25 Idiomatic Phrases That Include Single Initials
An initial letter, almost invariably capitalized, is often the first element in a two-word noun compound that constitutes an idiom. (Use of a connecting hyphen varies, and various sources may include or omit a hyphen.) Often, the letter stands for a word; occasionally, letters are used to assign priority (A and B, for example) or represent a shape. Here are common terms representing this form.
1. A side: a song released on a 45 rpm record, intended to become a hit single (see also “B side”)
2. A-bomb: a nuclear explosive device, from “atomic bomb”
3. A Level: a qualification for secondary school graduation originating in the United Kingdom and existing in other countries; the initial stands for advanced
4. A-game: used in the phrase “bring (one’s) A-game” to describe an A-player
5. A-player: an athlete—or, by extension, anyone else—who performs at a high level
6. B movie: originally, a low-budget movie that, with a more well-financed, well-publicized film, constitutes a double feature (a presentation of two movies at a movie theater); now, any low-budget commercial film
7. B side: originally, a song released on the flip side of a 45 rpm record opposite an intended hit single; such songs, either ones considered less likely to be popular or alternative versions of the A-side song, sometimes became hit singles in their own right (the term is now used to refer to a bonus track on a recording)
8. B-roll: supplemental film or video footage
9. C-section: a surgical incision to deliver a baby, from “caesarean section”
10. C-suite: collectively, the positions in a corporation constituting the highest level of management, from the first letter in the initials for “chief executive officer,” “chief operations officer,” “chief finance officer,” and so on
11. e-mail: a message delivered online from a digital device and accessed on another device, from “electronic mail” (recently supplanted by email in the Associated Press Style Book; formerly, E-mail); similar terms include e-business, e-commerce, and e-newsletter
12. F-hole: A sound hole in the surface of some stringed instruments, named for its shape (a stylized italic f); similar holes are designated C-holes and D-holes
13. f-stop: a value in optics of the ratio of a lens’s focal length to the diameter of the entrance pupil; the letter is an abbreviation of focal (alternative terms include f-ratio)
14. F-word: a euphemism for a specific form of profanity that begins with the letter f; the “[letter]-word” form is also used to refer to any serious or jocular vocabulary evasion, as in The L Word, the title of a television series about lesbians and bisexual women (similarly, some offensive terms that consist of compound words are disguised by eliding all but the first letter of the first element of the word and inserting a hyphen, as in a-hole)
15. G rated: a designation that represents evaluation of the content of a movie by the Motion Picture Association of America on the basis of its suitability for children; by extension, the phrase refers to family-friendly content or an inoffensive conversation or situation (associated terms are “R rated,” to refer to violent or sexually charged content and “X rated,” denoting obscene or sexually explicit content)
16. G-string: a garment, a type of thong, worn as underwear or in striptease, alternatively said to derive from girdle or groin; a similar item is called a V-string
17. H bomb: a nuclear explosive device, from “hydrogen bomb”
18. J-school: a journalism department or school at a university, from “journalism school”
19: O Level: a qualification for secondary school graduation originating but no longer widely used in the United Kingdom but extant in other countries; the initial stands for ordinary (the term in Scotland was “O Grade”)
20. S curve: a term used in engineering and mathematics to represent a function, or a term in fine art for a sinuous body position
21. T-bone: a cut of steak with a cross section of a bone that is shaped like the letter T
22. V-neck: a V-shaped cut in the neckline of a shirt or other garment
23. X-axis: a horizontal line in two-dimensional space, often used in charts and graphs
24. X-ray: a form of electromagnetic radiation
25. Y-axis: a vertical line in two-dimensional space, often used in charts and graphs
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