(?) The Answer Gang (!)

By James T. Dennis, tag@lists.linuxgazette.net
LinuxCare, http://www.linuxcare.com/

(?) question

From Lady Wistfulee on Wed, 6 Sep 2000

Answered by: Mike Orr, Heather Stern, Dan Wilder, Don Marti

(?) I know this is a very newbie question, but a link to your URL came up in the HTML Writers' Guild List today & from the looks of your site, you MUST be experts on Linux & I "should" be able to get a straight answer from a "definitive" source.

How the heck does one pronounce "Linux"? I have heard "line-ux" & "len-ux". Which is it??

(!) [Mike Orr] There are at least three common pronunciations, and none are authoritative. Because Linus is an ethnic Swede from Finland, he pronounces it with a short "ee" sound we don't have in English. Some people pronounce it "Line-ix" like the English version of Linus. Others pronounce it "linnix", trying to imitate the Swedish.
(The last vowel, being unstressed, can sound like a short i, short u, or schwa, as is normal rules of English.)
Now that Linus has been in the US a few years, he's starting to adopt an American pronunciation. When I saw him speak at LinuxWorld in 98, he pronounced his name "Line-us" and his OS "linnix". Even when he used both in the same sentance.
However, he has said he doesn't care how people pronounce it. He just wants people to use it.
Mike Orr, Editor, Linux Gazette

(?) Please settle this if you can, I have two "gurus" arguing over it & they have me completely confused.

Thank you.

CÚline Kapiolani
"He who asks is a fool for 5 minutes.
He who doesn't ask remains a fool forever."

Please, let us definitively argue over it... This is the point where everyone chimes in.

(!) [Heather] A reasonable case could be made for the 3 following:
per English standard rules for the spelling.
rhymes with "minix" which it was designed to resemble
(!) [Mike Orr] I forgot about this. Yes, that was the original reason Linux was pronounced that way in 1991. Minix was a Unix-like operating system that ran on PCs (XTs in those days), which Linux was based on.
I have long disliked this pronunciation (linnix) because I don't see why Linux should be tied down to the name of an OS that is inferior, not free, and practically ceased to be used by 1993 or so.
(!) [Heather]
rhymes with Linus, its core man but by no means its only programmer, even for the kernel.
There is a definitive soundbite record by Linux Torvalds, available from kernel.org: http://www.kernel.org/pub/linux/kernel/SillySounds
It's available in either English or Swedish, and he says "My name is Linus Torvalds, and I pronounce Linux, Linux." Thus it's also definitive for how his own name is pronounced. Some of the major distributions also come with a .wav of the sound, as a sample.
Hope this made Linux a little more fun!
* Heather Stern *

Around the same time...

(!) [Dan Marti] Linus' reluctance to be the pronounciation police (quite consistent with his pragmatic character), and his move to the US and subsequent inconsistencies in his own pronounciation.
When I met him, he introduced himself as LINE-us. And in his talks, he says LIN-ucks (last I heard anyway.)
The "Hello this is LEE-nus Torvalds, and I pronounce LEE-nucks as LEE-nucks" (as heard on the old .au file) does not match current practice.


Dear Mike,
This morning I received an email in response to the email I sent yesterday:

(!) [Dan Wilder] If you can play an .au file:
Has Linus Torvalds himself explaining how to pronounce "linux".
And the answer is, "lee-nooks".
The nearest common English is "li-nucks"
with a short "i". It certainly isn't "line-ux" with a long "i" or "len-ux" like the water heater manufacturer, either!

Summing up...

(!) [Mike Orr] I should tread lightly here because Dan's my boss :), but this sound was recorded many years ago, around 1992 or 93, and a lot has happened since then. For instance, the entire period of Linux ascendancy, the loud debates about how to pronounce Linux, Linus' reluctance to be the pronounciation police (quite consistent with his pragmatic character), and his move to the US and subsequent inconsistencies in his own pronounciation.
After 1 1/2 years of working at a company that officially pronounces it "linnix", I've been half browbeaten into submission. Now I end up saying "line-ux" and "linnix" inconsistently in the same sentance. For instance, "This month's Linnix Journal has an article about Line-ix sound drivers."

...but she says it best herself.

(?)Now I am still confused...but at least no one truly cares how it is pronounced, so all is well & good.

Thanks for your quick response!
much alohas,
CÚline Kapiolani

"You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say will be misquoted, then used against you."

Copyright © 2000, James T. Dennis
Published in the Linux Gazette Issue 58 October 2000
HTML transformation by Heather Stern of Tuxtops, Inc., http://www.tuxtops.com/

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