I noticed that the tag is not doing well.

This is odd, because I migrated

Pronunciation for hexadecimals

here from SO yesterday and I thought it was a great fit -- totally programmer-centric and something that has confounded me from time to time in talking to my programming peers.

For example, my first user group meeting as a very young teenager (this is the Apple // era) I was talking to another user and said

What Ay Ess Cee Eye Eye character is that?

I practically got laughed out of the room because nobody pronounces ASCII that way! But how was I to know? I had never heard anyone say it, I had only seen it in writing...

I agree that not every "how do I pronounce X?" should be allowed, but I'm convinced a bunch (but not all) of these questions are on-topic and worthy of staying open.

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If your shop pronounces it see-quel, that's how you're going to pronounce it, even though ess-cue-ell is probably more "correct". I can't imagine a more futile exercise than trying to convince all of your coworkers that they have been using the wrong pronunciation for years. –  Robert Harvey Oct 13 '11 at 18:45
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Also, how do you attract experts to a site like this when you've got a handful of "How do I pronounce this?" questions on the front page? –  Robert Harvey Oct 13 '11 at 18:51
    
I think it's a useful subject that I wouldn't mind seeing here, but it might make a better reference page on a programming site, (or maybe on your blog?) If you work alone, you don't always know how things are pronounced. –  vjones Oct 19 '11 at 16:46
    
ascii - we pronounce it aschy –  e-MEE Oct 25 '11 at 10:43
    
Related (though not really the same): meta.gaming.stackexchange.com/questions/3214/… –  Oak Nov 14 '11 at 10:11
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3 Answers

I strongly disagree. They're chatty and irrelevant:

  • How you pronounce a word isn't a shibboleth: you're not going to get fired for pronouncing SQL as "sequel" or "ess-cue-ehl".
  • It doesn't help you do your job better.
  • The correct pronunciation largely depends on who you're speaking with.

They're a textbook case of soft, bike-shedding questions. Unable to answer a question about a real problem? Who cares! Tell us your opinions on how to pronounce this word.

In the rare cases where there actually is singular correct pronunciation, they're either:

  • off-topic because this isn't English.SE
  • wholly uninteresting because any dictionary will tell you the correct pronunciation. Want to know how to pronounce ASCII? Look it up.

If you take a look at the answers to other questions in the tag, you'll note the answer received on the hexidemical question is the exception, not the rule: people wildly upvote crap answers like "I always say {insert pronunciation here}." that have no justification or explanation. They bring down the rest of the site.

Aaronaught, who is always wont to crystalize the problems with a class of posts, gave a great answer when we were discussing if we should have a "general reference" close reason:

Unless we get a "too easy" close reason, I think we should close these as off topic. The word "expert" is right there in the site's tagline; if it's not relevant to an experienced, practicing programmer, then it's not in our scope. I'm sorry if it sounds callous, but we're here to help each other, not educate every single newbie on how to program.

Check this out:

Quality Venn

I'm pretty sure that the purple area between "Advanced" and "Disciplined" is where we are supposed to be. We focus entirely on the subjective (objective questions go on Stack Overflow), so we have to be on the right side; and since we're nowhere near as disciplined as Skeptics, we have to make up for it by discussing subjects that are more advanced.

If we start allowing questions that are subjective and beginner-level, then we end up with bike shed questions, which almost invariably produce crap answers and drag down the rest of the site with them.

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you may not get fired, but like writing crappy code, you will get laughed at by your professional peers. (For that matter, you may not even get fired for writing crappy code. Peer ridicule is more effective.) Being able to properly communicate technical concepts in spoken language with your peers in ways that are clear, effective -- and not laughter inducing -- are absolutely on topic here. Now, the usual quality filters still apply; any answer should "back it up" on every topic, but a blanket ban is simply not justifiable. –  Jeff Atwood Sep 13 '11 at 9:57
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@Jeff The answers to the closed questions completely ignore the back it up principle. I can't see how re-opening any of them makes sense: they were, in practice, magnets for terrible answers. Not being able to communicate something is one thing, not being able to communicate a really basic, easily answered thing is another (e.g. what "int a = 5" means is off-topic): they're easily answered by Googling & trivial/uninteresting for experts. 2nd Google hit for ASCII even has a button to hear someone say it. –  user8 Sep 13 '11 at 10:38
    
I'm not necessarily proposing re-opening all the old questions, just given the track record of that tag, ensuring that new good questions (like the one I migrated) in that tag have a chance. Also have you tried Googling "how to pronounce ::"? Just sayin'. –  Jeff Atwood Sep 13 '11 at 10:41
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One of the big selling points for design patterns is to increase/improve communication amongst programmers. Proper pronunciation of programming specific words and concepts does precisely the same thing. So I'd say that it certainly does help you become a better programmer... unless you're an army of one behind a computer, without a team. Also consider, expert programmers that aren't native english speakers. This can help them loads. –  Steve Evers Sep 13 '11 at 13:23
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@Jeff To be fair, half of the accepted answer on the question you migrated is a half-joking proposal for new pronunciation. Is that really helpful to anyone? –  Anna Lear Sep 14 '11 at 3:34
    
@anna when they degenerate into "well, here's how I say it!" then of course that's no better than soliciting opinions about the "right" way to compose a loop, is it? But if the question asks for references, history, examples, citations -- essentially, proof that the pronunciation is accepted with our profession -- then they're absolutely on topic. –  Jeff Atwood Sep 14 '11 at 4:03
    
@Jeff I agree, but I'm yet to see that in practice. Even the question you migrated doesn't ask for references, history, etc. The three answers it got are the "this is how I say it" kind. Admittedly, it is one of the better examples cause the answers actually have some substance to them (and there are only 3 :)), which is contributing to the question staying open, but it's still far from being backed up by references and citations. –  Anna Lear Sep 14 '11 at 13:17
    
@anna sure but enforcement of quality -- and editing to ensure the right text is there asking for references and history -- is up to the community. These questions are not intrinsically bad fits, but any "good" question can be asked in a bad way, yes? –  Jeff Atwood Apr 29 '13 at 20:24
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Agreed. Many should stay open. Sure, some can be softball questions but...

  • They're programming specific.
  • The have definitive answers.
  • Non-native english speakers might see great value in these types of questions, and by extension, the native english speakers who work with them.
  • The proliferation of words and acronyms in the programming domain specific language causes there to be a large amount of these types of miscommunications. If its pronunciation isn't documented well/obviously somewhere then it certainly should be asked.
  • These types of questions have the same argument as design patterns: their existence improves communication.
  • Unless you're an army of one, improved communication does make you a better at your job.
  • When everyone is on the same page with proper pronunciation, the programming profession becomes a better place - and IIRC, that was a goal for Stack Exchange.

For years I called it ess-cue-ehl server, until I heard a .NET Rocks cast with the PM of the project (whom I'd call an authority on the subject) call it sequel server. If only someone had told me sooner...

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provided the answers back up their claims with data or some other citation than "I say it this way..", of course –  Jeff Atwood Sep 14 '11 at 3:57
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+1 for everything, but as someone whose native language isn't English, I want to stress the 3rd bullet: in the field of computer science and software engineering, I learn things by reading and writing. Proper pronunciation in this field is something which isn't always easy to find out. These questions are valuable. –  Oak Nov 14 '11 at 10:09
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I was kind of annoyed to find this question moved to english.SE and the main reason I was annoyed was because Marco Cantu, the noted Delphi guru, deigned to answer it. Then when it was shipped over to English.SE it got 0 extra answers.

It was pretty much a done deal by the time it was transferred and had a very acceptable answer with a lot of other good nuanced answers which were loppped off, including Marco's, which is not a good way to attract experts to the site.

AND, I also noticed that Danny Thorpe commented on the question as well. Well at least that survived. I'm not sure if the mods here have an inkling how cool that is, but it's really cool.

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well, Delphi has a long history in the world far beyond computers, so I am OK with that particular move. –  Jeff Atwood Apr 29 '13 at 20:22
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