How should UNC (Universal Naming Convention) be pronounced?

  1. "unk"
  2. "you en see"

In a sentence, should it be "a UNC share" or "an UNC share"?

A Google search for "a unc" -carolina results in about 400,000 results while "an unc" -carolina results in about 100,000 results.

  • You can't trust the numbers in Google to give you an accurate estimate. There's really only 156 results for the second search. – Laurel Dec 13 '17 at 16:55
  • You could also look at the Google Ngram Viewer – sumelic Dec 13 '17 at 18:46
  • That isn't a Question about English… it's about whatever language uses UNC… Either way, if you want to apply English conventions to some specific IT language what difference could they make, please? Whether you’re asking about 1. "unk" or 2. "you en see" was fairly-well established long ago in every professional or academic specialism that might be interested. Would you prefer to start again and re-invent your wheel, or equivalent thereof, or to accept what other researchers have already defined? – Robbie Goodwin Dec 15 '17 at 20:55
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    As someone who actually uses the term regularly all I can provide is my own preference. I pronounce it "you en see", and I use "a", e.g. "a you en see share" – MartinSGill Dec 25 '17 at 12:38
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    as @MartinSGill. I'm a software engineer and I pronounce it [ju ɛn si] the [si] steals the stress to itself. as for the article, since /ju/ begins with a consonant (j), it should be just a. – David Haim Dec 26 '17 at 10:45

The convention among IT professionals is to pronounce it as "you en see". Just so you don't have to take my word for it, here are a couple examples of professionals using the term (one American, one British):



To answer your comment regarding the originator's intent: unlike the GIF format, which was invented by a single person, the UNC convention seems to have been hammered out jointly between a bunch of people at Microsoft and IBM, according to research someone already did on Unix Stack Exchange. This is a quote from a patent pertaining to the technology:

“the Universal Naming Convention was jointly invented by IBM and Microsoft for use in their jointly developed Local Area Network (LAN) software products” (from patent US5341499, quoted here https://unix.stackexchange.com/questions/57428/official-description-unc-universal-naming-convention)

So group consensus was always the only standard for this abbreviation.

Regarding the Google search you quoted in your question: I don't believe the results can be trusted, because formally there is no such thing as "a UNC" or "an UNC". There is the naming convention ("the UNC"), and then there is a path name that follows the convention. The latter are usually called "UNC paths", "UNC names", etc., not just "UNCs" (although it's possible that some people might call them "UNCs" conversationally, as a personal shorthand). Doing a Google ngram search for "a UNC path" vs "an UNC path" shows "a UNC path" starting to rise in use around 1992 and plateauing in a few years, as you would expect considering the use of the technology associated with the term. On the other hand, there are no recorded examples of "an UNC path" whatsoever.

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  • "You en see" is also the norm when referring to the University of North Carolina. – Hot Licks Dec 26 '17 at 14:02
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    Thanks for the great answer. I was also able to find a book published by Microsoft Press in 1993 titled Inside Windows NT, which states "...the filename is a UNC name..." which seems to confirm that was the early convention. Additionally, the 1989 patent you referenced included "...to determine whether a UNC name...". – davidmneedham Dec 29 '17 at 15:12

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