat is an example of a “backronym”: “Phrases constructed after the fact which are attached to existing words and presented as those words’ sources.” I just sort of love the word and idea, which apparently came from a competition held by the Washington Post:
Meredith Williams, in an entry to a competition in The Washington Post on 8 November 1983, seems to have coined bacronym, as a portmanteau of back and acronym. Previously, lexicographer Ben Zimmer tells me, the form was called, somewhat cumbersomely, a prefabricated acronym as well as a reverse acronym. The word was popularised in July 1994 by another contest, in New Scientist, though it was then said to be a reinterpreted acronym, neither the original nor the current principal sense.
Some serious etymology for a Saturday morning.