Pronouncing acronyms makes my head spin

It seems that any technology loves to spawn acronyms and, at times, it can all seem like alphabet soup. Sometimes acronyms evolve from being an acronym to being the name of something. For example, I spent many years thinking that JDBC was an acronym for Java Data Base Connectivity. Now, however, knowledgable folks, including the authors of the Sun JDBC API Tutorial, tell us that JDBC is not an acronym for anything. It’s the name of an API.

I’m OK with JDBC being the name of an API but I like to pronounce it by saying each letter: J-D-B-C. This makes sense to me even if it isn’t an acronym.

What has been making my head spin lately is a growing trend to “pronounce” acronyms as words. JNDI (Java Naming and Directory Interface) is the acronym for the naming API specified by JEE (Java Extended Edition). I pronounce it J-N-D-I. Several weeks ago I was talking with a technology instructor who kept pronouncing it Gin-Dee. I had to ask him what Gin-Dee meant which probably didn’t do much to bloster my stock in his view. But I had never heard J-N-D-I called Gin-Dee before.

Since that time I have noticed this trend more and more:

  • SOA pronounced Sew-Ahh
  • URL pronounced Earl
  • JEE pronounced Gee

I am starting to become concerned that one day I will no longer understand my colleagues when they speak to me.

“The Earl for the Sew-Ahh service will be stored in the Gee Gin-Dee tree”.


6 Responses to Pronouncing acronyms makes my head spin

  1. worldhate says:

    I googled “how to pronounce JNDI” and ended up here. It seems I’m not the only one confused.
    Anyway, I’ll point out that acronyms are *supposed* to be pronounced, and that is what sets them apart from initialisms.

  2. bwithers says:

    Um, I guess you are right, I am confused. More so now. Based on your definition then JNDI is an initial ism and should not be pronounced, right? Yet you arrived here by searching for how to pronounce it! So, I guess it is an acronym. But it does represent the first letter of each word so, I’m thinking initial ism. Or maybe not. I’m starting to think this technology should be removed from the JEE specs! 🙂

    Anyway, I appreciate your comments worldhate (I don’t even want to know) – thanks.


  3. worldhate says:

    I’ve made a mistake in my previous statement. There is no rule on pronouncing initialisms (some are pronounced by some people) and the thing that differentiates them from acronyms is that they are not specifically made to look like proper words. This is why I way googling for a way to pronounce JNDI, although it is clearly an initialism.
    Anyway, what it means is that both you and the “Gin-dee” guy are right… maybe, you’re a bit more right, but still, his way is easier…
    Not that any of this was important in any degree, but it was just fun to discuss 🙂

    ‘Worldhate’ is because I have a wordpress blog where I write about things I hate, usually in a harsh way, and I simply don’t want anyone who knows from elsewhere to be able and associate me with it, so I use a cryptic name that fits the blog’s disposition.
    I know you said you didn’t want to know, but there you have it 🙂

  4. bwithers says:

    That makes sense. Thanks for the clarification. I don’t really have a big problem with “Gin-Dee”, in fact, I’ve become used to it. The first time I heard it I had no idea what the guy was talking about but now that I’ve heard it a number of times I’m OK with it.


  5. This was a Fantastic post, I will be sure to bookmark this in my Clipmarks account. Have a great day.

  6. Fodder says:

    I came here looking for how to pronounce JNDI as well. Although this started because I was wondering how to pronounce SPNEGO. I’ve heard sp-neigh-go and sp-nee-go, and Wikipedia says it’s pronounced spen-go.

    And then there’s the S-Q-L vs “sequel” confusion. I hadn’t heard “sequel” before, so I thought that it was an entirely different method for accessing data from databases.

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