You might know the backstory behind some brand names — like that BMW stands for Bayerische Motoren Werke (or Bavarian Motor Works) or that CVS started as Consumer Value Stores. Look at you, smartypants. But what about LEGO? Or ASICS? LG, anyone?
There’s a whole world of company monikers waiting to be discovered, whether they’re acronyms or portmanteaus. Learn about them so you can thrill audiences at your next cocktail party or while practicing conversational skills during your nightly chat session with your cat.
Herewith then, 15 name mashups, acronyms or otherwise smushed together company names you never thought you needed explained.
Arby’s: This one’s a double dose of fun, so prepare yourselves. Back in Boardman, Ohio on July 23, 1964, Leroy and Forrest Raffel opened their first restaurant, serving up roast beef sandwiches with potato chips and iced tea. They were they brothers, and they were Raffels — the Raffel Brothers, or R.B. Say it with me now: Arr-bee’s. If customers want to think the R.B. means Roast Beef, well go for it.
Asus: You might think this computer company’s name is an acronym, but it’s really just a bit of a chop job. It’s named after Pegasus, a flying horse from Greek mythology. Not only that, but the remaining letters weren’t wasted — Pegatron was spun off from Asus in 2008.
ASICS: Finally, an actual acronym. The shoe company gets its name from the Latin phrase: Anima Sana In Corpore Sano, which loosely translated means “A Sound Mind in a Sound Body.” Because if your mind isn’ fit, your body’s gonna have a hard time catching up, perhaps.
Fiat: Another acronym that only works when you’re using its Italian name, which of course makes sense as it’s an Italian car company. Go figure! Anyway it works off Fabbrica Italiana Automobili Torino. In English that’s Italian Automobile Factory of Turin. Just so happens that the word “fiat” in English is an actual word, one that means “a command or act of will that creates something without or as if without further effort,” according to Merriam Webster and whoever teaches vocabulary in high school. Or an alternate meaning: “Fix it again, Tony!” according to my brother.
Garmin: Get ready for a mashup, ladies and gents. Garmin is named for its founders, Gary Burrell and Dr. Min Kao. Gar and Min, such a team, right? We see what you did there.
GEICO: You’ve seen the gecko yakking about 15-minute phone calls in ads and the doughy guy from the bakery company go through airport security, but Geico doesn’t actually mean anything on its own. It’s an acronym that stands for Government Employees Insurance Company. Its founder Leo Goodwin first aimed his insurance darts at U.S. government employees and military personnel.
Haribo: First of all, these are the absolute best gummy bears, in someone’s opinion that is definitely not me because I can’t choose candy sides. Second, the name is a combination of the founder and the company’s German hometown: Hans Riegel, Bonn. I’d also like to imagine there are gummy bears running free there, waiting for me to catch them nicely and eat them. I mean, not me. Someone else.
IKEA: Smash together Swedish founder Ingvar Kamprad’s initials along with the property and village where he grew up in Sweden and you’ve got it — Ingvar Kamprad Elmtaryd Agunnaryd. And here you thought it was just another made up name that sounds like a piece of furniture.
LEGO: This is a fun one, if I do say so myself. The word comes from the combination of Danish words “leg godt,” which means to “play well.” Interestingly enough, lego in Latin means to let go of someone’s waffle. Just kidding. It means “I put together,” but that’s just a coincidence, the company says. The company first manufactured wooden toys before the arrival of those multi-colored building blocks of childhood.
LG: The company that makes TVs and phones doesn’t stand for Life’s Good, not really. Shocked, right? But really, it stems from the combination of two brands popular in Korea back in the day, Lucky and its plastic company spinoff, GoldStar. Those initials go together and make — tada! LG.
Nabisco: Nowadays it’s part of Mondelez, but Nabisco started its snack reign on this earth in 1898 when the United States Baking Company, the New York Biscuit Company and the American Biscuit & Manufacturing Company joined forces to become The National Biscuit Company. In 1971 the company made the switch to Nabisco.
Saab: Your car doesn’t have wings but back in 1937 when Saab was founded, the Svenska Aeroplan aktiebolaget (Swedish Aeroplane Company) made airplanes to supply demand for the Royal Swedish Airforce in World War II.
Sprint: Sprint started out with a parent company called the Southern Pacific Railroad Internal Network Telecommunications. Back then it was common to use pipelines and railroad tracks to lay communications lines, because companies already owned those routes and could thus install phone lines along them.
Taser International: I sort of thought Tasers made a sound like “taaaaase!” when they’re used, but what do I know? They’re actually the product of a fictional weapon, Thomas A. Swift’s Electric Rifle, named after the novel Tom Swift and His Electric Rifle by Victor Appleton.
So there you go. Now get out there and start reciting all these facts in one big long string. It’ll be something to keep you occupied while everyone else is napping off that turkey.