This is something I have been wondering for a long time. When you spell (out loud) words that have some consonants doubled, you can say those as "double-X", or not (e.g. Allan: "Ay double-ell ay en" vs. "Ay ell ell ay en").

What interests me is, is there any sort of rule as to when to use the "double-X" and when to simply pronounce the letter twice?

This question also creates a personal dilemma: how to spell my own last name. :) It is a Balkans name, "Bolla", and I personally always used spelling: "bee oh double-ell ay". No one ever told me it was bad, yet is it better than: "bee oh ell ell ay"?

Thanks in advance, i do not know any native speakers and I don't get to speak English that often to find answer anywhere but on the internet. :)

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    Either is fine; but when required to spell my name aloud I have taken to spelling it "Delta Oscar November Oscar Victor Alpha November"--that is, according to the NATO system. Yours would be "Bravo Oscar Lima Lima Alpha." So many letter names rhyme or near-rhyme in English that confusion is all too easy otherwise, though some might be slightly disturbed by the military flavor. – Brian Donovan Nov 29 '14 at 20:13
  • You can use it anytime. Except that double u is not clear. ;-) – Drew Nov 30 '14 at 2:16
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    @Drew And also excepting that oh oh seven is never acceptable and will, in fact, get you summarily deported. ;-) – Janus Bahs Jacquet Dec 30 '14 at 0:44
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    @JanusBahsJacquet: Yes, one double-ought not even say double-ought seven. – Drew Dec 30 '14 at 0:46
  • Never, unless you're talking about wire gauges or unless it makes it memorable like in a phone number: e.g., triple seven, one one, zero six. 'double one' would be confusing with or without "triple seven" and even adds a syllable (double [anything] doesn't improve clarity or make it more concise, so why would you?). Triple seven uses 2 less syllables then 7,7,7. Where as double one (or 'ell') adds a syllable. I agree with Brian, for absolute clarity use the phonetic alphabet. – Mazura Apr 30 '15 at 2:13

What interests me is, is there any sort of rule as to when to use the "double-X" and when to simply pronounce the letter twice?

There is no firm rule; I think both ways are correct in all cases.

That said, I think the "double __" form is not very commonly used for vowels (except in initialisms, as Chris Phan notes in a comment below). I think this is because, unlike (for example) <p> vs. <pp>, where both are pronounced /p/ (though they can affect the pronunciation of a preceding vowel), doubled vowels are usually pronounced differently: <red> and <reed>, or <cop> and <coop>, for example. I wouldn't generally say that <reed> has a "double E" or that <coop> has a "double O".

And for a different reason, I'd be unlikely to say that vacuum has a "double U"!

  • Spell continuum to someone who doesn't know the word, see what happens. – Malvolio Dec 30 '14 at 0:56
  • "Double-A" is sometimes used when spelling out an initialism, such as NCAA ("N-C-double-A") or NAACP ("N-double-A-C-P"). – PersonX Dec 30 '14 at 3:06
  • @ChrisPhan: Oh, good point. Also AAA ("triple-A"). – ruakh Dec 30 '14 at 4:45

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