PHP is a web programming language used on over 20,000,000 sites worldwide including Wikipedia, Yahoo, and parts of Facebook. It’s also the backbone for the popular publishing products WordPress and Drupal. So what does this three letter acronym stand for? The answer is a bit surprising:

PHP = PHP Hypertext Processor

It’s called a recursive acronym, one in which the first letter represents the acronym itself. The pattern has roots dating back to the 70’s when a few MIT programmers thought it would be amusing to name their programs in such a way. From this era we have the Open Source operating system GNU, or GNU is Not Unix, and the EMACS editor, which prefers to define itself via user submissions (e.g., “Emacs Manuals Are Cryptic and Surreal”). There are others. The popular image format PNG stands for PNG is Not Gif. Commercial entities are guilty of this too, including SAAB and VISA (though I suspect error over cleverness in those cases).

It makes me wish BLOG was an acronym — BLOG  = Blogs Link Online Geeks. Or even my own name: ANDREW = Andrew’s Needless Diversions Rarely End Well.