There is no 'I' in MUI... errr, never mind!

by Michael S. Kaplan, published on 2007/09/01 03:26 -04:00, original URI:

Whether to sound out an acronym one letter or a time or try to make it a word. It is something I talked about previously in How is that pronounced, exactly?.

Though I doubt anyone can reliably track down the original sources of the SQL pronunciation as ESS-QUE-ELL vs. SEQUEL, MUI gives us a better chance to figure out what happened here.

In the beginning, it was called EM-YOU-EYE (MUI).

And it has remained a kind of badge of honour for the oldtimers1, as the previous "generation" who had either initially either conceived of or worked on MUI were promoted or moved to other groups or left the company or whatever, and the next "generation" just started calling it MOO-EEE -- after which the third "generation" just copied the second since those second generation folks were now their architects or managers or leads.

Interestingly (and perhaps relevant though probably not), the first "generation" was largely native English speakers and the second was not.

Obviously MOO-EEE can seem more natural to a native speaker given the obvious association with the cow sound in English learned from the earliest Sesame Street episodes and Old McDonald verses -- something that does not happen in all languages as it not always quite the onomatopoeia that we think it is. So the second "generation" would, in possibly lacking this source for reasonable name, choose EM-YOU-EYE over MOO-EEE. And the third "generation" just plays Follow the Leader™ and calls it a day.

Interestingly, MUI and SQL have something else in common -- both of them have these two different forms that have pronunciations that start with either a vowel or a consonant -- so you can even tell in documentation what the writer was thinking by whether they say a SQL statement vs. an SQL statement or similarly a MUI installation vs. an MUI installation. For both, very few people still think of the words behind the acronyms, so neither is influenced by Structured Query Language or Multilingual User Interface so much, these days....

I was thinking about all this the other day as a particular statement was being made about how the success of MUI is quite dependent on the way the team works together to achieve its goals -- and if one is thinking MUI being pronounced as MOO-EEE then it quite easy to say "There's no I in MUI" without realizing what one has said at first!

1 - Kind of like that whole taskbar as tray thing (the previous link is kind of an experiment of changing the meaning of a post in the reference since the claim of it being oldtimers was not specifically being made even though it is kind of implied; apologies to Raymond Chen for this abuse of citation!).



# Bruce Rusk on 1 Sep 2007 10:36 AM:

Acronym or initialism?

Surely a big factor here is the analogy with GUI -- most people would assume that the -UI is pronounced identically in both.

# Michael S. Kaplan on 1 Sep 2007 11:29 AM:

Hi Bruce --

One would have thought, though at least internally MOO-EEE has ruled the roost with the team for a good while now.

# Matt Rhoten on 1 Sep 2007 12:17 PM:

I was originally taught (by PaulC, my first boss at the collective) that SQL was pronounced 'squeal'.

I personally recommend that for every novice database programmer. You will definitely squeal the first time you forget the WHERE in an UPDATE while doing maintenance on a production system.

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referenced by

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

2007/09/07 For me, SQM is pronounced SQuirM

2007/09/02 Acronyms vs. initialisms, across languages

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