What did that stand for initially?

By DAVID MOON, Moon Capital Management, LLC
July 27, 2008

Several years ago, my young children thought Moon Capital Management occupied all 24 floors of the building in which our office is located. They just couldn't understand why I put the letters 'BB&T' on the top of my building.

When I finally explained it, they then wanted to know what the initials 'BB&T' stood for.

Good question.

Most 'initial names' of companies make no sense. NBC and ABC are in the same business. But what about CBS and CVS? Or PMS?

Some companies have numbers and letters, like 7-Eleven, or 3Com. Most everyone knows that 7-Eleven refers to the company's operating hours, but would you have guessed that 3Com is a shortened version of Computer Communication & Compatibility Corp.?

Like BB&T, financial services companies are well known for their acronyms.

UBS is a brokerage firm. UPS is a freight shipper. USB is that miracle port on your computer. Don't confuse these or you'll try stuffing an envelope full of stock certificates into your floppy drive.

HSBC is another financial services company: Hongkong & Shanghai Banking Corporation. I don't care where they're headquartered, financial services companies shouldn't have the word 'shanghai' in their names.

Financial services firm Le Cr'dit Lyonnais changed its name to LCL after being implicated in an international money-laundering scandal. Mysteriously, mounds of evidence disappeared in an unexplained fire, as did apparently the company's original name.

Do you have any idea what ABN AMRO does? It's one of the largest banks in Europe. Now it is splitting, so somebody's going to lose some letters.

Some initial names make practical sense. 'SAAB' is a much easier sell in the U.S. than 'Svenska Aeroplan Aktiebolaget.'

You should get a month's free text messages if you know that Sprint is the acronym for Southern Pacific Railroad INTernal Communications.

Despite what you heard in high school, Adidas is named after the company's founder, Adolf (Adi) Dassler (Das). It has nothing to do with day-dreaming. Reebok is named after an African antelope, the rhebok.

I know that BASF is the largest chemical company in the world, but I always feel like I'm almost cursing when I say the company's name.

The Smart car is a combination of the words Swatch, Mercedes and ART.

M&M is an OK name for a candy, I suppose. Even at Halloween, people probably don't confuse it with S&M. Most people would probably guess that the first M stands for Mars (Forrest Mars, founder of the Mars candy company), but only an employee of the company might know that the second M is Mars' partner Bruce Murrie.

By the way, the original moniker of North Carolina-based BB&T was Branch Banking & Trust. CBS was originally Columbia Broadcasting System, and CVS is short for Convenience Value Service.

Which brings us to Kentucky Fried Chicken. One popular theory is that the company has rebranded as KFC to distance itself from the unhealthy connotations of the word 'fried.' Its recent ads suggest that KFC stands for Kentucky Fresh Chicken. Yeah, right. Maybe I've just overlooked all the feathers behind the drive-through window.

David Moon is president of Moon Capital Management, a Knoxville-based investment management firm. This article originally appeared in the News Sentinel (Knoxville, TN).

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