I Now Pronounce You, Um, I’m Not Entirely Sure.


I was debating opening this post with an animated GIF showing Ethereal running under Linux, capturing traffic originating from a Huawei router. Unfortunately I realized as I wrote the image caption that pronouncing some of those words correctly was going to be a real challenge.

So instead, I offer a brief homage to a few geek product names that just aren’t pronounced the way you’d think they are, and I’m hoping that you can add more to the list in the comments. I wonder how many of these names you pronounce incorrectly?

GIF (Graphics Interchange Format)

Who wouldn’t pronounce the name of this ubiquitous graphics file format with a hard G sound (like in Golf)? Well, the creator of the format wouldn’t for one, it seems. As CNN explains:

Steve Wilhite created the Graphics Interchange Format, or GIF, while working for Compuserve in 1987. On Tuesday, he received a Webby Award for it and delivered his five-word acceptance speech (that’s all the Webbys allow) by flashing a GIF on the big screens at the Cipriani Wall Street in New York.
And, in a flash, it all became clear:
“It’s pronounced JIF, not GIF.”


Famed for the long term allegations that they “copied” Cisco (including their website where the documentation looked suspiciously identical to Cisco’s own), Huawei is a large manufacturer of networking products that is seeking rapid growth outside its home base of China. Sadly they chose a name that does not help them in English-speaking countries, because many people quite reasonably pronounce Huawei to make it sound something like Hawaii. But it’s actually pronounced Wah-Way. Obviously. The company seems to have recognized that this is a problem, releasing this video on their YouTube channel last year:

Got it now? Wah-way. Wah-way.


Insieme is a Cisco Spin-In company, shortly to see its official public launch in November. When I read it, I can’t help but say “inseam” (like on trousers). I gather though that it is actually supposed to be pronounced like the Italian word on which is it based, which would be more like in-see-em-ay. You can hear an audio clip on this translation at Forvo.

I can’t help feeling that this is going be to a fun one.


Remember Ethereal? It’s the packet capture application now known, thank goodness, as Wireshark. Most people reasonably enough assumed that it was pronounced Ether-real. After all, it dealt with Ethernet, so it makes complete sense. However, the Ethereal FAQ stated that:

Q 1.6: How do you pronounce Ethereal? Where did the name come from?

A: The English pronunciation can be found in Merriam-Webster’s online┬ádictionary at

In other words it’s pronounced like the ghostly thing. Of course, now the product is known as Wireshark, this information is too late to help you. Sorry about that.


I don’t know about elsewhere in the world, but in the UK, this was often pronounced Lie-nux (as in Linus and Lucy), especially earlier in its development. This clearly frustrated Linus Torvalds who, back in the day, had an audio clip up on the web where he said something along the lines of:

“Hello, this is Linus Torvalds, and I pronounce Linux as ‘Linux’.”

Doesn’t help to read the text though, but perhaps you could listen to the WAV file instead: There’s also a more recent video clip where Linus Torvalds repeats his stance:

So it’s pronounced with a short i, like in “William.” This way you can be one of the people who get it right and sound smart. Actually if I’m being picky, Linus kind of says “Leanux”. So maybe it’s somewhere in between. But it definitely is not “Lie-nux”.


This one kills me. For years I’ve talked about TeX and LaTeX pronouncing them the way they’re written, with a “ks” sound at the end, because, well, the letter X has a “ks” at the end. FOOL! I was educated on this one just recently. The name TeX is derived from the Greek letters Tau, Epsilon and Chi, and Donald Knuth insists that the end of the word should be pronounced as a kind of “cch” sound, as used in words like “loch” or “Bach”. Effectively it ends up sounding a little like the Tech part of “Technology”, but maybe a little more throaty.

Donald Knuth nods towards the common (majority, I would guess) bad pronunciation in this tongue in cheek launch for the next generation of TeX. It’s long, but I think it’s worth watching at last the first half, as he’s quite a funny guy:

Oh – and then there’s “Lay-tek” versus “Lah-tek” argument; I’m going to leave that one well alone today.



Maybe I was too hasty about my original image title; but I should have written it as being:

An animated JIF showing Etheereal running under Lea-nuks, capturing traffic originating from a Wah-way router.

That would have been perfectly clear, right?

So enough from me; I’d love to hear more geeky stuff in the comments – more common tools with spellings that just don’t work when read in English.

Disclaimer: This post was not typeset in “TeK”.


6 Comments on I Now Pronounce You, Um, I’m Not Entirely Sure.

  1. Not so much a pronunciation but a spelling “mistake” I see all the time. Being a Perl hacker yourself, you probably know it’s “Perl”, not “PERL”, unless you’re talking about the interpreter itself – in which case, it’s “perl”.

  2. Actually, you do pronounce the H in Huawei: “Hwah-way”. If “hw” seems awkward, think about how your grandmother pronounced “white”. Same sound.

    • I’m no linguist, but if Huawei is going to make a video that, itself, spells the name out as “Wah-way”, who am I to correct them?

      I’m off to eat some HWeat Thins. ;)-)

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