Word Origins

SOS Messageby Kat Freestone


Ever wonder why SOS is the symbol for distress? Why we RSVP to an event? Why we detonate TNT? Read on to find out.


…is commonly written S.O.S and is thought to be an acronym for “Save Our Ship.” In fact, this is wrong. SOS doesn’t stand for anything. Instead, it’s thought that SOS was chosen because in Morse code it’s signified by three dots, three dashes, then three dots – a combination that is not easily misinterpreted for anything else.


…comes from the French Repondez S’il Vous Plait, which translates into “please reply.” In the U.S., it was considered fashionable in high society to use French as the language of refinement up until around the 19th century. And so the acronym stuck.




…earned its name for a good reason. This chemical compound’s real name is trinitrotoluene – a tongue twister, no doubt.




…was not always an abbreviation for United States of America. Before 1920, this acronym was more commonly used to mean United States Army.


…originated in 1908 and was an abbreviation of galvanized iron. The term was picked up by U.S. soldiers in WWII as an adjective meaning “U.S. Army equipment.” Apparently, the word was changed to mean “U.S. Army soldier” due to the comical notion that the men themselves were manufactured by the government.


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