In technical contexts, I often come across terms that are invented names where some underlying meaning is not spelled out but can be inferred. This inferred meaning would often be lost if one tried to pronounce the term purely based on the letters comprising it. It seems to me that one cannot get such issues right, because any choice probably looks objectionable either to a very literal or a very technical person. What is the proper pronunciation for such terms?

A good example for the kind of terms I am thinking of is scrypt, a computer algorithm for computing cryptographic hashes that enjoys tremendous popularity among geeks. In case the inventor's intention matters, his company's webpage about scrypt seems to be the best source of information available but still does not address this issue. Neither does the Wikipedia article about scrypt. What I think I can infer only serves to complicate the decision: There are other, older algorithms for essentially the same purpose that follow the naming convention of having a single letter followed by crypt, of which bcrypt is widely known but not the only example. There are good reasons to suspect that the initial letter in scrypt might be intended as an abbreviation rather than just a random distinction. The rest of the name almost certainly has its roots in computer history. See the Wikipedia articles for two meanings of crypt, the computer library function crypt(3) and the utility program crypt(1). Both are closely related to scrypt.

I've only started thinking about this question due to an identical question (put on hold for being off-topic) on the Bitcoin branch of StackExchange. The two submitted answers, including my own attempt at explaining my personal preference, indicate that there is no consensus. Since there the topic is almost tangential anyways (scrypt is used in some alternatives to Bitcoin but not in Bitcoin itself), I have tried asking the same question on the Information Security branch of StackExchange, where one commentator gave what he claimed to be a definite, if unexplained, answer yet simultaneously declared the question off-topic.

Is this the right place? And how does one decide such questions for which I would, naïvely, have assumed that technical background knowledge is required to decide if something is special enough to be granted exceptional status regarding its pronunciation?

On the same subject, what makes not capitalizing the proper noun scrypt or crypt acceptable? There seems to be widespread consensus amongst computer enthusiasts to never capitalize at the very least certain commands, specifically those that in their usual application as computer commands are case sensitive, meaning that they do not work as intended when typed in capital letters. Whilst to somebody using such commands it indeed seems very natural to follow this convention, seeing it done at the beginning of a sentence, as in the first sentence of a Wikipedia link already given above, does not feel quite right, either. Is the usage as in that Wikipedia article, employing a different capitalization for the same initial word in the title and the first paragraph, in any way proper?

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    It's not entirely clear to me what kind of answr you're looking for, but you might like to look at Are questions about pronunciation of brand-names, trademarks and character names and so on acceptable? on English Learners meta, and this answer on the main ELL site, which probably says just about everything useful that can be said on the matter. Dec 12, 2013 at 14:28
  • Well, the kind of answer I am looking for would explain if either possibility is in any way proper and why. I think the links you have given come fairly close to answering it already. Apparently, the experts in the field decide collectively, so I suppose that if there is widespread consensus, then that makes it the proper pronunciation. Is the same true for the capitalization aspect?
    – user59568
    Dec 12, 2013 at 14:43
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    For the capitalization question, this post english.stackexchange.com/q/9063/18655 might be helpful. Although scrypt is not a brand name, the community appears to have reached a consensus that it's not to be capitalized. I suppose if it bothers you at the beginning of a sentence, you can always reword the sentence so it's not the lead word. (Cowardly, perhaps?)
    – JLG
    Dec 12, 2013 at 15:29
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    @pyramids: There are always "experts" eager to tell us their particular spelling/pronunciation/capitalisation preference is "correct". But even if they all agree, once a term enters into more general use, what counts is what the majority do, not what a prescriptive minority think we should do. So in the case of btree/Btree, for example (also not a "brand name"), I would just say both are acceptable. Dec 12, 2013 at 16:30
  • duetsblog.com/files/2012/08/AllianzBillboard.jpg I didn't read the Q in full, the long comments, or the lone answer, but did you factor in that a neologism comes with its definition, including its pronunciation, like an entry in a good dictionary? It's the coiner's lookout to define the 'word' before throwing it in for wider public use.
    – Kris
    Dec 13, 2013 at 12:32

1 Answer 1


If you know the origin of the neologisms, then you should have a good enough guess on their pronunciation. Scrypt and crypt are easy enough. Bcrypt, too, since there is no bc consonant blend in use, so I'd imagine "be-crypt."

I would not use a phonetic approach to these words; you'll inevitably encounter a mistake.


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