How is that pronounced, exactly?

by Michael S. Kaplan, published on 2006/07/19 02:59 -04:00, original URI:

The other day, Raymond Chen posted Pidls and monikers do roughly the same thing, just backwards.

And in that post he had the following text (emphasis mine): 

When operating with the Windows shell, you will almost certainly find yourself at some point working with a pointer to an item ID list, known also as a "pidl" (rhymes with "middle").

When I saw it, I was thinking about how he could have said "pidl" (rhymes with "MIDL") instead. You know, MIDL, the Microsoft Interface Definition Language.

Luckily this was just a momentary thing. I realized that it was unlikely that someone would know how MIDL was pronounced but not know how PIDL was pronounced. They both rhyme with "middle."

But I thought about how most of these industry acronyms tend to have listed the pronunciation in various glossaries. Once in a while there will be helpful text like Raymond's above or Bruce McKinney's Hardcore Visual Basic explanation of how to say GUID:

NOTE: Let me indulge readers from my part of the world by describing the pronunciation of GUID as geoduck without the "uck." Those of you who don’t know a geoduck from a mallard can just say "Goo-Id."

But most of the time we let people guess, and that is why half of the people say SEQUEL while the other half say ESS-QUE-ELL. Or why almost everyone says OLAY while a few people say OH-ELL-EEE.

The platform SDK will religiously make sure to call the first mention National Language Support (NLS) or Graphic Device Interface (GDI). Those are just pronounced with the letters, but why does it waste time talking about Small Computer System Interface (SCSI) rather than telling us it rhymes with scuzzy? you know, like advice we can use?

And I have heard people tell stories about the way people mispronounce things -- even though there is no real central communication of what the pronunciation ought to be. So we don't tell people how to pronounce it (other than by just pronouncing it ourselves when it comes up), yet we silently judge them for their choice.

We are no better with globalization support -- we say ebb-cid-ick for EBCDIC and laugh at the people who say EEE-BEE-CEE-DEE-EYE-CEE. And so on.

On the other hand, I do the same thing when I am introduced to people -- I tell them my name is Michael. And then sometimes they ask whether I prefer Michael or Mike or ???? and I say whatever. But I think I do silently judge people who ignore the initial name I used, sometimes.

So is it a test we do, to see who is paying attention?

In the new HBO show Lucky Louie, Louie blew a weekend that they had off because Louie decided to get her flowers, which ordinarily would be quite sweet but not so much when he gets her red roses again after she had told him she did not want to get red roses, that she really did not like them. Now obviously the stakes are not as high in these other situations, but I think we want to know people are listening to us.

There is more to having a conversation than learning to shut the hell up until the other person is done talking and spending the whole time thinking of what you will say when they are done. In fact there are two more things, specifically:

Could the thing we seem to do with acronyms be part of the same type of test? And if so, isn't the joke on us since (for example) a lot more people read here then will ever hear a word of what I say. And I am not going to add an audio track to the blog (I can see it now, SIAO on Tape!).

Note that even recognizing the fundamental silliness of how we (and how I) act, nothing will probably change here. Because if I give the pronunciation every time, I am doing a remedial reading course. And if I say what the acronym stands for each time, I am like Platform SDK West.

But I will try not to judge in the future on the pronunciations. I'll remember the trivia question Triumph the Insult Comic Dog asked the Star Wars fans camped out before Attack of the Clones opened:

Triumph: What substance was Han Solo frozen in?
Star Wars Fans: Carbonite!
Triumph: No, I'm sorry, that is incorrect. The correct answer is 'Who gives a fuck?'

This will help remind me that the fewer of these acronyms you know how to pronounce, the cooler you probably are. We geeks need to get over ourselves, you know?

And from now on, I'll tell people I prefer Michael when they ask. And then I'll feel more justified in silently judging the ones who say Mike since they took the time to ask and then ignored the answer.

But the folks who talk about ATM machines and Very VIP People are still toast in my book. Because everyone knows how silly that is....

# Ben Cooke on 19 Jul 2006 8:38 AM:

So... um... how does one pronounce geoduck? The "geod" part of that seems to use completely different vowel sounds to "goo-idd".

For posterity, then... how I prounounce these things. (I'm British, which may account for some oddity)
PIDL: piddle
MIDL: middle
GUID: goo-id (or you-youid, if I'm actually saying UUID)
SQL: ess cue ell
OLE: ollie
NLS: enn ell ess
GDI: jee dee eye
SCSI: scuzzy
EBCDIC: ee-bee see-dick
Michael: Michael
SIAO: Sorting It All Out
ATM: Cashpoint

(and a few more that people constantly quibble over)
PNG: pee en gee. (I'll have none of this "ping" business. There's no I in there!)
GIF: Jiff
JPEG: Jay-peg (not Jay Pee Jee!)

I don't think anyone truly "knows" how to pronounce these acronyms... but some people have very strong opinions about how *they* pronounce them.

# Maurits [MSFT] on 19 Jul 2006 11:33 PM:

And here I thought "GUID" rhymed with "squid," not "fluid."

# Vlado Klimovský on 20 Jul 2006 12:33 AM:

This is a great opportunity to ask a question I have never been able to get an answer for so far: how is the word 'char' (as in the C/C++ character type) pronounced by native English speakers?

Thanks in advance to anyone who will solve this 'mystery' for me.

# Michael S. Kaplan on 20 Jul 2006 1:37 AM:

Well, in NLS we pronounce it like as in "chahr" (something like chair with an AH sound rather than an AIR sound), but I have heard some people in database contexts pronounce it like CARE, or sometimes even like "chair".....

# Michael S. Kaplan on 20 Jul 2006 2:04 AM:

Hi Maurits,

Some people pronounce GUID closer to sqUID -- so it is like a goo-id or fluid that de-emphasizes the first vowel (kind of like how the Greek "Gyro" is properly pronounced gYEARO rather than JIE-ROW. But most people I have talked to say goo-id. :-)

# Ben Cooke on 20 Jul 2006 4:03 PM:

Everyone I know pronounces "char" to rhyme with "car".

Shortening words can be interesting, because often the spelling is shortened but the sound is re-interpreted. If you were audibly shortening "chararacter" you'd expect it to rhyme with "car".

Here's another interesting one: how do you pronounce the "dir" in "directory"? I've heard people say it as "dire", but I tend to pronounce it as "dur" (or maybe "duh!"). However, I do tend to pronounce the full word as "duh-rectory", while I expect the "dire" folks say "dire-rectory". It's a funny old world.

# Michael S. Kaplan on 20 Jul 2006 4:18 PM:

I pronounce it like "durr" -- which is unfortunate given the val-speak slang term that maps to for some? :-)

# vedala on 24 Jul 2006 12:47 AM:

I remember GUID rhyming with 'squid' was mentioned in Don Box's book "Essential COM"

# Yunus on 9 Feb 2008 10:05 PM:

I had my college professor prononunce DIR as der, it annoyed the hell out of me. I think we should not prononunce acronyms at all and should go for letter by letter pronounciatatios. Dir as D  I   R or directory.

That said, I pronounce Apache as Apachay, (not Apachi) and Adobe as

Adobi (not Adobe)

Michael J. Eakins on 21 Apr 2011 5:38 AM:

I enjoyed this article on acronyms.  For those of you that actually care, I prefer acronyms over words.  In the case of SQL, the letters SQL actually stand for something; Structured Query Language, and by changing the letters into a word it somewhat loses it's reference to the larger meaning of the acronym.  I actually found this while trying to find the correct pronunciation of GUID as a co-worker is incessant about correcting me when I mis-pronounce it or any other acronym Cee-Quel, where I like to say the letters as to me it maintains the original acronym like meaning.  I found the most perplexing portion of this article the section on introducing yourself as Michael,  which I also do.  I've never paused to realize before now that I am indeed judging people on their acuteness when they next call me Mike.  I like your stance on allowing people the luxury of asking which I prefer, for they at least took the time to ask and did not assume they could call me Mike.  I will in the future, pay close attention to their next method of addressing me and reward them accordingly when they call me Michael rather than Mike.

Furthermore, an interesting pause for thought found at wikipedia on acronyms and initialism is, "The term acronym is the name for a word created from the first letters of each word in a series of words (such as sonar, created from sound navigation and ranging).[1] Attestations for "Akronym" in German are known from 1921, and for "acronym" in English from 1940.[2] While the word abbreviation refers to any shortened form of a word or a phrase, some have used initialism or alphabetism to refer to an abbreviation formed simply from, and used simply as, a string of initials.

Although the term acronym is widely used to describe any abbreviation formed from initial letters,[3] most dictionaries define acronym to mean "a word" in its original sense,[4][5][6] while some include a secondary indication of usage, attributing to acronym the same meaning as that of initialism.[7][8][9] According to the primary definition found in most dictionaries, examples of acronyms are NATO (pronounced /ˈneɪtoʊ/), scuba (/ˈskuːbə/), and radar (/ˈreɪdɑr/), while examples of initialisms are FBI (/ˌɛfˌbiːˈaɪ/) and HTML (/ˌeɪtʃˌtiːˌɛmˈɛl/).[4][8][10]

There is no agreement on what to call abbreviations whose pronunciation involves the combination of letter names and words, such as JPEG (/ˈdʒeɪpɛɡ/) and MS-DOS (/ˌɛmɛsˈdɒs/).

There is also some disagreement as to what to call abbreviations that some speakers pronounce as letters and others pronounce as a word. For example, the terms URL and IRA can be pronounced as individual letters: /ˌjuːˌɑrˈɛl] and /ˌaɪˌɑrˈeɪ/ respectively; or as a single word: /ˈɜrl/ and /ˈaɪrə/ respectively. Such constructions, however—regardless of how they are pronounced—if formed from initials, may be identified as initialisms without controversy.

The spelled-out form of an acronym or initialism (that is, "what it stands for") is called its expansion."[<>, 04-21-2011].

referenced by

2011/03/22 Rupee! Rupee! Let down your CHAR!

2008/06/15 On the [pragmatic?] pronunciation of "XXX"

2007/09/01 There is no 'I' in MUI... errr, never mind!

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