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The pronunciation of abbreviation FAQ is not uniform (cf. What is the commonly accepted pronunciation of FAQ?). One of commonly encountered ones is /fæk/. This one, at least to my untrained, non-native speaker ear sounds really close to the word

fuck /fʌk/

The etymology of the abbreviation, coming from the early and wild years of the Internet of the 80s, might suggest that this similarity in pronunciation was not a coincidence. Referring other people to read the FAQ might have been a tongue-in-cheek way of telling them to "go away" (though I have not found any source to corroborate that little theory of mine). On the other hand, the abbreviation is used now even by "serious" entities, like the European Commission (e.g. here).

My questions:

Is this similarity in pronunciation recognized by native speakers as well? In other words - does the word FAQ have a slight vibe of vulgarity? If it does - is it probable that a person might feel offended when it's used in (probably official) verbal or written communication?

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    /fæk/ and /fʌk/ don't sound very close to me; I wouldn't confuse the two. If you're concerned about your own pronunciation of it you can easily avoid the issue by saying the individual letters instead, indeed that's my preference anyway, I've always read it as initials rather than a word. In written form FAQ is so common you don't need to worry. – nnnnnn Jan 12 at 2:33
  • I generally pronounce it "fak" -- like "fact" without the ending T sound. And anyone who chooses to be offended by it is (offensive description). – Hot Licks Jan 12 at 2:34
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    I hope it will reassure you to hear that I think this a perfectly silly question, and so is your fear. – Robusto Jan 12 at 2:40
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    I don't think I've had to "read out loud" since elementary school. But, were I reading out loud and had to pronounce "FAQ" I would always say "frequently asked question". Nothing else would sound natural to me. – user312440 Jan 12 at 5:30
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    I have always pronounced by reading out the letters F-A-Q. – Jalene Jan 12 at 6:55
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Interesting Q! I've used 'the FAQ' for decades. I've always pronounced it out by the letters. "The F A Q", rarely by the words. The Frequently Asked Questions are sometimes useful, often not.

Occasionally, "Just read the FAQ" is indeed a way of telling someone that they haven't done their due diligence, especially in tech, similar to RTFM. "Read The Fine Manual"

For a first time reader, I could imagine some confusion, especially for a non-native speaker of English. English with its vast selection vowels is often an opportunity for four-letter humour.

All said, I tend to side with the comments already posted, in that the pronunciation of FAQ might not be the most pressing concern of most speakers.

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  • "Read The Fine Manual"? Funny. – nnnnnn Jan 12 at 8:06

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