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I've often heard The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy referred to as H2G2 but never really understood why. I wondered whether anyone actually knew or whether it was just adopted unquestioningly.

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    Because it rhymes with 42. – user314159 Jun 1 '17 at 18:05
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    To make things more pervert, a name can even be chosen to match a fun acronym. I am currently following a tv series called, in dutch: Himmlers Hersenen Heten Heydrich (German: Himmlers Hirn heißt Heydrich), usually abbr. HHHH (german: HHhH). – Roland Jun 1 '17 at 21:21
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  • "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" is a pretty long mouthful of a name. Imagine having to say all that every time you wanted to talk to fellow fans about the franchise.
  • The most obvious way to shorten it is to use initials (as is done e.g. with LotR for The Lord of the Rings and many other things), but in this case even HHGttG is a bit of a mouthful.
  • Removing the minor words like "to" and "the" (which is also common practice) leaves us with HHGG, as seen on e.g. the relevant URL at Douglas Adams's website.
  • And HHGG is quite a pretty little acronym, with two H's and two G's. It seems a natural step to go from there to H2G2, counting the letters rather than actually saying H and G twice.
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    The '60s satirical BBC TV series 'That Was The Week That Was' was commonly abbreviated to 'TW3' following a similar pattern – aPaulT May 31 '17 at 11:30
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    Almost like turning HHO into H2O – SGR May 31 '17 at 12:30
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    But why use double H? Hitchhiker is one word, not hyphenated, and not an obscure compound word. – Nuclear Wang May 31 '17 at 12:52
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    @Hamlet It perfectly answers the question being asked, by explaining why H2G2 makes sense as an abbreviation for The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. As you can see from the OP's comment on my answer, this is exactly what they were wondering. If you want to see more information about the historical context and how the H2G2 acronym first came to be used, then you should post that as a new question. – Rand al'Thor May 31 '17 at 21:48
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    @Hamlet Why it's referred to as H2G2 is because H2G2 makes sense as an acronym for the reasons given in this answer. You could say the question is ambiguous (is the OP asking for why H2G2 makes sense as an acronym, or for the historical background behind its adoption?), but you can't put different words into the OP's mouth when they've already made it clear in a comment which one of those they're asking about. – Rand al'Thor May 31 '17 at 22:14
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It was the title given to the "Earth Edition" on the web:
H2G2.com
This was founded - and named - in 1999 by Douglas Adams himself.

Clearly taken from The HitchHiker's Guide to the Galaxy. This website was an early attempt at crowdsourced knowledge. Somewhat overshadowed by the later Wikipaedia.

A description of the history of H2G2.com is given on that site and Adams' own description is on another page.

From 1978 up to about 1982 I had a friend who worked in the sound department of the BBC. The series was commonly either referred to Hitchhiker's or HHG. The abbreviation H2G2 become more common after the creation of the website.

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    Less than a minute's difference :-) But are you saying that the abbreviation H2G2 originated with the H2G2.com site? I'd assumed that the abbreviation was already being used long before the site was founded, in which case the site isn't really relevant to the OP's question. – Rand al'Thor May 31 '17 at 10:48
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    @Randal'Thor: I'd heard H2G2 used before the site, but it was also often referred to as HHG. I believe H2G2 became more of a norm after the site appeared. – Chenmunka May 31 '17 at 10:51
  • Ah, that makes sense. Maybe add that info to your answer? Also, I couldn't see an explanation of the H2G2 abbreviation in that link you provided at the end - could you quote the relevant portion? – Rand al'Thor May 31 '17 at 10:56
  • The book of the scripts (ed. Geoffrey Perkins, pub. Pan 1985) doesn't abbreviate the title to H2G2, though it does abbreviate it to Hitch-Hiker. – Rosie F May 31 '17 at 17:32
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You already know what H2G2 stands for, and that it is a type of acronym to avoid having to write or say the whole name. I think you are asking why the acronym is H2G2 instead of HHGG, which is the same length so there is no additional economy being made here.

The numbers 2 indicate repetition. The practice probably comes either from mathematics (algebra), where the numbers are written as superscripts (eg X^2 meaning X times X) or as prefixes (eg 2X meaning X plus X); or from chemistry, where they are written as subscripts.

For example H2O (or HOH) is the chemical symbol for di-hydrogen oxide (water) : 2 hydrogen atoms attached to 1 oxygen atom. Or H2SO4 (or HHSOOOO) which is the chemical symbol for dihydrogen sulphate (sulphuric acid).

So H2G2 is the 'chemical symbol' for (The) Hitch Hiker's Guide (to the) Galaxy. By the same rule, W3 or WWW means the World Wide Web; and TW3 - more correctly (TW)3 - is TWTWTW which means That Was The Week That Was (a satirical TV program of the 1960s). Following the mathematical usage, 3i means Investors in Industry plc, and 3M means the Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing Company.

There are several reasons for such numeronyms. Beside repetition, numbers are also used phonetically (eg K9 for "canine"), or visually (eg H4CK3D for HACKED), or to indicate the number of letters omitted from a long word (eg i18n for "internationalization").

In the present case the intention is probably to give the acronym a more scientific or modern appearance, similar to Y2K for "the year 2000", making use of the decimal abbreviation K for kilo = 1000, instead of the (ancient) Roman numerals MM.

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    What does this add to the currently accepted answer? – user58 Jun 2 '17 at 6:37
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    @Mithrandir It adds context about the scientific background behind including numbers in an acronym involving repeated letters. This has been mentioned in comments below the accepted answer, but not in the answer itself. I've upvoted this. – Rand al'Thor Jun 2 '17 at 9:22

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