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I hear FAQ(s) pronounced like a word in "FACK(s)", while I go letter by letter. In usage, what is more common?

(Similar to SQL vs Sequel)

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I better not tell you how the Russians pronounce it... –  RegDwigнt Oct 19 '10 at 8:47
@RegDwight - They pronounce it "Dark Star". –  Neil Fein Jul 12 '11 at 2:37

5 Answers 5

I believe that the more common one is "fæk". According to Wikipedia:

Since the acronym FAQ originated in textual media, its pronunciation varies; "fack," "fax," "facts," and "F.A.Q." are commonly heard.

Wikipedia's sources are the Jargon file and FAQs about FAQs.

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+1 I'm used to hearing "fack" –  ukayer Feb 9 '11 at 7:16

I have only ever heard it pronounced 'Eff Ay Que'.

However it does seem to be one of those phrases that will never have a 'proper' pronunciation.

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I think that eff-ay-que is the least ambiguous pronunciation, altho as noted here, there is not really a formally correct one. (As if English had formally correct pronunciations for anything, haha. :-) ) –  Mike Pope Oct 19 '10 at 15:41

In a general sense, initialisms and acronyms are most properly pronounced as the letters, e.g. "Eye Arr Ess" or "Arr Pee Jee" rather than "Erse" or "R'pug." Pronouncing the letters individually rather than coming up with a pronunciation for something that is not an actual word avoids misunderstandings.

That being said, especially in contexts where the given acronym or initialism will be used often (FAQ in a web context; various military acronyms) there will often be an accepted pronunciation that the community recognizes for use within the community.

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"In a general sense, initialisms and acronyms are most properly pronounced as the letters." I have to disagree with this generalization. Even in the most formal situations, it would not ever be preferred to pronounce e.g. NATO, AIDS, ROM, or SCUBA as a string of letters. If I were to speak the letters A-I-D-S it would simply be confusing and, for all practical purposes, considered wrong. –  Kosmonaut Oct 18 '10 at 20:50
NATO, AIDS, and SCUBA have entered the vernacular as words in their own right--same with RADAR which is technically an initialism, but which has been (through its context in military usage) used often enough as an ersatz word that it has gained legitimacy. This is one of the ways in which the language has evolved over time. –  munin Oct 18 '10 at 21:20
I'm curious that people still sometimes spell "scuba" in all uppercase but never do for radar. Or is that my imagination? –  Mike Pope Oct 19 '10 at 5:13
No, you're right; many people do not recognize RADAR as an initialism (RAdio Detection And Ranging, for the curious) because it's been in the language as a 'word' for longer than a generation. –  munin Oct 19 '10 at 15:28
It's also of note that quite a few initialisms are consciously construct to be pronouncable as a word. Not sure of examples, but SCUBA seems to be one, and RADAR, well, "RAdio" makes it an non-initialism anyway. ;-) LASER also comes to mind as an initalism that was means to be spoken as a word. –  Jürgen A. Erhard Feb 19 '11 at 15:05

In order to avoid misunderstandings I think FAQ should be pronounced as an initialism (where you keep each letter separated: Eff-Ay-Kyu) rather than as an acronym (where the letters are pronounced as a word: fack).

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Generally, three letter acronyms are pronounced as individual letters. Acronyms of four letters or more are pronounced as words.

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