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In Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find them, we learn about the Magical Congress of the United States of America (shortened MACUSA).

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Indeed they abbreviate it to this acronym in common speech (pronounced "Ma-koo-za"), but is heavily implied to be an official abbreviation, much like SWAT (Special Weapons and Tactics) and Navy SEALs (Sea Air Land), both in and out of universe.

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Where is the first A in MACUSA coming from (i.e. obviously from Magical, but how come it gets away with using the letter A when it isn't an initial for one of the words that it's abbreviating)? Is there an official reason or out-of-universe explanation?

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    Um, MAgical by any chance? – Napoleon Wilson Nov 21 '16 at 15:28
  • @NapoleonWilson My question is why MACUSA and not MCUSA, it seems odd for an acronym to randomly add a letter that isn't an initial, but I explained in my own answer (thanks to some deeper reading into acronyms) that there isn't a standardized ruleset for making acronyms. – Ghoti and Chips Nov 21 '16 at 15:47
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    Because it speaks much better as a word, as you realized, too? – Napoleon Wilson Nov 21 '16 at 15:48
  • @NapoleonWilson Again, I realize that it's an acronym, and that acronyms, especially when longer than 3 characters, are more easily spoken than initialisms. It is entirely obvious that MA comes from Magical, and that MACUSA is easier to pronounce as an acronym than MCUSA, though my question was more precisely "Why MACUSA and not MCUSA" in the sense that "How come it gets away with using a letter in its acronym that isn't the initial for one of the words it's abbreviating?". I will take the blame for the miscommunication, should word it more precisely. – Ghoti and Chips Nov 21 '16 at 15:52
  • That's why I was commenting, not answering, but thinking back on your question, it's not even relevant to movies and TV, but to linguistics in general. It could as easily be applied to SEAL or Gestapo. Going back to topic, I have no sources, it just sounds plausible. Someone picks the name. Maybe a committee. There are a few rules for picking the name, there might be a vote. It changes depending if it's a private company, or a state service as well. In the end, it's called whatever people in power wanted to call it. (I doubt the author wrote the lore for the naming of the MACUSA congress.) – CyberClaw Nov 21 '16 at 16:19
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Like Napoleon said, the acronym comes from MAgical Congress of the United States of America. Much like the "E" in NAVY SEALs, which you yourself brought up. (SEa Air Land)

Sometimes people get creative with the rules for building an acronym, in order to turn it into a pronouncable "word." This is especially true in fictional stories where the author can control what an agency's initials are, and doubly so in anything involving spies or secret agencies. (Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., anyone?)

Hill: What does S.H.I.E.L.D. stand for Agent Ward?

Ward: Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement and Logistics Division.

Hill: And what does that mean to you?

Ward: That someone really wanted our initials to spell "SHIELD."

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    In contrast with SHIELD, MACUSA is not a word (though it is pronounced as one, making it an acronym, just like SHIELD), so I don't think J.K Rowling (out-of-universe) or the American founders of MACUSA (in-universe) "really wanted" their initials to spell MACUSA, the same way Ward thinks of SHIELD. – Ghoti and Chips Nov 21 '16 at 15:43
  • Cheers for pointing out that SEAL (in my own question) follows the same structure, didn't even notice that xD, and I use this acronym a lot. – Ghoti and Chips Nov 21 '16 at 15:48
  • @GhotiandChips I agree, which is why I put the word "word" in quotes. In the case of MACUSA, I think it's safe to say they added the "A" just to make it pronounceable. SHIELD was just an easy, and extreme, example of people forcing words into an acronym :) – Steve-O Nov 21 '16 at 16:20
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MAgical Congress of the United States of America (MACUSA), is an acronym.

According to the Wikipedia article on Acronym

There is no universal standardization of the various names for such abbreviations and of their orthographic styling.

In other words, an acronym needn't follow any universal rules for abbreviating, such as only using the initials, because there is no standard way of forming acronyms.

From the wiki's list of different example types:

  • Pronounced as a word, containing non-initial letters
    • Amphetamine: alpha-methylphenethylamine
    • Gestapo: Geheime Staatspolizei ('secret state police')
    • Interpol: International Criminal Police Organization
    • Nabisco: National Biscuit Co

If we look at Gestapo or Interpol, both of which are comparable to MACUSA, we can see that J.K Rowling's decision for this acronym is certainly justifiable when looking at real-life, out-of-universe examples.

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