An acronym is a word that is formed from the initial letter (or in some cases, letters) of successive words. Two well-known examples of acronyms are NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) or RADAR (RAdio Detection and Ranging). But what is the longest acronym in the English language? Lexicographer Robert Hendrickson notes that acronyms became prevalent during WWI. Both the military and the government began creating terms, procedures, and agencies (“alphabet agencies”) using acronyms. Over the years, creating and speaking in acronyms is now second-nature to military and government personnel. The medal for longest acronym goes to the U.S. Navy for creating this mouthful, containing 22 letters: ADCOMSUBORDCOMPHIBSPAC (Administrative Command, Amphibious Forces, Pacific Fleet Subordinate Command).
Not to be outdone by its long-time rival, Russia proved that it can be just as clever in the world of bureaucratic obfuscation, creating this 56-letter acronymic gem: NIIOMTPLABOPARMBETZHELBETRABSBOM
ONIMONKONOTDTEKHSTROMONT (translated into English: The laboratory for shuttering, reinforcement, concrete and ferroconcrete operations for composite-monolithic and monolithic constructions of the Department of the Technology of Building-assembly operations of the Scientific Research Institute of the Organization for building mechanization and technical aid of the Academy of Building and Architecture of the USSR). It is only a matter of time before the U.S. government one-ups that entry.
For further reading: Word and Phrase Origins by Robert Hendrickson, Facts on File (2008)