Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Snob Appeal in Computing

I'm one of those holdouts who refuses to use "hacker" for security breakers. The right term according to the Jargon File is cracker. The real meaning of hacker refers to a kind of super-programmer. I'm not a hacker and I never will be - I don't have the personality. But I respect them. It bugs me when people talk about "hackers" breaking into things and causing damage. A hacker may crack your computer but he/she will tell you how to fix the hole. Real hackers don't cause damage. They build things instead, especially on Linux.

This brings me around to another thing: Why do people pronounce Linux "Linnux" (IPA lɪnəks) when that's not how it's spelled? Snob appeal. I pronounced it to rhyme with English "Linus" (IPA lainəks, or laənəks in my Southern accent) for a long time. Then I asked a snobby bookstore cashier about "Lye-nux" books, and he didn't understand me. Then he responded "Oh, you mean Linnux books. We have all kinds of Linnux books... I love Linnux..." Turns out Mr. Snob was wrong too: this link lets you hear OS creator Linus Torvalds himself say it. He says it "Leenooks" (IPA linʊks). Now I say either linʊks or linəks. However, most Linux users are snobs. Same goes with most hackers, including the good kind. If you pronounce something different from how it's spelled, it gives it snob appeal. The snob knows something regular people don't.

Linus Torvalds is Finnish but his name and first language are Swedish. Some people argue "Linnux" is the Anglicized version of "Leenooks", but Swedish has our short "i" vowel. It's rare in most languages, but common in Germanic languages such as English, German, and of course Swedish. If he meant "Linnux", he would have said it. But he didn't.

The same applies to Mac snobs who say "OS Ten" instead of "OS X". In this case I don't care how the Apple people say it. If they wanted people to say "OS Ten" they should have called it "OS 10". As for me I'm waiting for Mac OS Y to come out.

At least people don't say "Wine-doss" for Windows. No wonder non-snobs stick to Windows.

Uncyclopedia, the content-free alternative to Wikipedia, has an enlightening article on Linux.

(I still read "Linux" as Lye-nucks. I have to force myself to say it different.)

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