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When I was learning SQL, I remember reading that it should be pronounced just like the word sequel; however, I worked with a bunch of techs who seemed to prefer S-Q-L. Is there a proper convention for this?

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@waiwai933 thanks for the link. Very interesting. –  Jeff Dec 21 '10 at 20:45
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On a related note, do you say "indexes" or "indices" when talking about more than one index on a database table? –  Scott Mitchell Dec 21 '10 at 23:56
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@Scott: there's a question for that! –  RegDwigнt Dec 21 '10 at 23:59
    

5 Answers 5

up vote 24 down vote accepted

The first version/draft of SQL was in fact called Structured English Query Language and the acronym was SEQUEL. Due to trademark violations on the acronym, the name was changed to Structured Query Language and abbreviated as SQL.

So it was intended to be pronounced as SEQUEL at first. Nowadays it's a matter of preference. There is no standard set for it (yet).

Some urban legends say that the Structured Query Language was actually a sequel to the previous Query Language and that the SQL acronym is intended to be pronounced as sequel.

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Note that implementations may have their own preferences. C.f. MySQL: The official way to pronounce “MySQL” is “My Ess Que Ell” (not “my sequel”), but we do not mind if you pronounce it as “my sequel” or in some other localized way. –  mmyers Dec 21 '10 at 20:47
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The name wasn't changed to Standard Query Language, the name is still Structured Query language. –  staticbeast Dec 22 '10 at 12:34
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I've seen people define the acronym recursively, where the S is supposed to stand for SQL. However, if you look at the old specs, it's clear that the S stood (and still stands) for Structured. (Not "Standard"!) –  Marthaª Dec 22 '10 at 15:15
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This is not entirely correct. "Es queue el" IS standard. In the SQL standard, the American National Standards Institute says that the official pronunciation is "es queue el." Anything else is considered non-standard; common, yes, but still slang. –  Robert Cartaino Dec 22 '10 at 18:03
    
This came up in conversation today. I notice that wikipedia specifically says 'The original SQL standard declared that the official pronunciation for SQL is "es queue el".' This leads me to wonder whether or not more recent revisions of the standard specify what the official pronunciation is, though I don't have a reference to any of the revisions of the ANSI standard to check for myself. –  Dr. Wily's Apprentice Jan 12 '11 at 22:11

My nephew, who's a manager at Microsoft and who both knows a modest amount of SQL and hires many SQL programmers (SQL Server/TSQL, of course), was totally flummoxed when I brought up the 'Es Que El' argument. He'd never heard it said that way and assumed I knew nothing about it if I "didn't realize it was pronounced sequel". To him, it was as if you came in to interview about "C pound sign" programming.

You can laugh about his lack of depth on the origin of the term but he just might be representative of many hiring managers—and that's what counts! I've also done general techie contracts at Amazon.com (an Oracle house, not SQL Server ) in Seattle and sequel is what I hear there too, at least by the front line troops and in the Data Warehouse training films I've seen. (Disclaimer: I don't know what the actual production SQL people call it there.)

All I can say is that you might consider throwing both terms around when you're interviewing, then you can get all purist on them later.

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In my experience, people coming from a Unix-y background (Postgres, MySQL) will be more likely to say "S-Q-L", while people from a Microsoft background (SQL Server) are more likely to say "Sequel".

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I know people who use both: it's MyEssQueueEll but Sequel-server. –  Mr. Shiny and New 安宇 Dec 22 '10 at 14:54
    
Indeed. I suppose that was what I was trying to convey, really. I blame the marketing department :). –  Andrew Aylett Dec 22 '10 at 15:31
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If I say "my-sequel," do I go to DLL hell? –  Tortoise Nov 5 '12 at 0:25
    
didnt you knoe MySQL stands for My Ass Cue Ale –  kitty Oct 16 '13 at 11:33

Either. You say potato, I say pough-tagh-toe.

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You say potato, I say raw french fry. –  mmyers Dec 22 '10 at 0:01
    
I say "pottit". –  awe Nov 4 '11 at 8:18
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I say "Kartoffel." –  ClintEastwood Mar 12 '13 at 8:19
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You say potato, I say ghloughbteighwhpteaux… –  Janus Bahs Jacquet Mar 7 at 9:59
    
@Janus Ahh ... so much more beautiful in the original Irish. –  Mitch Mar 7 at 13:11

According to the Computer Contradictionary (Stan Kelly-Bootle, MIT Press, 1995), "those pronouncing SQL as \ess-kew-ell\ rather than \sequel\ are instantly revealed as charlatans incapable of confuting the six and seventy jarring normal forms. Those who have really suffered are allowed to say \squeal\ ".

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