Now, the VOA Learning English program, Words and Their Stories.
Different people have different ways of saying things – their own special expressions. Each week we tell about some popular American expressions.
What you are listening to is a call for help. It is the Morse code distress signal S.O.S. For years, telegraph operators used Morse code to communicate across the country and around the world.
A skilled operator could send and receive 30 or 40 words a minute. In the language of Morse code, the letter "S" is three short dots and the letter "O" is three longer dashes. Put them together and you have S.O.S.
These sounds represent the international call for help because they are easy to recognize. Now, it is simply known as S.O.S.
But many people think that S.O.S. stands for "Save Our Ship" or "Save Our Souls." It does not. S.O.S. has come to mean that because of how we use it – when we need to be saved, as when a ship is sinking.
但是很多人认为，S.O.S.代表的是"Save Our Ship" or "Save Our Souls." 不是这样。S.O.S.代表这层意思是因为我们如何使用它，例如当一艘船正在下沉我们需要被救援时。
S.O.S. is an example of a new, if somewhat unofficial, word in the English language. We call it a backronym. A backronym is a combination of two words: backward and acronym.
An acronym is an abbreviation, a shorter version of a long word or expression. For example, the word "scuba" is an acronym. It stands for self-contained underwater breathing apparatus. But scuba is so much easier to say!
Acronym是指首字母缩略词，是一个长的单词或短语的缩写。例如，scuba这个单词就是首字母缩略词，它代表的是self-contained underwater breathing apparatus。但是scuba说起来就容易得多。
Backronyms, on the other hand, are built in the opposite way. They are made by creating a phrase or expression for an already existing word or acronym.
For example, the United States Department of Justice recently gave new meaning to its Amber Alert program. Now, Amber officially stands for "America's Missing: Broadcast Emergency Response." But the program was originally named for Amber Hagerman, a nine-year-old girl who was kidnapped and murdered in Texas in 1996.
例如，美国司法部最近赋予其安珀警报计划（Amber Alert program）新的意义。现在Amber正式代表“美国失踪案紧急广播响应。”但是该计划最初得名于1996年德克萨斯州被绑架谋杀的一位9岁小女孩Amber Hagerman。
Sometimes, backronyms come from outdated language. Writing "CC" at the end of a document once meant "carbon copy." Before computers and email, people would often make a carbon copy of a letter they sent on official business. These days we often send electronic copies of letters by email, not carbon copies. So, "CC" is now a backronym that means "courtesy copy"
Americans often use backronyms as jokes. For example, NASA, the U.S. space agency, named a treadmill on the International Space Station after the television personality Stephen Colbert. The agency created the name "Combined Operational Load-Bearing External Resistance Treadmill" to spell out the name COLBERT.
美国人经常利用反向缩略词来搞笑。例如，美国宇航局（简称为NASA）用电视名人斯蒂芬·科尔伯特（Stephen Colbert）来命名国际空间站上的跑步机。该机构创造了"Combined Operational Load-Bearing External Resistance Treadmill（组合式操作承重外部阻力跑步机）"这个名称来拼出COLBERT这个名字。
Who says scientists lack a sense of humor?
Do not worry if you have never heard of backronyms. Many Americans have not either. The earliest known use of "backronym" appeared in The Washington Post in 1983.
The newspaper asked readers to send in a new word. Editors picked Meredith G. Williams as the winner with her word, "backronym," spelled with or without a "k." She defined backronym, as the "same as an acronym, except that the words were chosen to fit the letters."
该报让读者提出一个新单词。编辑选择了梅雷迪思·G·威廉姆斯（Meredith G. Williams）为胜出者。她的单词是backronym，拼写时有没有k都行。她定义backronym为“和缩略语相同，但是所选择的单词是为了对应这个字母。”
And that brings us to the end of this Words and Their Stories program.
I'm Anna Matteo.