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The curse of G-before-N

May 19, 2011

Linux for the GNU South – Attend if you can.

During her visit to Budapest where she was part of the Ubuntu Developers Summit, Linux Pro’s associate publisher Rikki Kite posted this on Facebook:

“My geeky friends who pronounce ‘gnome’ as ‘ga-nome’ and ‘gnu’ as ‘ga-new’ might appreciate this -> I saw gnocchi on the buffet at UDS and said, ‘Oh, good, ga-no-kee.’ I ka-new it sounded wrong as soon as I said it.”

To which I reply to Rikki: You mean that’s not how you pronounce it?

Personally, I blame Richard Stallman. It’s an affliction that affects geeks on our side of the proverbial aisle: The “G” factor, where a normally silent letter gets pressed into phonetic service, well, for a couple of reasons. First, because it’s there (and from an engineering standpoint, why would it be there if it wasn’t going to be used?), and secondly, because we’re used to the fact that GNU and GNOME have the “g” — how can I put this? — unsilent, and we’ve been trained, or brainwashed, into putting the “g” in there where it doesn’t belong.

It’s bad enough the little guys in the garden are guh-nomes — even after the recent movie “Guh-nomeo and Juliet” — but there are other places where this arises.

For example, I had to wail and gnash — pronounced guh-nash, right? — my teeth at the various grammatical and spelling errors (not to mention the Giants blowing a four-run lead to the Dodgers) while working at the paper last night.

Surfers in the area, as well as elsewhere, consider things “gnarly” without the “g” sound; except some in Santa Cruz who also use Linux/FOSS and say “guh-narly,” dude.

To say nothing of the fact that we have no pesky gnats — yep, there’s a “g” in there, making it guh-nats — flying around in these parts, but I used to have to deal with them elsewhere.

Anyway, while there may be a cure for this, or at least a 12-step program (“I’m Larry, and I’m a G-oholic” — “Hi, Larry”), I think the better course of action would be to alert the non-geeks around you that you’re going to be using all the letters in the words you use, save for the silent “e” and the silent “k” in “kn-” words.

[FSF Associate Member] (Larry Cafiero runs Redwood Digital Research in Felton, California, and is an associate member of the Free Software Foundation. He is also one of the founders of the Lindependence Project.)
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  1. Colonel Panik
    May 19, 2011 at 2:19 pm

    Always thought it was E before EIEIO?

    Rikki Kite said: “Personally, I blame Richard Stallman.”
    Colonel Panik says: Indeed, and for much more than just
    this thing with the GN.

    I bow to LtFSG in all things grammarian but living in the
    state of Gnu Mexico I assure you that the G is silent.

    This email was created from the Gah-nome desk top.

    Peace, Bob

    • May 19, 2011 at 2:33 pm

      Actually, Rikki didn’t blame Stallman. I did, and still do.

  2. Colonel Panik
    May 19, 2011 at 3:18 pm

    I stand corrected. LtFSG blamed DMS and that is okay by me
    and many others.

    Thanks for catching that Larry.

    Peace, Bob

  3. jw39
    May 19, 2011 at 4:28 pm

    Ga-Night Chet. Ga-night David.

    • May 22, 2011 at 7:34 am

      Yep, those who get that references is as old as we are, jw39 . . . or older. OK, kids, look it up on Google.

  1. May 19, 2011 at 3:32 pm
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