I'll come right out and admit it: I'm a pretty self-absorbed person, and I sometimes have a hard time remembering that not everything is always about me. To this day I believe deep in the core of my soul that when I leave the house in the morning, someone somewhere deploys an army of drivers with the specific intent of ruining my commute, personally. It is only when I force myself to confront the general impossibility of such a thing that I really appreciate the sad fact that nobody, to within a margin of error of a few hundred people, cares whether I as an individual live or die, much less what my opinion about something is. The painful truth is that in the scheme of things, I'm just not that important. And whoever you are, dear reader, it is my sad duty to inform you that neither are you.

Anyway, to my point: I learned today that there's a thing in the C++ programming language called a deque, and although it's a recognized thing among programmers, it doesn't appear in general purpose dictionaries. Being unable to look the word up in a reference work, therefore, one of our users was curious about whether it has a standard, commonly used pronunciation, and if so, what it was. So far, so good. Unfortunately, when he posted the question here, the title he gave it was "How do you pronounce 'deque'?"

Do you see the problem yet? In the body of the question, the OP specifically wrote, "I just want to know how most programmers pronounce it." From this, it's clear that the "you" in the question title is being used in its capacity as an indefinite pronoun, akin to one, e.g.: "How do you operate this thing?" But alas, it seems that upon reading "How do you...", several of our high-rep users leaped to the conclusion that the OP wanted to know how they, as individuals, would pronounce "deque"... because, one supposes, it is de rigueur in some circles to while away a February afternoon posing odd and unusual words and asking each person assembled how he or she would choose to pronounce them, similar to how idlers in the royal courts of medieval Europe used to pass the time inventing whimsical names for groups of animals like "a parliament of owls" and "a murder of crows." And because we don't have time for such upper-crust silliness around here, they closed the question as Primarily Opinion-Based, and it remains on hold as I write these words.

But the question is not Primarily Opinion-Based. It should not have been closed. It should be reopened.

"Primarily opinion-based" is designed to stop "What's the best X?"-type questions. It's not supposed to be used on every single question that involves opinions. English has no language academy akin to l'Académie Française; it is what the people who speak it say it is. In a very real sense, therefore, all questions about English are about opinions. Hardcore descriptivists, like many of us here, even shy away from language like "right" and "wrong," preferring instead to talk about "normal usage," or what's "considered acceptable." What are these, if not appeals to the collective opinions of the English-speaking world about how the language should be used?

As such, before we vote to close a question as POB, it's important that we ask ourselves whether the question is really asking us for our opinions on the subject, or simply inquiring as to the common practices of the English-speaking world, or one or more sub-populations thereof. Think about answers as well as questions. If a question asks how you flonjugate an irregular nerb, and there is no commonly accepted practice, that does not mean the question is POB: it means that the correct answer is "There is no commonly accepted practice; everyone flonjugates it differently."

And hey, if there's a way to improve the wording of a question so it won't get closed as POB, edit it! That's what I did. This will be a much better site if we all spend a bit more time looking for ways to save questions, and a bit less time looking for reasons to kill them.

Please help me reopen this question, and let's not be so quick to close future ones.

  • 3
    I have voted to reopen the question, swayed by your eloquent Meta post. But if I had to be truthful, I voted to close the question because it had a limited audience. And how would the majority of EL&U users know what the most common pronunciation is? If the word is known among computer programmers, shouldn't the correct venue be Stack Overflow?
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Feb 14, 2015 at 11:54
  • 4
    @Mari-LouA My gut reaction is that it would be seen as more on-topic here than on StackOverflow. (Counterexample?) SE was first made for coders. Because of this, I hazard that most who have been here since Beta know some programming. Newcomers, too, are likely coders. If the question made it big, the network would draw in others, maybe a pythonista. The audience is neither wide nor narrow.
    – user39720
    Commented Feb 14, 2015 at 17:13
  • 2
    flonjugate? ist Deutsch? This page is the 1st Google hit for it. Or is it a pun on conjugate, completely over my head?
    – Mazura
    Commented Feb 14, 2015 at 22:17
  • 9
    You should be a preacher, phenry. I feel guilty and convicted, and I didn't even VTC. In fact, I even feel guilty that this comment is about me. Day-umn, if you don't want to be a preacher, you should quit what you're doing and write on important issues. (But that's only what I think.) +1 from this transgressor. Commented Feb 15, 2015 at 2:21
  • 3
    @Mazura: I believe it's a placeholder term, such as widget (any generic object) or narf-farbling (any specialized action or occupation), except for grammar.
    – Marthaª
    Commented Feb 15, 2015 at 4:01
  • 3
    @Mari-LouA just because a question might be better on another SE doesn't mean it should be closed here; that should be judged solely on whether it's on-topic here and nothing else. And the answer to the former is no, but that's beside the point. Commented Feb 16, 2015 at 5:18
  • 9
    @Mari-LouA I am afraid very few questions on EL&U appeal to the majority of users, or even to the majority of users at any given time. Most questions are particular to some area and some situation. True, EL&U is so adjacent to StackOverflow that we get, perhaps, more questions partiluar to software development than, say, figure skating. But that does not make out of scope. Also, posts are googleable, so a good answer is important beyond the scope of this community. I've appreciated that as a non-member for a long time.
    – anemone
    Commented Feb 17, 2015 at 10:59
  • 1
    @Mari-LouA: Your intuition is understandable, but mistaken. Stack Overflow is for questions specifically about programming. In the same way that "what's the proper pronunciation of Porsche?" is not a question about driving cars, questions about the pronunciation of even computer-related terms aren't questions about programming. In fact, this one was closed for precisely this reason.
    – John Y
    Commented Feb 17, 2015 at 16:31
  • 2
    Hey! I voted to reopen it. I was the only one out of the original five close-voters who did so.Lay off my back, man! :)
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Feb 17, 2015 at 16:35
  • @Mari-LouA: Sorry, didn't mean to pile on! I don't think any of the folks who responded to your comment meant to be critical of you.
    – John Y
    Commented Feb 17, 2015 at 18:36
  • 6
    @DirkvB When I was in college, I was taught that it is pronounced "deck". Of course that was 30+ years ago. Back then we had to build our computers using stone knives and bear skins.
    – Jay
    Commented Feb 20, 2015 at 17:23
  • 1
    In case you are interested, the coining of collective nouns for animals can only really be traced back to the popular but dubiously researched and generally slightly silly Book of St Albans, dating back only to about 1486. It doesn't have a long history: it was printed only about six years before Columbus discovered America!
    – Dan
    Commented Feb 20, 2015 at 23:00
  • 3
    "I care"
    – Mitch
    Commented Feb 21, 2015 at 14:47
  • 2
    Ooh, now 60. We're seeing history in the making. Two upvotes away from being the most upvoted post on Meta of all time!
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Feb 23, 2015 at 21:30
  • 2
    @Mari-LouA Boom! Commented Feb 24, 2015 at 12:12

4 Answers 4


This will be a much better site if we all spend a bit more time looking for ways to save questions, and a bit less time looking for reasons to kill them.

THIS. Exactly this.

(I don't actually have much to add to your excellent post; I just wanted to say that I agree with what you say and wish to subscribe to your newsletter. Also, I'm totally stealing "flonjugate an irregular nerb.")


Teacher: "Billy, how do you pronounce f-u-g-u-e?"

Billy: "Foo-gway."

Teacher: "No, I'm sorry, that's wrong. The dictionary says that it is pronounced 'fyoog'."

Billy: "You asked how I pronounce it."


[I]t seems that upon reading "How do you...", several of our high-rep users leaped to the conclusion that the OP wanted to know how they, as individuals, would pronounce "deque"...

This is the problem that I've noticed most about this Stack Exchange site compared to others that I participate in. Every other site is clearly about getting the best answer for users' questions and the experts participate because they're the best and they want to show it. The answerers are the ones who have to prove their worth.

On this site, I feel it's the other way around. To me, the high-rep users here feel like the kings of this realm, and all other peasants are just making offerings in a desperate hope to appease them. On other sites, questions are closed because they are indecipherable or completely unrelated. On this site, questions are closed because they're not hard enough.

  • Have you seen MathOverflow and its questions?
    – Andrew Leach Mod
    Commented Feb 25, 2015 at 9:14
  • 3
    @AndrewLeach My experience with MathOverflow is that new users are welcome (literally; not in the sense in which the word is used here, where 'Welcome to EL&U' is often used in the sense 'Hey, you've landed at EL&U, beware') and as regards difficulty, MO defines itself as research-level mathematics, so it would seem natural that questions that are not research level are closed. I've only been here for a short while, but it seems to me that some users here tend to close off questions that they personally do not find interesting, which seems very sad to me.
    – anemone
    Commented Feb 25, 2015 at 11:07
  • 3
    Well there you go. ELU defines itself as "a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts." If a question doesn't fit that set, then people will vote to close.
    – Andrew Leach Mod
    Commented Feb 25, 2015 at 11:17
  • @AndrewLeach I hope you're not denying that some users on EL&U do leave sarcastic comments on questions that are poorly formulated, and are (admittedly) often off-topic. There are some users who never miss an opportunity.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Feb 25, 2015 at 11:47
  • @Mari-LouA No, but that's what flags are for.
    – Andrew Leach Mod
    Commented Feb 25, 2015 at 11:48

Although I agree with the sentiment (try to save questions rather than trying to kill them, the word "you" is highly ambiguous in the English language), I feel that an English language and usage site is not a good place to ask or answer questions about the pronunciation of technical jargon that's not in common usage.

To that point, how would you to pronounce C#, SQL or O(N!)? Or, if you think I'm being deliberately difficult with those examples (which is fair enough, since I am), what about cobol?

Honestly, I think this kind of question being answered here does a bit of a disservice to the person asking (or could), because ultimately, how YOU (in the sense of the primary audience of an English language usage site) pronounce it doesn't matter even a little. What matters is how the people who use the jargon pronounce it, and someone pronouncing it wrong stands out like a sore thumb.

Though I don't think this site's audience needs to be told this, jargon is often used as a shibboleth, and woe be to them who fail the test. One would be vastly better off to simply inquire about the pronunciation of the in-group, rather than the general public. I, in fact, remember an encounter I have several years ago, where someone lost his job in IT, essentially based on his pronunciation of "cache". (That the guy was an absolute fraud who deserved to lose his job is beside the point, at least for the purposes of mentioning it here.)

For the curious among you, the four terms above are pronounced "see sharp" "sequel" "order N factorial" and "co-ball" (or if you prefer, like the element but, without the terminal 't'.)

  • 8
    1. I use SQL every day, and I pronounce it "ess cue ell". Just saying. 2. A lot of the users of this site are users of the jargon in question. 3. Specifying the context as a particular programming environment is ultimately no different than specifying the context as a small geographical region. Why would we accept the latter but not the former?
    – Marthaª
    Commented Feb 20, 2015 at 0:03
  • @Marthaª Fair points, none of which I disagree with. I'm not even saying that question, or these questions in general should be closed. At the same time, I maintain my position or feeling or whatever that: an English language and usage site is not a good place to ask or answer questions about the pronunciation of technical jargon that's not in common usage. On a tangential note, if you worked with me, you wouldn't pronounce it "ess cue ell". I'd make it my mission to get you to cut out those superfluous, inefficient, and therefore annoying extra syllables from your pronunciation. :) Commented Feb 20, 2015 at 0:14
  • 5
    I also pronounce it "ess cue ell", but of course I'm aware the correct pronunciation is "squeal".
    – anemone
    Commented Feb 20, 2015 at 7:46
  • Hmm, but by the same reasoning you could say that questions about the pronunciation or usage of terms related to any specific discipline would then be off-limits: physics, geography, music, etc. And then you'd have to ask how "technical" a subject has to be to be off limits. Like, particle physics is very technical, I suppose it would qualify. How about dynamics, where they use words like "work" and "force" and "energy". Those are also in pretty common use. And if there's a word that has one pronunciation in general use and a different pronunciation when used by, say, geologists, wouldn't ...
    – Jay
    Commented Feb 20, 2015 at 17:15
  • ... it be good to point that out? I've had at least several answers where I've pointed out that a word has a general definition and a technical definition and the OP needs to be clear which usage he is thinking of. I certainly would agree that questions about how to write SQL would be out of bounds, but how to pronounce it and use it in a sentence is, I think, well within what we mean by "English usage".
    – Jay
    Commented Feb 20, 2015 at 17:16
  • 2
    I used to work in an IT group where EVERYONE pronounced "cache" as "ca-shay". Like, sort of rhyming with "attaché". I had to go look it up to make sure that I wasn't the one confused.
    – Jay
    Commented Feb 20, 2015 at 17:22
  • 3
    @Jay: so how did they pronounce cachet?
    – Marthaª
    Commented Feb 22, 2015 at 4:06
  • 2
    @Marthaª Good question. I don't think that came up in the office. Probably "catch-it".
    – Jay
    Commented Feb 23, 2015 at 14:23
  • 4
    What are you all on about? It’s pronounced [skʷl], obviously, exactly how it’s written! Who needs syllables? Commented Feb 24, 2015 at 12:18
  • @Marthaª Of course, only one pronunciaion of "cache" is correct. But the right pronunciation is far more likely to be confusing, considering that we use the word "cash" far more frequently than "cachet". Hey, it works in context too, e.g. someone developing a new CPU might say "This CPU project lacks the requisite cache to achieve optimal performance." He might mean memory (RAM) but a suit (business-type) in the same room might misinterpret that as cash-money. :)
    – Deepak
    Commented Feb 25, 2015 at 7:49
  • 1
    AFAIK it's "big oh of en factorial". As opposed to "little oh of en factorial", which also exists and is something different.
    – msh210
    Commented Mar 10, 2015 at 5:12

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