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We were discussing the merits of buying a team collaboration tool (Confluence) today, when we were completely sidetracked by the pronouncation "wiki".

Most of the folks on the team say it's pronounced "whicky"; that's what Wikipedia calls it, Wikileaks, etc.

However, a few stalwarts insist that, since its etymology is Hawiian, it's actually pronounced "weekee". They say the "big brands" like Wikipedia who insist upon calling themselves "whicky-pee-dee-ah" don't change the fact that "wiki" is pronounced "weekee".

Anyway, given that this is a neologism, what's the proper pronuncation? Is it an accent/regional preference?

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As Hellion's answer notes, some English dialects exhibit a difference between "wh" and lone "w" at the start of a word - the former is pronounced something like (and in many cases originally spelt as) "hw". You may want to change the spelling in your question to "wicky" unless you specifically do pronounce it like that :) – psmears Feb 19 '11 at 14:29
up vote 5 down vote accepted

I think if you were to pronounce it "weekee" you would either come off as being pedantic, or from another country with an adorable accent, or you would spend a lot of time explaining what you meant — to people who then would say, "Oh, you mean a wiki!"

I've given up on a lot of "correct" pronunciations. For example, the correct pronunciation for "acclimated" is uh•CLIMB•uh•ted, not ACK•luh•may•ted. But I've just grown weary of that discussion. And don't even get me started on American mispronunciations of Japanese words: the American SUE-moh instead of the Japanese s'MOH for sumo, harry-carry for the correct harakiri (as long as you pronounce the "r"s as soft taps of the tongue on the palate), etc.

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FWIW, Merriam-Webster gives your supposed “wrong” pronunciations first for all the words you cite: merriam-webster.com/dictionary/acclimated merriam-webster.com/dictionary/sumo merriam-webster.com/dictionary/hara-kiri So if people are pronouncing those words “wrong”, it’s because the authority on pronunciation, i.e. dictionaries, is telling them to. – nohat Dec 4 '10 at 11:33
@nohat: Online dictionaries especially reflect current usages. Like me, they've given up on usages that were once given first. But as for the Japanese words, I'm talking about Japanese pronunciations — read my last sentence again. I speak Japanese, and I assure you your source is simply wrong. I don't deny that is how Americans pronounce those words, but I certainly doubt that the reason is because dictionaries are telling them to. People hear the mispronunciations and mimic them, and dictionaries eventually record it all. You put the cart before the horse. – Robusto Dec 4 '10 at 12:41
I cited Merriam-Webster because it is an authority on how to pronounce words in American English, regardless of their origin, Japanese or otherwise. Words always change pronunciation when they are borrowed into another language. That's how language works. Calling it "mispronunciation" is like calling French a "mispronunciation" of Latin. I can assure you that Merriam-Webster's reporting of how to pronounce the English words sumo and hara-kiri are unimpeachably correct. – nohat Dec 4 '10 at 21:41
The point is that they are not “mispronunciations”—they are borrowed words. It is characterizing them as “mispronunciations” which is having a “tin ear” for how language actually works. – nohat Dec 6 '10 at 16:38
I agree with @nohat: these are borrowed words, not mispronunciations. Should we consider the Spanish estándar for standard or the Japanese アイスクリーム (aisu kurīmu) for ice cream as mispronunciations of English? – Jaime Soto Dec 10 '10 at 18:48

I would claim that they're two different words from two different languages. Wiki means quick. Wiki is used to refer to collaboratively edited media. They are two different things.

For the record, I live in Hawai'i and am fairly pedantic about my pronunciation, e.g. I pronounce Ho'okipa as Ho-o-kipa and not Ho-kipa as most hoales do or Hoo-kipa like the tourists do. i is definitely pronounced ee and your friends are definitely right about the Hawai'ian word. It has no bearing whatsoever. It's Wikipedia, not quick.

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There are plenty of words whose current pronunciation bears little or no relationship to their etymology. Personally I don't aspirate the "W" either, so I say it's "wick-ee".

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As for W versus WH, in the OP's accent it must not make a difference. – Jon Purdy Dec 5 '10 at 9:49

I think that Wiktionary is an adequate reference for this case: http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/wiki, http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/Wikipedia.

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