This question was sparked by considering the "word": pwn.

"Pawn" and "-pone" are both existing written form and vocalizations, but "pown" pronounced like "pone" is not a valid written form. It exists nowhere in English except for the modern term. In fact, I feel that it should be pronounced like "down" or "clown" with that written form.

Of course, it has it's origin as a mis-typing of "own" thus it may be natural to pronounce in "pone." However, pronunciation of words sort of evolves organically, and words generally have their origin in the vocal form.

How are we to decide on the pronunciation of a "word" that has its origin in written form (and not verbal communication), and more than that a written form that doesn't obey any of the natural rules of the vocal language?

This question could extend to any lol-speak "word" whose origin is in typed communication, e.g. saying "LOL" like "lull." I don't think it applies to constructed words that obey the rules of language, e.g. complicated technical jargon of academic fields. Such words are often derived from natural words, even if from a foreign language.

  • 1
    Hi jdods and welcome to the website. While the question is interesting, I doubt that S.E. is quite the right format for this. The question has a hypothetically indefinite scope and an element of futurity. Either consideration can make it difficult to determine which reasonably lengthed answers make sense in the context of a voter based system of peer review which is meant to determine the best answer to a question, and when combined the task may very well be impossible. Please read our subjectivity guidelines for more information.
    – Tonepoet
    Feb 8, 2019 at 22:23
  • Possible duplicate of Pronouncing acronyms
    – choster
    Feb 8, 2019 at 22:40
  • You may be correct that is isn't appropriate. I jsut didn't know if there were generally accepted guidelines that would apply, such as "misspellings inherent syllable pronunciations of the word they are misspellings of".
    – jdods
    Feb 8, 2019 at 23:34
  • How would explain the the multiple pronunciations of the word lead? And that's a real word—not something made up randomly on paper, either by mistake or intentionally. Think covfefe too. Feb 9, 2019 at 4:25

1 Answer 1


"We" don't really decide anything when it comes to pronouncing constructed or contrived words or symbols, various of which which have been discussed previously on Stack Exchange, for example

You'll find many of the questions linked have been closed as opinion-based, because they are opinion-based; knowledgeable people may pronounce them differently from one another, and have no reason for doing so other than that being how they first heard it pronounced, or how they think it should be pronounced.

What tends to happen instead is that one or other pronunciation becomes popularized because it is similar to an existing commonplace word, phrase, or similar abbreviation, or because some novel pronunciation is taken up by an influential person. There is no predictability in it. The standardized exam known as the PSAT is spoken as an initialism: pee-ess-aiee-tee. But the LSAT, a different standardized exam, is always the ell-sat. There is no particular reason why one became known as one and the other the other, that is simply the convention that has arisen.

You might think that where the author or creator of a word or name is known, that person would be the authority on its pronunciation, but you would be demonstrably wrong. Steven Wilhite, creator of the GIF (Graphics Interchange Format), set off a firestorm when he said it should be pronounced /dʒɪf/ and not /gɪf/. Countless electrons have been spilled over the pronunciation of Linux, with one camp supporting /ˈlaɪnʌks/ and another pushing /ˈlɪnʌks/, when to my ear, Linus Torvalds pronounces it more like /'linʊks/ .

  • Thanks for this! It mostly answers my question. So a misspelling or written-origin word would probably fall in this broad category. Of course all words get their pronunciation from... how people pronounce them. Part of my question was if there are any specific rules that are generally accepted by scholars/academics of the English language regarding this. Maybe I didn't make that clear enough. Your answer here seems to be that the answer is "no." That is to say that pronunciation of pretty much everything is decide by the population who speaks the term, and pronunciation will always vary.
    – jdods
    Feb 9, 2019 at 14:02

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.