[TUHS] pronouncing *nix formulas (was: screen editors)

Dave Horsfall dave at horsfall.org
Wed Feb 5 07:05:55 AEST 2020

On Wed, 5 Feb 2020, G. Branden Robinson wrote:

>>> Wikipedia writes that `ed' would be pronounced ``ee-dee'' (like
>>> ``vee-eye''), is that what you english speakers do?
> Certainly not.  When one sees a command name that duplicates a
> frequently-used diminituve of a common name, the brain is going to
> select that preferentially.

Being British/Australian, I say "ee-dee" and "vee-eye", as they are
not really English words.  Similarly, I say "ee-max" etc.

> Naming your Unix command "mike" and expecting people to pronounce it
> "em-eye-kay-ee" is hopeless.

In that case I would pronounce it as "myke".

> In English, thanks to the Great Vowel Shift and other developments that
> differentiated vowel pronunciation from the continent a few hundred
> years ago, trailing "I"s tend to be pronounced long (as in "eye")--but
> they also tend to be rare.  They occur in proper names like Lodi,
> California and Bondi, Australia (which Americans sometimes mis-pronounce
> anyway, perhaps influenced by Spanish).  A word that looks borrowed from
> Latin, Greek, or Spanish will often get back its "-ee" sound for a
> trailing "i", but the two-letter command names beloved of the Unix
> pioneers offer no etymological hints.

You should hear Americans pronounce the Australian cities of Brisbane
and Melbourne.  Also, Wagga Wagga totally throws them (it's pronounced
simly as "Wogguh" here).

> I had to teach myself Unix in the early days and so I wound up with some
> idiolectal variants that people consider amusing or objectionable:


> chroot: cheroot (like the cigar)
> chown: rhymes with "clown"
> chmod: rhymes with "god" or "scrod" (a kind of fish), and resists the
>       introduction of a vowel into the leading consonant cluster as
>       much as possible--it's an ugly one!

OK so far...

> creat: Crete (hic Rhodus, hic salta!)


> fuser: fuser (like the component of a laser printer--not "eff-user"; eff
>       that)

eff-user, so take that :-)

> groff: Groff (like the surname, not "jee-roff")


> troff: trough (but nroff I pronounce the accepted way)

tee-roff.  And, err, how would you pronounce "nroff"?

> (And did people really say "dee-eye-tee-roff" for "ditroff"?)

Likely "dee-eye-troff".

> There are a couple of others that I started out pronouncing in a
> nonstandard way, but once I started attending conferences, I
> assimilated:
> Linux: originally "lye-nucks", now "linn-ucks"


> Debian: originally "Dee-bee-un", now "Deb-ee-un"


-- Dave

More information about the TUHS mailing list