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A Pronunciation Guide for 21 Key Geeky Words and Phrases

Geeks take pride in knowing every facet of their area of expertise, whether it’s knowing that the murderous Marvel antihero The Punisher once teamed up with the lovable Archie, being able to recount all 86 endings of Star Ocean: The Second Story, or knowing what a grue’s favorite diet is.

Oddly enough, one thing of which we geeks may not be aware are the proper pronunciations to some of our culture’s most prominent names and words. Whether the cause is rarely hearing them spoken aloud, or regularly hearing more than one widely-used pronunciation, the following is a list of words prevalent in our culture with pronunciations that are generally in contention along with their proper pronunciations.

1) GameFAQs

With a history dating back to 1995, every gamer knows GameFAQs. It’s the number one site for video game tips, tricks and guides, and has a humongous, generally helpful community that resides on its forums. Whenever anything related to gaming is in question, heading over to GameFAQs usually solves the issue. The pronunciation issue isn’t isolated to the helpful site though, it’s focused on the FAQs bit.

  • The Mystery: Fack (as in “quack”); Fawk (as in “hawk”); eff-ay-cue (saying each letter individually)
  • The Answer: It’s generally pronounced “fack,” though pronouncing each letter individually isn’t incorrect either. However, when talking about a single FAQ, most people say “a FAQ,” which further proves that it’s widely pronounced as “fack” rather than saying the individual letters, or else people would say “an FAQ” as in “an eff-ay-cue.” So, stop saying “game fawks” already.

2) Ubisoft

Having a history tracing back to 1986, Ubisoft is now one of the world’s largest video game publishers, best known for franchises like Prince of Persia, Assassin’s Creed, Myst, Rayman, Beyond Good & Evil, Heroes of Might and Magic, and various Tom Clancy games.

  • The Mystery: You-bee-soft; Uh-bee-soft; Ooo-bee-soft
  • The Answer: Straight from Ubisoft employees, it’s pronounced “you-bee-soft.” It is a play on the word “ubiquitous,” which means “found everywhere,” chosen because Ubisoft wanted to say its games reach everyone.

3) Square Enix

Starting out as two separate Japanese RPG powerhouses, Squaresoft and Enix merged their final fantasies and dragon quests to form an even more powerful (not counting Final Fantasy XIII, naturally) JRPG powerhouse, Square Enix. The issue isn’t with the “Square” part of the name, but with it’s JRPG brethren, Enix.

  • The Mystery: En-nicks; Eee-nicks
  • The Answer: A bit of a roller coaster on this one. At first, I was positive it was pronounced “Eee-nicks,” like the “e” sound in “see,” until I came across a forum post for the game Infinite Undiscovery, which claims Enix is pronounced “Enn-nicks,” like the “e” sound in “then,” in the game’s sound test menu. Having my world turned upside-down by this extremely serious news, I did some sleuthing and called the Square Enix support hotline, where the automated female voice pronounced it “Eee-nicks,” like I originally thought. Whether or not the forum post is true, it’s probably best to stick with how the actual company’s support line pronounces it.

4) Cthulhu

Created by H.P. Lovecraft, Cthulhu is a humongous cosmic entity resembling a blend of an octopus, dragon and humanoid. Bordering on a ridiculous mishmash that would be found laughable in today’s horror scene, Cthulhu is still widely-known and loved amongst literature buffs and geeks the world over.

  • The Mystery: Probably doesn’t need a list of common mispronunciations, but it’s safe to say every letter in the name other than the “l” can be pronounced one way or another.
  • The Answer: Wikipedia says H.P. Lovecraft once transcribed the pronunciation as “Khlûl-hloo,” though didn’t pronounce it that way at other times. Now commonplace, the accepted pronunciation is “ka-thoo-loo;” that is, if you accept a pronunciation from a source other than the creator of the word. Lovecraft didn’t seem to have any consistent way of pronouncing it though, so we’re all better off settling on the common way described above.

5) Meme

Coined in 1976 by Richard Dawkins, who you may otherwise know as “that atheist on South Park who had sex with Mr. Garrison after his sex change,” a meme is essentially a unit of culture. Within the past few years, Internet memes reached critical mass and the word became a widely-acknowledged piece of common language.

  • The Mystery: May-may; Meem; Mee-mee
  • The Answer: It’s pronounced “meem,” rhyming with the word “cream.” Dawkins created the word by shortening the word “mimeme,” which derives from the Greek word “mimena.” “Mimena,” meaning “something imitated,” is the perfect word to describe the phenomenon of Internet memes, since something has to be replicated a boatload of times in a variety of ways in order to be considered an Internet meme.

6) Linux

Initially developed by Linus Torvalds, Linux is the top open source operating system available, widely considered to be the “hardcore” computer user’s operating system.

  • The Mystery: Linn-ecks; Linn-ooks, Lie-necks; Lie-nooks
  • The Answer: “Linn-ecks” is the most commonly accepted way to pronounce the name, though funnily enough, “Lin-ooks” is apparently accepted in Canada. You know, like how Canadians say they’re going “oot and aboot.”

7) ICO

ICO is a 2001 PlayStation 2 adventure game featuring a horned kid making his way through dangerous puzzles while leading an odd white-colored girl around by literally having to hold her hand and drag her around. The game was a landmark for the gaming industry, putting similarly named game developer Team ICO on the map, making way for their success with the PlayStation 2′s Shadow of the Colossus.

  • The Mystery: Eee-kough (as in “goat”); Eye-kough; Eee-so; Eye-so
  • The Answer: According to Wikipedia and this trailer, it’s pronounced “Eee-kough.” My apologies to everyone who shudder at the thought of having to pronounce it this way, instead of “Eye-kough,” which includes myself. It sounds so unnatural.

8) WYSIWYG

WYSIWYG stands for “what you see is what you get” and is commonly applied to visual editors. For example, if you’re building a webpage by dragging pictures around the editor, rather than dealing with HTML tags, you’re working in a WYSIWYG editor.

  • The Mystery: Wizzy-wig; Why-see-wig; doubleyou-why-ess-eye-doubleyou-why-jee (saying each letter individually)
  • The Answer: Most people pronounce it “wizzy-wig,” though there really isn’t an official way to go about it. I can only imagine people wouldn’t really be too fond of saying each letter in the abbreviation individually. Go the three-syllable route rather than the seven-syllable route, for the sake of the person you’re talking to.

9) Bahamut

In Arabian mythology, Bahamut is a humongous fish that supports the Earth, but in our culture he’s most commonly known as the dragon summon throughout the Final Fantasy universe. He usually sports a non-elemental magic damage attack and is generally one of the strongest summons in each game.

  • The Mystery: Bah-hah-mutt; Bah-hah-moot; Bah-hah-mute
  • The Answer: The occasional forum post pops up asking how to pronounce Bahamut from time to time, but in the PlayStation 2′s Final Fantasy XII, it is pronounced “Bah-hah-moot,” and funnily enough, is in reference to the Sky Fortress Bahamut, rather than the dragon-like summon Bahamut usually appears as.

10) J. R. R. Tolkien

A veritable king within our culture, J. R. R. Tolkien created The Lord of the Rings, essentially a template for modern day works of high fantasy, whether that’s a good thing or not.

  • The Mystery: Toll-kin; Tahl-kin; Toll-keen; Tahl-keen
  • The Answer: According to an illustration in The Return of the Shadow: The History of the Lord of the Rings, Part One, Tolkien transcribed the phonetic pronunciation himself, and surprisingly enough, he pronounced it “tahl-kin,” (the “tahl” part sounding like “stall”). It is apparently also accepted the way you’ve been hearing it your whole life, “toll-kin,” but it’s probably more correct to pronounce the name the way the owner of said name pronounced it himself.

11) AT-AT

The AT-AT, otherwise known as those big robot camels from Star Wars, stands for All Terrain Armored Transport and is apparently impossible to outrun, though judging by the way they move in the movies coupled with the fact that they opted for humongous mechanic legs instead of wheels, it’s probably safe to say you can briskly out-walk the mechanical camel death machines.

  • The Mystery: At-at; ay-tee ay-tee (saying each letter individually)
  • The Answer: Straight from Lucasfilm’s public relations department in response to an email by Joseph Chi Lin asking the proper pronunciation, they publicly related that it’s pronounced phonetically, “at-at,” rather than saying each letter individually.

12) Ubuntu

A popular open source Linux desktop operating system or philosophical concept regarding people’s relations to one another, most people within our culture are more aware of the former.

  • The Mystery: Pretty much every appearance of the letter “u” in the name can be pronounced in a variety of ways: uh; ooo; you; etc.
  • The Answer: As Nelson Mandela pronounces it in this video, it’s pronounced “Ooo-boone-too” in the native African language in which the word resides. If you disagree, take it up with Nelson Mandela.

13) Mana, Mako

A two-fer! Mana is a widely-used term to describe a generally exhaustive pool of magic points in games that require a way to limit the use of magic. Mako is what amounts to mana in the immensely popular Final Fantasy VII, and is described as the liquid form of the Planet’s Lifesteam.

  • The Mystery: Man-a; Maw-na; / May-kough; Mah-kough
  • The Answer: If derived from the Pacific Islander word that describes a supernatural force within beings (which would certainly describe the magic power definition used by most games), then Dictionary.com pronounces itmaw-na.” Looks like Penny Arcade got it right. According to the Final Fantasy Wiki, Mako isn’t pronounced like the shark of the same name; it’s pronounced “mah-kough,” with the “kough” bit sounding like “dough.”

14) Shaman

Within our geeky culture, shamans are usually recognized as users of spiritual magic; in video games, they tend to focus on healing and curses.

  • The Mystery: Shah-muhn; Shah-man; Shay-muhn; Shay-man
  • The Answer: Again, Dictionary.com saves the day. According to the audio pronunciation, “shaman” is pronounced “shah-muhn,” even though the adjective is pronounced “shah-man-ik.”

15) MySQL

MySQL is a widely-popular open source database management system that allows multi-user access. It uses a relational database system that stores data in separate areas rather than lumping it all into one big space. The name is a combination of the creator’s daughter’s name and an acronym standing for “Structured Query Language.”

  • The Mystery: My-sequel; My ess-cue-ell (saying each letter individually)
  • The Answer: Though most people pronounce it “my sequel,” the official reference manual states it is pronounced “my ess-cue-ell,” with the letters in the “SQL” acronym said individually. The website does state that they don’t mind when it’s pronounced “my sequel,” so if you’re of the sort who sticks to their original guns and continues to pronounce things incorrectly, at least the MySQL developers don’t mind that you’re wrong.

16) Ra’s al Ghul

Created in 1971, Ra’s al Ghul is one of Batman’s biggest foes, though Ra’s al Ghul oftentimes considers Batman to be a potential ally. The character’s ultimate goal is to achieve a world that has perfect environmental balance, though that means exterminating most of the human populace, causing the character to suffer from the now-overused theme of “bad guy with a good cause tries to achieve it in a bad way.” Pronounced in a variety of ways between the Batman Begins movie and the various animated series (with Batman Beyond even making fun of the pronunciation by having Terry McGuiness mispronounce the name to annoy another character), any name sporting an apostrophe right in the middle easily lends itself to mispronunciation.

  • The Mystery: Raj-al-ghoul; Rahz-al-ghoul; Rash-al-ghoul; Ras-al-ghoul; Raysh-al-ghoul
  • The Answer: Combined with Arabic pronunciation rules and a response from Dennis O’Neil’s (the character’s creator) wife, the correct way to pronounce the character’s name is “Raysh-al-ghoul.”

17) Magus and Magi

Like with the shaman, in our subculture, a magus is widely acknowledged to be a user of magic; though unlike the shaman’s focus on spiritual magic, the magus is usually seen as practicing more generalized magic.

  • The Mystery: May-jus; May-gus; Ma-jeye; May-geye
  • The Answer: Proving that this one isn’t so difficult to figure out if one knows how to pronounce “mage,” the audio pronunciation clearly pronounces the words “may-jus” and “may-jeye.”

18) IRC

Created in 1988, IRC, standing for Internet Relay Chat, is a type of Internet chat that was mainly designed for users to chat through the use of channels, though it does offer private messaging and file transfers. IRC is still going strong today, and there have been a multitude of IRC clients released that offer differing features catering to various user preferences.

  • The Mystery: Irk; eye-are-see (saying each letter individually)
  • The Answer: Though both pronunciations are accepted, most people consider saying each letter individually to be the official way to pronounce “IRC,” including the developer of the famed mIRC, as stated in his mIRC FAQ, though he also states he switches it up to the single syllable “mirk” pronunciation when he needs to speak a little more quickly.

19) Neil Gaiman

An English author, Neil Gaiman is probably best known for his comic series The Sandman, his novella Coraline, and his collaborative effort with Terry Pratchett on the novel Good Omens.

  • The Mystery: Focusing on his last name, Gay-man; Guy-man; Gay-muhn; Guy-muhn; Gay-min; Guy-min
  • The Answer: As stated in a FAQ on Neil Gaiman’s official website, he pronounces it “Gaym’n,” which when said aloud, sounds most similar to “game-uhn.”

20) Jonathan Coulton

A former programmer, Jonathan Coulton is now a singer-songwriter and is one of modern day’s famous geeks. His songs, which made him Internet famous, are focused on geek-related themes, such as a mad scientist who falls in love with one of his captives. His most famous song, “Still Alive,” played at the end of gaming phenomenon Portal, then eventually made it to the Rock Band library as a free download. Pretty much the modern day writer for geek anthems, he’s so Internet famous that a geek cruise will be held in his honor, featuring various other geek culture icons.

  • The Mystery: The point of contention is his last name: Coal-tun; Cool-tun
  • The Answer: Actually a little difficult to find being spoken aloud, a few video interviews pronounced the name “Coal-tun.” Not a huge victory for pronunciation, but when you’re Internet famous, the majority of content can frequently end up in text, making the proper pronunciation a bit hazy.

21) Mister Mxyzptlk

Ah, the best for last. More mischievous than outright evil and from the 5th dimension, Mister Mxyzptlk’s hobby seems to be bugging Superman. Not only does his name look utterly unpronounceable, but the usual way to defeat him is to get him to say or spell his name backwards, which will banish him back to the 5th dimension–an actual method of victory based on pronunciation.

  • The Mystery: Look at it!
  • The Answer: According to this clip from Superman: The Animated Series, the name is pronounced “mix-yezz-spit-lick.” Just in case you’re ever confronted by Mister Mxyzptlk and he’s totally ruining your day with his little hat, don’t worry, we here at Geekosystem have your back. About 1:50 into another clip from the cartoon series, the mischievous little guy gets hilariously tricked into saying it backwards: “kil-tip-zee-zim.” Oops.

Well, there you have it. Now when you pronounce anything on the above list incorrectly, it’ll be a defiant act of rebellion, rather than because you simply didn’t know how.

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