My name is Jim and I call it "lie-nucks"

This page was inspired by all those over-serious politically-correct people with their "my-pronunciation-is-more-correct-than-yours" attitude, and all those superior-feeling recent-ex-newbies leering at those people they presume to be marginally more newbie than them due to the way they say things. It's a tough job but someone has to do it. So here we go ...

The word Linux can be viewed as a pun on either UNIX or Minix, depending on your background. Those "there at the start" with their therefore superior insider knowledge may lean towards the more exclusive Minix derivation, whilst to everyone else, Linux obviously has more letters in common with UNIX, and Minix is about as relevant to modern life as OS/2. And obviously, as we all know, the name Linux was derived from the name of Linus Torvalds -- I don't think we need to argue about that. Now to gather together all the various pronunciations:

  Linux        UNIX	   Minix       Linus	      
  lie-nucks    you-nicks*  my-nicks    lie-nuss     (1)
  linnucks*    unnicks     minnicks*   linnuss      (2)
  lee-nooks*   oo-neeks    me-neeks    lee-noos     (3)

Line (1) follows the pattern: dipthong / short-vowel; line (2) has the pattern: two short vowels; and line (3): two open vowels. I've indicated with a star all the apparently 'socially-approved' pronunciations for English speakers. (I'd hope that speakers of other languages are more sensible, and just pronounce it the way that seems natural, rather than turning it into a game of political correctness and one-upmanship -- or should that be "one-up-person-ship", not wishing to exclude any female Linux enthusiasts, should they wish to join in).

Now then comes the tricky part. Which pronunciation to use? Linus seems to be using (3), misheard by many English speakers apparently as (2). Many of those using (2) feel themselves to be superior to those using (1), the most obvious English pronunciation. However, if they based their choice on listening to Linus, then the basis for their superiority is looking pretty shaky because I think they heard him wrong, and so they really need to think of some other justification. Those "there at the start" can reach for the Minix connection at this point. This justifies their pronunciation very clearly, but if they are right, then Linus has been saying it wrong all these years, which puts them at odds with their great leader. It's a tricky position to be in.

Then of course there is pronunciation (1), the obvious English pronunciation. This has the advantage that, like (2), it is also incorrect compared to Linus' pronunciation, but that it follows the pattern of UNIX and other familiar English words. And finally we could all try and put on a Finnish accent and say it like Linus does.

It seems inescapable to me that whichever way you say it, you are going to be wrong. Even Linus is wrong. If people were more sensible, no-one would really care. Really, who cares how you say it? There are more important things to worry about. It is normal for words to arrive in a language and get adapted to local pronunciation rules. If I was going to a Spanish-speaking country, I'm going to pronounce it their way, or else they are not going to understand me ... obviously.

But the world is not like that, and people worry about being correct ... so all I can say is that all the evidence points to you being correct whatever you say. Those who wish to be Finnishly correct can use (3), those who wish to be UNIXly and linguistically correct (and who are not afraid to provoke discussion) can use (1), and those distressed by conflict, plus the LINUX_ME_HARDER[*] brigade, can continue to use (2).

So there we go, now we are all happy -- I hope.

UAZUNextUpPrev These pages and files, including applets and artwork, are Copyright (c) 1997-2019 Jim Peters unless otherwise stated. Please contact me if you'd like to use anything not explicitly released, or if you have something interesting to discuss.