How to Craft the Perfect Comeback, According to Experts


In a 1997 episode of Seinfeld called “The Comeback,” George Costanza is merrily stuffing himself with free shrimp at a meeting. His coworker mocks him: “Hey, George, the ocean called. They’re running out of shrimp.” George stands humiliated as laughter fills the room, his mind searching frantically for the perfect riposte.

It’s only later, on the drive home, that he thinks of the comeback. But the moment has passed.

The common human experience of thinking of the perfect response too late—l’esprit de l’escalier, or "the wit of the staircase"—was identified by French philosopher Denis Diderot when he was so overwhelmed by an argument at a party that he could only think clearly again once he’d gotten to the bottom of the stairs.

We've all been there. Freestyle rappers, improv comedians, and others who rely on witty rejoinders for a living say their jobs make them better equipped to seize the opportunity for clever retorts in everyday life. They use a combination of timing, listening, and gagging their inner critics. Here are their insights for crafting the perfect comeback.


The next time you’re in a heated conversation, be less focused on what you're about to say and more attentive to what you're actually responding to. When you spend more time considering what your sparring partner is saying, “you’re deferring your response until you’ve fully heard the other person," Jim Tosone, a technology executive-turned-improv coach who developed the Improv Means Business program, tells Mental Floss. Your retorts may be more accurate, and therefore more successful, when you’re fully engaged with the other person’s thoughts.


According to Belina Raffy, the CEO of the Berlin-based company Maffick—which also uses improv skills in business—not overthinking the situation is key. “You’re taking yourself out of unfolding reality if you think too much,” she tells Mental Floss. It’s important to be in the moment, and to deliver your response to reflect that moment.


History’s most skilled comeback artists stored witticisms away for later use, and were able to pull them out of their memory at the critical time.

Winston Churchill was known for his comebacks, but Tim Riley, director and chief curator at the National Churchill Museum in Fulton, Missouri, tells Mental Floss that many of his burns were borrowed. One of his most famous lines was in response to politician Bessie Braddock’s jab, “Sir, you are drunk.” The prime minister replied, “And you, Bessie, are ugly. But I shall be sober in the morning, and you will still be ugly.”

Riley says this line was copied from comic W.C. Fields. Nevertheless, it took quick thinking to remember and reshape the quote in the moment, which is why Churchill was thought of as a master of timing. “It was an off-the-cuff recall of something he had synthesized, composed earlier, and that he was waiting to perform,” Riley says.

But in some situations, the retort must be created entirely in the moment. Training for spontaneity on stage also helps with being quicker-witted in social situations, New York City battle rap emcee iLLspokinn tells Mental Floss. It’s like working a spontaneous muscle that builds with each flex, so, you’re incrementally better each time at seizing that witty opportunity.


Anyone who has been in the audience for an improv show has seen how rapidly performers respond to every situation. Improv teaches you to release your inhibitions and say what drops into your mind: “It’s about letting go of the need to judge ourselves,” Raffy explains.

One way to break free of your internal editor might be to imagine yourself on stage. In improv theater, the funniest responses occur in the spur of the moment, says Douglas Widick, an improv performer who trained with Chicago’s Upright Citizens Brigade. By not letting one’s conscience be one’s guide, actors can give into their “deepest fantasies” and say the things they wouldn’t say in real life.


The German version of Diderot’s term is Treppenwitz, also meaning the wit of the stairs. But the German phrase has evolved to mean the opposite: Something said that, in retrospect, was a bad joke. When squaring up to your rival, the high you get from spearing your opponent with a deadly verbal thrust can be shadowed by its opposite, the low that comes from blurting out a lame response that lands like a lead balloon.

That's a feeling that freestyle rapper Lex Rush hopes to avoid. “In the heat of the battle, you just go for it,” she tells Mental Floss. She likens the fight to a “stream of consciousness” that unfolds into the mic, which leaves her with little control over what she’s projecting into the crowd.

It may help to mull over your retort if you have a few extra seconds—especially if you’re the extroverted type. “Introverts may walk out of a meeting thinking, ‘Why didn’t I say that?’ while extroverts think, ‘Why did I say that?’” Tosone, the improv coach, says. Thinking before you speak, even just briefly, will help you deploy a successful comeback.

And if it doesn’t go your way, iLLspokinn advises brushing off your missed opportunity rather than dwelling on your error: “It can be toxic to hold onto it."


Texting and social media, as opposed to face-to-face contact, give you a few extra minutes to think through your responses. That could improve the quality of your zinger. “We’re still human beings, even on screens. And we prefer something that is well-stated and has a fun energy and wit about it," Scott Talan, a social media expert at American University, tells Mental Floss.

But don't wait too long: Replies lose their punch after a day or so. “Speed is integral to wit, whether in real life or screen life,” Talan says. “If you’re trying to be witty and have that reputation, then speed will help you."

Some companies have excelled in deploying savage social media burns as marketing strategies, winning viral retweets and recognition. The Wendy’s Twitter account has become so well known for its sassy replies that users often provoke it. “Bet you won’t follow me @Wendys,” a user challenged. “You won that bet,” Wendy’s immediately shot back.

George Costanza learns that lesson when he uses his rehearsed comeback at the next meeting. After his colleague repeats his shrimp insult, George stands and proudly announces, “Oh yeah? Well, the jerk store called, and they’re running out of you!”

There’s silence—until his nemesis comes back with a lethal move: “What’s the difference? You’re their all-time best-seller.”

Amazon's Best Black Friday Deals: Tech, Video Games, Kitchen Appliances, Clothing, and More


This article contains affiliate links to products selected by our editors. Mental Floss may receive a commission for purchases made through these links.

Black Friday is finally here, and Amazon is offering great deals on kitchen appliances, tech, video games, and plenty more. We will keep updating this page as sales come in, but for now, here are the best Amazon Black Friday sales to check out.


Instant Pot/Amazon

- Instant Pot Duo Plus 9-in-115 Quart Electric Pressure Cooker; $90 (save $40)

- Keurig K-Cafe Special Edition; $190 (save $30)

- Ninja OS301 Foodi 10-in-1 Pressure Cooker and Air Fryer; $125 (save $75)

- Nespresso Vertuo Next Coffee and Espresso Machine by Breville; $120 (save $60)

- KitchenAid KSMSFTA Sifter with Scale Attachment; $95 (save $75)

- Keurig K-Mini Coffee Maker; $60 (save $20)

- Cuisinart Bread Maker; $80 (save $97)

- Anova Culinary Sous Vide Precision Cooker; $139 (save $60)

- Aicook Juicer Machine; $35 (save $15)

- JoyJolt Double Wall Insulated Espresso Mugs - Set of Two; $14 (save $10)

- Longzon Silicone Stretch Lids - Set of 14; $16 (save $11)

- HadinEEon Milk Frother; $37 (save $33)

Home Appliances


- iRobot Roomba 675 Robot Vacuum with Wi-Fi Connectivity; $179 (save $101)

- ASAKUKI 500ml Premium Essential Oil Diffuser; $22 (save $4)

- Facebook Portal Smart Video Calling 10 inch Touch Screen Display with Alexa; $129 (save $50)

- Bissell air320 Smart Air Purifier with HEPA and Carbon Filters; $280 (save $50)

- Oscillating Quiet Cooling Fan Tower; $59 (save $31)

- TaoTronics PTC 1500W Fast Quiet Heating Ceramic Tower; $55 (save $10)

- Vitamix 068051 FoodCycler 2 Liter Capacity; $300 (save $100)

- Ring Video Doorbell; $70 (save $30)

Video games


- Marvel's Spider-Man: Game of The Year Edition for PlayStation 4; $20 (save $20)

- The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening; $40 (save $20)

- Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity; $50 (save $10)

- Marvel's Avengers; $25 (save $33)

- The Last of Us Part II for PlayStation 4; $30 (save $30)

- LEGO Harry Potter: Collection; $15 (save $15)

- Ghost of Tsushima; $40 (save $20)

- BioShock: The Collection; $20 (save $30)

- The Sims 4; $24 (save $20)

- God of Warfor PlayStation 4; $10 (save $10)

- Days Gonefor PlayStation 4; $20 (save $6)

- Luigi's Mansion 3 for Nintendo Switch; $40 (save $20)

Computers and tablets


- New Apple MacBook Pro 16 inches with 512 GB; $2149 (save $250)

- Microsoft Surface Laptop 3 with 13.5 inch Touch-Screen; $1200 (save $400)

- Lenovo ThinkPad T490 Laptop; $889 (save $111)

- Amazon Fire HD 10 Tablet (64GB); $120 (save $70)

- Amazon Fire HD 10 Kids Edition Tablet (32 GB); $130 (save $70)

- Apple iPad Mini (64 GB); $335 (save $64)

- Vankyo MatrixPad S2 Tablet; $120 (save $10)

Tech, gadgets, and TVs


- Apple Watch Series 3 with GPS; $120 (save $79)

- Seneo Wireless Charger, 3 in 1 Wireless Charging Station; $16 (save $10)

- SAMSUNG 75-inch Class Crystal 4K Smart TV; $998 (save $200)

- Nixplay 2K Smart Digital Picture Frame 9.7 Inch Silver; $238 (save $92)

- All-New Amazon Echo Dot with Clock and Alexa (4th Gen); $39 (save $21)

- MACTREM LED Ring Light 6" with Tripod Stand; $16 (save $3)

- Amazon Fire TV Stick with Alexa Voice Remote; $28 (save $12)

- DR. J Professional HI-04 Mini Projector; $93 (save $37)

Headphones and speakers


- Beats Solo3 Wireless On-Ear Headphones; $120 (Save $80)

- Apple AirPods Pro; $169 (save $50)

- Anker Soundcore Upgraded Bluetooth Speaker; $22 (save $8)

- Powerbeats Pro Wireless Earphones; $175 (save $75)

- JBL Boombox; $280 (save $120)

Movies and TV


- Game of Thrones: The Complete Series; $115 (save $89)

- Jurassic World 5-Movie Set; $23 (save $37)

- Deadwood: The Complete Series; $42 (save $28)

- Back to the Future Trilogy; $15 (save $21)

Toys and Games


- Awkward Family Photos Greatest Hits; $15 (save $10)

- Exploding Kittens Card Game; $10 (save $10)

- Cards Against Humanity: Hidden Gems Bundle; $14 (save $5)

- LOL Surprise OMG Remix Pop B.B. Fashion Doll; $29 (save $6)

- LEGO Ideas Ship in a Bottle 92177 Expert Building Kit; $56 (save $14)



- Casper Sleep Element Queen Mattress; $476 (save $119)

- ZINUS Alexis Deluxe Wood Platform Bed Frame; $135 (save $24)

- ROMOON Dresser Organizer with 5 Drawers; $59 (save $11) 

- AmazonBasics Room Darkening Blackout Window Curtains; $26 (save $5)

- Writing Desk by Caffoz; $119 (save $21)

- SPACE Seating Office Support Managers Chair; $112 (save $116)

- Rivet Globe Stick Table Lamp; $53 (save $17)

- Christopher Knight Home Merel Mid-Century Modern Club Chair; $188 (save $10)

- Walker Edison Furniture Industrial Rectangular Coffee Table; $121 (save $48)



- MySmile Teeth Whitening Kit with LED Light; $21 (save $12) 

- Cliganic USDA Organic Lip Balms Set of Six; $6 (save $4)

- HAUS LABORATORIES By Lady Gaga: LE RIOT LIP GLOSS; $7 (save $11)

- Native Deodorant for Men and Women Set of Three; $25 (save $11) 

- BAIMEI Rose Quartz Jade Roller & Gua Sha; $14 (save $3)

- Honest Beauty Clearing Night Serum with Pure Retinol and Salicylic Acid; $20 (save $8)

- WOW Apple Cider Vinegar Shampoo and Hair Conditioner Set; $30 (save $5) 

- La Roche-Posay Effaclar Purifying Foaming Gel Cleanser; $15 (save $5)

- wet n wild Bretman Rock Shadow Palette; $9 (save $6)

- EltaMD UV Daily Tinted Face Sunscreen Moisturizer with Hyaluronic Acid; $25 (save $6)



- Ganni Women's Crispy Jacquard Dress; $200 (save $86) 

- The Drop Women's Maya Silky Slip Skirt; $36 (save $9)

- Steve Madden Women's Editor Boot; $80 (save $30)

- adidas Women's Roguera Cross Trainer; $40 (save $25)

- Line & Dot Women's Elizabeth Sweater; $74 (save $18)

- Levi's Men's Sherpa Trucker Jacket; $57 (save $41)

- Adidas Men's Essentials 3-Stripes Tapered Training Joggers Sweatpants; $28 (save $12)

- Timex Men's Weekender XL 43mm Watch; $32 (save $20)

- Ray-Ban Unisex-Adult Hexagonal Flat Lenses Sunglasses; $108 (save $46) 

- Reebok Men's Flashfilm Train Cross Trainer; $64 (save $16)

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50 Famous Company Acronyms All Spelled Out

There’s more to creating a successful company than simply coming up with a catchy name. While brand names can be incredibly effective at enhancing a company’s public image and building customer recognition, they don’t always describe exactly what the company does or its history.

Instead of choosing descriptive names, many organizations choose to be known by simple acronyms or abbreviations so that they are easy to remember in the minds of consumers. While you might know all of the brands and companies on this list, do you know what all those letters actually stand for?

1. BMW

The white and blue BMW logo
Jacques Demarthon, AFP/Getty Images

You may know a BMW better as a Bimmer (yes, that is the official way you spell it). But if you’ve ever wondered what the luxury German car’s name stands for, it’s Bayerische Motoren Werke in German, which translates to "Bavarian Motor Works" in English.

The company was originally founded in Munich, Germany in 1916—when its main business was manufacturing airplane engines. Though the brand is booming today, that wasn’t always the case. In the late 1950s, it was on the brink of bankruptcy and almost sold out to Daimler-Benz—the parent company of Mercedes, their biggest competitor.

2. L.L. Bean

A man surrounded by LL Bean boxes.
Joe Raedle, Getty Images

Founded in 1912, L.L. Bean is one of the oldest retail store chains in the United States. This company is named for its founder, Leon Leonwood Bean. While Bean founded the company in his home state of Maine, it has since grown into a sprawling retail empire, with locations across the United States as well as Canada.

Until the present day, L.L. Bean has retained its reputation for providing high quality outdoor gear. What’s more, its original location in Freeport, Maine, remains open to this day—complete with an indoor trout pond and freshwater aquarium.

3. CVS

Justin Sullivan, Getty Images

When it was founded in 1963, CVS originally stood for Consumer Value Stores. While it may now be widely known for being one of America’s largest pharmacy chains, CVS did not originally provide pharmaceutical services in its stores. This is because the company was originally established for the purpose of selling health and beauty products. Only in 1967 did CVS take the leap of faith and begin setting up locations with pharmacy departments. In 1969, CVS was sold to Melville Corporation, and in 1996, it officially became known as CVS Corporation.

4. YKK

As the world’s largest zipper manufacturer, you've probably had many items of clothing that feature zippers with the YKK branding throughout your life. But have you ever stopped to think about what YKK stands for? In Japanese, that would be Yoshida Kogyo Kabushikikaisha, which translates to Yoshida Manufacturing Corporation in English. The first word is the last name of the founder, Tadao Yoshida, who established YKK in Tokyo, Japan all the way back in 1934.

5. A&W

Scott Olson, Getty Images

If you’ve ever spent any time in the state of Kentucky, you’ve no doubt heard of this all-American restaurant franchise—and more than likely eaten there. Founded in Lodi, California, in 1919, the A and W of A&W represent the last names of this fast-food franchise’s founders, Roy Allen and Frank Wright. With its headquarters currently located in Lexington, Kentucky, A&W is beloved for its scrumptious burgers, draft root beer, and root beer floats. Today, there are more than 1200 A&W locations spread out across the United States and Canada.

6. M&M'S

Spencer Platt, Getty Images

Whether you prefer the classic milk chocolate or peanut versions or newer flavors such as pretzel or hazelnut, you’ve probably indulged in your fair share of M&M’s from your local convenience store. M&M’s stands for Mars and Murrie, the last name of company founders Forrest Mars, Sr. and Bruce Murrie. Having been founded approximately 80 years ago, these colorful candies filled with semi-sweet chocolate have enjoyed a long and respected reputation, becoming popular in more than 100 countries across the globe.

7. 3M

Koen van Weel, AFP/Getty Images

While 3M may be a multinational conglomerate corporation today, it started out as a humble mining venture back in 1902. Established in the city of Two Harbors, Minnesota, 3M was the brainchild of business partners John Dwan, Hermon Cable, Henry Bryan, and William A. McGonagle. Originally called the Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing Company, the company’s legal name was changed to 3M Company in 2002. Simply put, this updated name is an abbreviation of its former moniker—which proved more suitable given the company’s expansion into other industries such as electronics, energy, and health care.


Miguel Medina, AFP/Getty Images

With its total assets exceeding a whopping $2.7 trillion, HSBC is one of the largest banks in the world today. But just where does this investment bank’s name come from? While this multinational corporation’s headquarters may be in London today, HSBC actually stands for Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation.

Having first opened branches in Shanghai in 1965, HSBC decided to become a group holding company in 1991, when it also decided to establish its headquarters in London. Today, this banking giant has more than 3900 offices in 65 countries around the world.



Opened by Frank D. Hickingbotham in Little Rock, Arkansas, in 1981, TCBY grew to become one of America’s most beloved chains of soft-serve frozen yogurt stores. With more than 470 locations across the United States, TCBY stands for The Country's Best Yogurt. While this name might seem to have been conceived in order to reflect the company’s vision, it actually came about due to a dispute over the company’s original name. Previously named This Can't Be Yogurt, TCBY was sued by a rival frozen yogurt chain, I Can't Believe It's Yogurt!, which was founded four years before TCBY. Hence the name change.


Scott Olson, Getty Images

One of the largest store chains in the United States, Kmart was founded in 1899 by budding Pennsylvania-born entrepreneur Sebastian Spering Kresge. Originally known as the S. S. Kresge Corporation, the company changed its name to Kmart in 1977. As you probably guessed, Kmart is not, in fact, a place to shop for Ks; the K is for Kresge. Today, you can pop into any Kmart for a wide variety of toys, furniture, bedding, technology, sports gear, and more.

11. DSW

Emmanuel Dunand, AFP/Getty Images

As a product of Designer Brands Inc., this American fashion retailer has gone through several changes in ownership. Founded in 1969, the company was originally called Shonac Corporation. Fast forward to 2004 and the company was acquired by Retail Ventures. While it already had several brick-and-mortar stores, the company launched its e-commerce website in 2008, called DSW. This name simply stands for Designer Shoe Warehouse. In addition to name-brand shoes and fashion accessories, some of DSW’s stores have in-store nail salons. Today, the company’s corporate name is simply Designer Brands.


Drew Angerer, Getty Images

JCPenney was founded by James Cash Penney. With a name like that, he was destined to go into the world of business. While Penney originally operated multiple dry goods stores in Colorado and Wyoming, he decided to purchase all of these stores and unite them under the JCPenney banner.

From his headquarters in Salt Lake City, Utah, Penney set out to create a department store empire. Today, with more than 840 locations in the United States and Puerto Rico, JCPenney is best known for its home decor, bedding, clothing, and jewelry collections.

13. FIAT

FIAT logo
Joe Raedle, Getty Images

Established in 1899 in the famed city of Turin in Northern Italy, the FIAT automotive company is one of the most esteemed vehicle manufacturers worldwide. FIAT originally stood for Fabbrica Italiana Automobili Torino, which translates, appropriately, to "Italian automobile factory of Turin." Since its birth, FIAT has taken the motor world by storm, releasing classic models such as the 1932 Balilla Spider, the 1952 Fiat 8V, and the 1972 Dino 2400 Coupé. Today, the FIAT holding company—Fiat Chrysler Automobiles—includes automotive brands such as Alfa Romeo, Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep, Maserati, and Ram Trucks in its lineup.


Fred Dufour, AFP/Getty Images

While you’ll probably be familiar with the widely used self-defence device, you might not have realized that the device is actually named after its manufacturer. Founded in 1991, TASER International was established with one goal in mind: To provide everyday people with the tools they need to protect themselves from harm. The name TASER comes from Tom Swift and His Electric Rifle, a 1911 science fiction novel by Victor Appleton that imagined an electric gun. Naturally, this name was used because the device from the book served as the inspiration for the real-life TASER.


Smart car
Sean Gallup, Getty Images

Designed with great handling and fuel efficiency in mind, you might be surprised to learn that the Smart in this case is not actually a synonym for intelligent. Instead, the smart in Smart Cars is short for Swatch Mercedes Art. This name came about because this line of compact vehicles is the product of a collaboration between Swatch and Mercedes-Benz, or more accurately Mercedes’s holding company Daimler AG. Today, vehicles belonging to this German automotive brand are available across Asia, Europe, Australia, and North and South America.



While it might be a plain-looking five-digit number, the establishment of the ZIP Code was actually instrumental in revolutionizing the United States Postal Service (USPS). The "ZIP" in this name stands for Zone Improvement Plan.

Conceived in 1963, the ZIP Code was introduced in order to provide towns, cities, and other districts across the country with distinct identification numbers. This was done in order to improve the efficiency and reliability of the USPS. Nearly 50 years later, the ZIP Code system continues to be successfully used for package deliveries today.


American flag

Considering that this act was written into law in order to defend the United States against terrorist attacks, one might think that the “Patriot Act” is a fitting name for this statute. You might be surprised to learn, however, that the entire name is an acronym. This acronym stands for "Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism." While its full name might not be easy to remember, the consequences of the Act—such as the tapping of phone lines—have been far-reaching across the nation.

18. EOS

Sebastian Reuter, Getty Images for OuterInsight

Established in 2006, this diverse beauty and skincare company rose to prominence thanks to its delightful spherical lip balms. Since becoming a popular brand, eos—which is short for Evolution of Smooth—expanded its product offerings to include lotions, shaving creams, and other beauty and skincare products. Celebrated for designing colorful, minimalist packaging targeted at women, several celebrities have been known to endorse this brand, including Kim Kardashian and Miley Cyrus.

19. MAC

MAC Cosmetics store
Andreas Rentz, Getty Images

Established in 1984, Canadian makeup brand MAC (stylized as M·A·C) stands for Make-up Art Cosmetics (saying MAC Cosmetics is technically redundant). This is largely due to the fact that it was founded by makeup artist and photographer Frank Toskan and salon owner Frank Angelo with the goal of creating cosmetics that photographed well. Today, M·A·C is a subsidiary of the Estée Lauder Companies.


Refrigerators in a P.C. Richard & Son
Mario Tama, Getty Images

This is the largest chain of private, family-owned appliance, electronics and mattress stores across the United States. P.C. Richard & Son has a rich and extensive history, having been founded in Brooklyn, New York in 1909. Quite plainly, this store was named after its founder Peter Christian Richard. Coincidentally, Richard’s son A.J. was born that very same year. With A.J. spending his childhood helping out at the store before deciding to join the business full time, his father decided to add “& Son” to the store’s name in honor of A.J.

21. REI

an REI store
Kena Betancur, AFP/Getty Images

REI is an acronym for Recreational Equipment, Inc. Founded in 1938 by Lloyd and Mary Anderson in Seattle, Washington, the store was named for the couple’s goal of providing outdoor enthusiasts with high-quality climbing gear at reasonable prices. While this franchise has grown to include more than 165 locations today, its success is not just limited to the retail sector. In 2006, REI launched the Outdoor School, a series of one-day outings as well as in-store classes.

22. H&M

Sean Gallup, Getty Images

As one of the largest fashion retailers in the United States, you might be surprised to learn that H&M is not in fact an American retail giant, but Swedish. The company started in 1947 as women's fashion retailer Hennes, Swedish for "Hers." In 1968, they acquired hunting apparel and fishing equipment retailer Mauritz Widforss and the name became Hennes & Mauritz. In 1974, it was simplified to just H&M. Since its latest branding evolution, the H&M Group has grown to include more than 5000 stores spanning 74 countries.

23. IBM

Alexander Koerner, Getty Images

Founded in Endicott, New York, in 1911 as the Computing Tabulating Recording Company, IBM has constantly evolved in order to remain competitive in an ever-changing market. While this company originally focused on manufacturing commercial scales and tabulators, it shifted its focus to more advanced tabulating tools, thus calling for a name change.

The technology company formally changed its name to IBM, which stands for International Business Machines, in 1924. Since then, it has been at the forefront of producing printers, keyboards, personal computers, and nowadays, innovation through the IBM Cloud and AI technology.

24. D.A.R.E.

Lance Cpl. Samantha Foster, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Established in 1983, D.A.R.E. is an educational program dedicated to teaching students how to resist drugs, avoid gang membership, and prevent themselves from becoming involved in violent behavior. Its name is an acronym for Drug Abuse Resistance Education. It also works as part of the motto "D.A.R.E. to resist drugs and violence," which was emblazoned on T-shirts that became a fad in the '90s.


Mike Mozart, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

No matter where in the United States you travel to, you’re bound to come across the GEICO Gecko at some point, whether or billboards, posters, or television ad campaigns. This charming gecko is the mascot of GEICO, an auto insurance company headquartered in Maryland. While it may seem odd, GEICO stands for Government Employees Insurance Company. Why? Well, when GEICO first started, it was targeted to U.S. government employees and military personnel. Today, GEICO is one of the largest auto insurers in America, catering to more than 15 million policyholders.


Established in 1901, NECCO was one of the longest-operating candy manufacturers in the United States. While it may now be defunct, NECCO was one of the most influential confectionary companies of the 20th century. Its name stands for the New England Confectionery Company, which refers to the company’s proud roots in Revere, Massachusetts. Sweethearts Conversation Hearts, the Clark Bar, Haviland Thin Mints, and, of course, NECCO Wafers are just some of NECCO’s flagship products that took America by storm.


FAO Schwarz
Jewel Samad, AFP/Getty Images

Founded in Baltimore, Maryland in 1862, few toy stores in the United States have a more esteemed reputation than FAO Schwarz. The German-born American entrepreneur Frederick August Otto Schwarz founded the legendary toy store, naming it after himself in the process. While America’s oldest toy store closed its doors in 2015, it announced its revival in 2017 to the delight of its many adoring fans. FAO Schwarz has made a grand return to New York City where you can visit it at 30 Rockefeller Plaza.

28. DHL

DHL truck
Sean Gallup, Getty Images

Experts in courier services and express mail, DHL delivers more than 1.3 billion parcels each year. While it may now be a division of the German logistics company Deutsche Post DHL, this shipping and transportation company has American roots, having been founded in San Francisco in 1969. DHL is named for its founders: Adrian Dalsey, Larry Hillblom, and Robert Lynn. Today, DHL owns five subsidiaries, including several cargo airlines, that make their courier services even more efficient.

29. JBL

JBL iPod speaker
William B. Plowman, Getty Images

If you’ve ever been in the market for high-quality audio equipment such as loudspeakers, radios, or even headsets, chances are you’ve come across your fair share of JBL merchandise. The speaker company was founded in 1946 by James B. Lansing, during which time its full name was James B. Lansing Sound, Incorporated. After a legal dispute about their name, the company decided to go by "JBL." This move proved to be a great marketing choice, as JBL is still cherished for the role it played as the sound provider for iconic music festivals such as Woodstock in 1969.

30. ALF


Having spawned plenty of toys, clothing, and other fan merchandise, this popular character from the ‘80s came from the 1986 sitcom ALF. This series follows Gordon Shumway, an extraterrestrial being whose nickname is an acronym for Alien Life Form. Upon crash-landing his spaceship into the garage of the Tanner family home, Gordon is offered the chance to live as a guest among this hospitable family. During his time on earth, ALF makes many observations about the bizarre behavior of human beings.

31. UPS

Scott Olson, Getty Images

Right up there with the likes of FedEx and DHL is UPS, a global shipping and logistics services company. Founded in 1907 as the American Messenger Company, this business was the creation of James Casey and Claude Ryan. Specializing in package delivery to retail stores, this business’s largest client was none other than the United States Postal Service. After merging with another company, the business’s name was changed to Merchants Parcel Delivery, before ultimately becoming UPS in 1919. UPS stands for United Parcel Service. (The company's full name is United Parcel Service of America.)

32. E.L.F.

Shantel Jang, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Founded by Joseph Shamah and Scott Vincent Borba in 2004, e.l.f. Cosmetics is known for its cruelty-free products as well as its support of PETA’s no fur campaign. This makeup brand's name isn't referring to the mythical creature—e.l.f. is an acronym for eyes, lips, face. While this name might seem fairly basic, it certainly is descriptive, given e.l.f.’s wide range of products, including bath and skin-care products, mineral-based makeup, glosses, blushes, mascaras, and so much more. Since its inception, e.l.f. has developed a stellar reputation for its stylish yet affordable beauty products.

33. PAM


If you consider yourself to be a fairly decent chef in your spare time, then you’ve probably coated your frying pans with this well-known cooking spray. Introduced in 1961, this canola oil-based spray is one of the most popular cooking and baking products in American households, as well as in many other countries. But the cooking spray isn't named after a person. Rather, PAM serves as an acronym for Product of Arthur Meyerhoff, the founder of PAM Products, Inc.

34. BJ'S

Jeff Fusco, Getty Images

BJ’s Wholesale Club is one of America’s favorite membership-only warehouse clubs, with 200 locations across the country. This company was started in 1984, by the now-defunct discount department store chain Zayre in Massachusetts. The new company’s first president, Mervyn Weich, decided to name BJ’s Wholesale Club in honor of his daughter, Beverly Jean Weich. This wholesale warehouse chain is loved for its wide variety of products, ranging from electronics to furniture, toys, clothing, and sporting goods, as well as its many special benefits offered to its members.



When signing into an online account or registering for a new service, you’ve probably encountered those challenges that require you to type in words that appear in an image or click on specific images. The reason for these seemingly time-wasting exercises is to distinguish human computer users from bots. So, the next time that you are required to type in a code for security purposes, remember that its name stands for Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart.


Dia Dipasupil, Getty Images

When it comes to the supplemental insurance game, few brands are more recognizable than AFLAC. This is primarily due to the talking duck that features so prominently in both its advertising campaigns as well as its logo. This marketing effort clearly paid off, as AFLAC is currently America’s largest provider of supplemental insurance. The American Family Life Insurance Company of Columbus was founded in 1955, later altering the name to the American Family Life Assurance Company, and the acronym Aflac was adopted in 1989.

37. O.P.I.

Astrid Stawiarz, Getty Images for ELLE Magazine

Founded in Calabasas, California in 1981, this nail polish giant started out as a small dental supply company, called Odontorium Products Inc. After operating the company on his own, George Schaeffer partnered up with entrepreneur Suzi Weiss-Fischmann (who then became OPI’s artistic director) and biochemist R. Eric Montgomery to create a nail acrylic system that proved to be a hit with local nail salons. This saw the company evolve into a highly-respected nail polish brand, which they then rebranded as OPI Products (stylized as O·P·I)—thus keeping the original name’s initials while creating a suitable name for this budding new retail operation.

38. L.E.I.

l.e.i. jeans

Girls who grew up in the '90s and '00s will remember the denim label l.e.i. (which still exists). Founded in 1989, l.e.i., which was marketed exclusively to teens and young adults, stands for Life Energy Intelligence. This brand continues to live by its sworn statement—namely, to provide teenage girls with stylish clothes and a "hint of attitude". The brand's clothing is sold at Walmart along with an array of online stores. Since its inception, its product range has been rapidly expanded to include jewelry, sunglasses, handbags, and lingerie.

39. HTC

HTC Vive VR headset
Tomohiro Ohsumi, Getty Images

This consumer electronics giant was founded in Taiwan in 1997. HTC began as an original design manufacturer of laptop computers, mobile phones, and some of the world’s first touchscreen and wireless handheld devices. As a pioneer in its field, HTC was the first company to release a smartphone running on the Android operating system—the HTC Dream. While HTC is frequently cited as standing for High Tech Computer Company (yes, there's only one "C" in the initialism), many people can point out the coincidence of the co-founder’s name being HT Cho.

40. WWE

John Cena with WWE background
Ethan Miller, Getty Images

Plenty of people have fond memories of watching the many bone-crunching WWE wrestling matches on TV, along with indulging in merchandise such as the WWE video games and action figures. WWE is a pretty straightforward initialism of World Wrestling Entertainment, Inc., however this was not always the name of the world’s most popular entertainment-based wrestling franchise.

At its inception, the WWE was actually established as the WWF—the World Wrestling Federation. The name was changed in 2002, when the wrestling corporation lost a lawsuit with the World Wildlife Fund over the WWF trademark. The lawsuit aside, the WWE was also glad to change its name so that its new branding could focus on the “entertainment” aspect of its programming.

41. WWF

paper lantern with WWF logo
Filippo Monteforte, AFP/Getty Images

We now come to the WWE’s former namesake—the world’s leading organization in wildlife conservation and the protection of endangered species. Founded in 1961, the WWF, with its iconic giant panda logo, stands for World Wildlife Fund in the U.S. and Canada. In other markets, it stands for World Wide Fund for Nature. The WWF, which is Involved in more than 3000 conservation and environmental projects in 100-plus countries, is currently the world’s largest conservation organization. Some of its groundbreaking campaigns include Earth Hour and the Debt-for-Nature Swap.

42. ESPN

People arrive at the Invictus Games Orlando 2016
Chris Jackson, Getty Images for Invictus Games

Established in 1979, ESPN was founded by sports director Bill Rasmussen and his son Scott, along with Ed Egan. Broadcasting from its studios in Bristol, Connecticut, ESPN broadcasts live sporting events from across the United States and the world. The company’s full name is Entertainment and Sports Programming Network. In addition to live sports, ESPN has achieved widespread popularity over the years thanks to its groundbreaking journalism and behind-the-scenes footage, along with talk shows such as its flagship show, SportsCenter. Today, you can enjoy ESPN on a variety of platforms, including their website, streaming services such as Hulu, and the video streaming subscription service ESPN+.

43. LG

LG logo
Pau Barrena, AFP/Getty Images

Founded in 1985, the LG Corporation is a South Korean electronics manufacturer that has grown to become one of the largest multinational conglomerate corporations worldwide. Back in its early days, LG used to stand for Lucky-Goldstar, seeing as this corporation was formed as a merger between two pre-existing companies—Lak Hui and GoldStar Co. Ltd. Today, the company’s name seems to stand for "Life's Good"—the brand’s world-famous slogan. In addition to manufacturing premium quality electronics and appliances, LG has become a sponsor for a multitude of major sporting events, ranging from Formula One to the Copa America soccer tournament.


Unicef banner

An initiative of the United Nations, the UNICEF nonprofit agency was established with the goal of providing humanitarian aid to children across the world. UNICEF is an acronym for United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund. As its mandate changed, this agency became the United Nations Children's Fund. Today, UNICEF’s operations range from providing treatment to children and mothers with HIV, improving sanitation, providing emergency relief in times of natural disasters, and promoting education in underdeveloped areas across the globe.

45. NBC

NBC logo
Michael Nagle, Getty Images

Founded in 1926, NBC is recognized globally by its colorful peacock-inspired logo. Aside from its distinctive branding and famous headquarters at 30 Rockefeller Plaza in New York City, NBC also happens to be the oldest existing television network in the United States. The NBC name is short for National Broadcasting Company. NBC continues to be revered for its world-class programming, ranging from comedy classics such as Saturday Night Live, Friends, and Seinfeld to modern hits such as America's Got Talent and The Blacklist.

46. ABC

ABC logo
Mario Tama, Getty Images

While it might sound like the start of the alphabet song, ABC’s name has a far different meaning. This multinational broadcasting company, which happens to be a property of Walt Disney Television, has been in business since 1927—one year after the establishment of its programming rival, NBC. ABC is an abbreviation of American Broadcasting Company. As one of America’s leading broadcasting companies, ABC has gained traction with its wide variety of daytime talk shows such as The View along with long-running primetime series such as Grey's Anatomy and Modern Family.

47. CBS

CBS headquarters
Andrew Burton, Getty Images

Founded in 1927 as a radio network, CBS entered the realm of television broadcasting in 1947, which amazingly makes it one of America’s younger broadcasting networks. CBS is an abbreviation of the company's former full name: Columbia Broadcasting System. In 1974, it became known as simply "CBS."

Headquartered in the CBS Building (also known as Black Rock) in New York City, this broadcasting giant offers an unbeatable assortment of programming, ranging from primetime television to popular talk shows, holiday programming, and of course, CBS News.

48. CNN

CNN building
David McNew, Newsmakers

Founded in 1980, this groundbreaking news network aired the first ever 24-hour news channel in television history, as well as becoming the first all-news TV channel in the United States. CNN, which stands for Cable News Network, took cable television by storm, eventually expanding its new coverage to other platforms such as its wildly popular website and its YouTube channel. Beyond breaking news, CNN also has its own film division, called CNN Films, which is focused on producing informative documentaries.


H&R Block
Joe Raedle, Getty Images

Established in 1955, this American tax preparation company was the product of two brothers hailing from Kansas City, Missouri. In addition to being a tax preparation giant in the domestic market, H&R Block also operates in several other countries, such as Australia and Canada. This company has expanded dramatically in recent years, following its strategic alliance with accounting software company Xero and its partnership with Walmart. Having been founded by brothers Henry W. Bloch and Richard Bloch, the origins of this company name is fairly obvious.

50. YMCA

 gym scene showing gymastics, climbing, and Indian club swinging being practiced. Young Men's Christian Association (YMCA) gymnasium, Longacre, London, wood engraving, c. 1888. Opened by the Prince of Wales on June 16, 1888.
Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

Often referred to as simply the Y, the YMCA was founded as the Young Men's Christian Association in London in 1844 with the goal of creating a space where Christian men could better develop their "body, mind, and spirit" with Christian values in mind. The idea gained popularity rather quickly, and YMCAs began popping up all around the world. Today, more than 64 million people take advantage of the organization's many services. While the YMCA organization itself is now headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland, it operates facilities in 120 countries around the world.