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Information Gap

Claim:   The clothing store The Gap took its name from an acronym for 'Gay And Proud.'


Example:   [Collected on the Internet, 1996]

Yesterday, I heard this one: The GAP was started by a gay man and the name means Gay And Proud.

Origins:   Once again the search for hidden meanings in the mundane has resulted in an interesting rumor about the supposedly acronymic origins of the name of a popular attirer. Akin to the Troop Sport ("To Rule Over Oppressed People") and Adidas ("All Day I Dream About Sex") canards, the rumor about The Gap asserts that it drew its name from an initialization of the phrase "Gay And Proud."

Though GAP The Gap did begin in San Francisco, a city home to a large homosexual population and strongly associated with gay pride, its name has nothing to do with either of those coincident facts. Gap Inc. was founded in 1969 by Donald and Doris Fisher as a single store staffed by a handful of employees. The retailer took its name in homage to "the generation gap," a term popular in the late 1960s describing the intellectual, ethical, and social gulf between young people and their parents' generation. The inspiration for this first jeans-only store came from Donald Fisher's frustrations as a consumer — he was finding jeans hard to shop for, having to travel to several different stores to examine a variety of brands because no one location housed them all. His experience, he figured, was likely a common one; if it were, it indicated that a market for a jeans-only shop was present even if others in the retail field had yet to notice it.

Gap Inc. has since grown from its jeans-only beginnings to become one of the most popular clothiers of this age. It employs more than 166,000 people worldwide and operates 3,800 stores under names including the Gap, Baby Gap, Gap Kids, Old Navy, and Banana Republic. (Old Navy accounts for 35% of Gap Inc.'s sales.)

"Gay and proud" has become a catchphrase within the gay community because it proclaims in a positively-voiced manner that its members take pride in who they are rather than feel ashamed of their lifestyle. It wasn't that long ago the majority of gays did not take open pride in their identity, and indeed concealing all evidence of sexual preference was the order of the day. "Gay and proud" thus represents a major shift in how a community has come to view both itself and the value of its individual members in

It is deeply ironic that a rumor would claim a strong statement of pride would have been deliberately concealed from all but those in the know as an acronym. How "proud" would one have to be to want to exude such a message in a covert form?

The implied "ick" factor in The Gap rumor springs from the presumption that if it were true, wearers of Gap merchandise would be unknowingly advocating a lifestyle they might or might not personally approve of. (It's one thing to wave a "Gay and Proud" sign if you know you're holding it, but quite another to find one has been pinned to your back without your knowledge. Even the most gay-sympathetic person might take umbrage at that.)

Beyond the "ick" factor, what fuels this rumor is the desire to believe we've been let in on a piece of secret knowledge — our delight in sharing it with others often blinds us to the falsity of the gleaned information. Few can resist the lure of a deliciously wicked tidbit, thus few stop to check their facts before spreading the falsehood further.

Those who persist in looking for "hidden meaning" acronyms in the names of clothiers will be heartened to know that at least one did derive its name in this manner: FUBU is a shortening of "For Us By Us", a statement meant to communicate that clothing from this particular label was designed by blacks for (what they thought was) the blacks-only market in urbanwear.

Barbara "the secret of acronym" Mikkelson

Last updated:   2 June 2011

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    Kelley, Shane.   "Widening the Gap."
    The [Montreal] Gazette.   15 July 1997   (p. F3).

    Reuters.   "Gap Shares Fall 14% on Warning of Slow Sales."
    The New York Times.   11 August 2000   (p. C19).