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Pronouncing acronyms

Some initialisms are pronounced letter by letter, some as a word. Is there a general rule as when to use which pronunciation for acronyms that are new and don't have well established pronunciation yet?

I've seen a lot of confusion, especially in the IT world. For example WSGI — most often letters names, but it's popularly pronounced as wizz-gy or even whiskey. Of older examples SQL most often pronounced as letter names, but officially it should be pronounced sequel.

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@Martin: supposed duplicate only covers how to pronounce existing acronyms, with already established pronunciation –  vartec Jun 20 '11 at 15:57
    
That's why it says possible! Your question is different - there is no rule. –  mgb Jun 20 '11 at 16:15
    
Even existing acronyms with [supposedly] already established pronunciation aren't that fixed (cf Linux/SQL/etc.) But if there is anything approaching a 'rule', surely it must be that you spell the letters out unless you've good reason to suppose a lot of other people are doing something different. –  FumbleFingers Jun 20 '11 at 16:55
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marked as duplicate by mgb, JSBձոգչ, Rhodri, KitFox, Robusto Jun 20 '11 at 17:55

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1 Answer

There is no general rule - strictly speaking if it can be pronounced it's an acronym. But generally computer people will try and pronounce initialisms as a joke - even if they are deliberately chosen to be unpronounceable, like fsck or wysiwyg.

SQL is an interesting special case. It is an initialism (Structured Query Language) but the original IBM language project it was based on was called SEQUEL as is the Microsoft data base product. So there is a good case for both S-Q-L and SeQueL

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In my experience, technical staff (particularly the older ones) tend to pronounce it "sequel", whereas non-techie managers and younger people are more likely to spell it out as s-q-l. I think it's much the same with Linux, where that latter group tend to use a 'long' eye (they don't know or care how Linus Torvalds pronounces his name). –  FumbleFingers Jun 20 '11 at 16:42
    
@FumbleFingers - users on Windows tend to say sequel while unix people say SQL (in my experience) –  mgb Jun 20 '11 at 16:48
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