Re: Pronounciation of Linux -- curiosity about origin
On Fri, Feb 18, 2000 at 12:25:30AM -0500, Daniel Barclay was only
escaped alone to tell thee:
The Oracle has pondered your question deeply. Your question was:
> Since those would suggest only "LIE-nucks" and "LEE-nucks", I still
> wonder: Where did "LIH-nucks" come from?
> Did the sound come through someone speaking a language that has neither
> the long-e nor long-i sounds (of English) (so only a short i was
> perceived and repeated)?
> Was it just an odd perception of how the letters l-i-n-u-x would
> be pronounced?
No. It was the least-kludged way to say it, the path of least resistance.
> Hey, wait: Might it have come from Minix, which I assume is pronounce
> "MINN-..." (as in "minimal")? That's what Linus started with, right?
Yes, but likely, no. Unless they specifically spelled it out (that's a witty,
son) while tinkering with the first inchoate versions of the Linux
kernel-to-be, our man in Finnland probably never heard Americans pronounce
Linux until thousands already were. Remember, they developed it over email,
and Mr. Torvalds, who had just bought a 386 in 1990-91, probably was not
yet wealthy enough to call his American co-developers for etymologic chats.
And too busy, besides, I would imagine.
Since, at least here in the States, Unix is pronounced with a long U
and short I (Minix with two short I's), and Linux got four of its five
letters from Unix, and its arrangement from Linus:
U -- nix Li -- nux
you -- nicks li -- nicks (i's pronounced as in tick)
("nux" ends up sounding much like my friends out here in the American
Middle West pronounce Fort Dix, say; flatter than, e.g., Canucks. :)
The main sound substitution between the two is the L for the Y-sound
that so often precedes the English long U -- esp. as the first letter
of the word.
The secondary change has to do with the odd nature of English-speakers,
who show a high preference for short vowels. As Stephen Sondheim pointed
out, any fool can write an opera libretto in Italian, good or not, because
Italian has fewer sounds and almost all the vowels are long -- which also
makes it a favorite language of opera singers. (Try and sing the English
word "it." Making English singable is, as they say, not a trivial hack.)
The long U in the first syllable is not matched by Linux (or it would
be spelled Lunix, lou -- nicks). The I could be made to match Unix's first
syllable, and be long, but long E's and I's are very sharp in English.
(Drab 'the' becomes sharp, noticeable, and attention-grabbing when it is
used specifically to emphasize, say, "the Revealed Truths of THE one,
true Church of Tarim!") Short I is flatter than, but closer to the smooth
round sound of long U -- also, to the eye reading the words, short I and U
match as much more alike than not. Lee -- nicks, or lee -- nucks, almost
stops the word short before its first syllable is out.
You owe the Oracle a new CD edition of the Oxford English Dictionary, and
a way to plug it into a Speak and Spell.
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