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SQL is officially pronounced as /ˌɛskjuːˈɛl/ like "S-Q-L", as stated in

Beaulieu, Alan (April 2009). Mary E. Treseler. ed. Learning SQL (2nd ed.). Sebastapol, CA, USA: O'Reilly. ISBN 978-0-596-52083-0.

But often it is pronounced /ˈsiːkwəl/ like "sequel", what is the history behind this second pronunciation?

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It's easier to pronounce a word then three individual letters. Hence "TYR" becomes "tier" and "SQL" becomes "sequal." I said "My S-Q-L" for years before I got sick of funny looks and just started calling it "sequal." –  Josh K Sep 30 '10 at 17:12
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I hate the "sequel" pronunciation. SQL Server... Sequel Server? What's that, the version used by Hollywood studios? –  MetalMikester Sep 30 '10 at 17:14
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Anyone who finds "SQL" hard to pronounce has a broken mouth. And if you're saying it that often, just say "db" or "query" instead, even faster and has the added bonus of differentiating engine/code. –  Peter Boughton Sep 30 '10 at 17:51
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Other pronunciations: squeal and squirrel. –  sunpech Sep 30 '10 at 17:56
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@Peter - I once spoke to a recruitment consultant who pronounced SQL as "skwul". In that case I decided it wasn't a linguistic matter, more a case that I should speak to a recruitment consultant who wasn't utterly clueless. –  Jon Hopkins Nov 12 '10 at 9:54

2 Answers 2

up vote 13 down vote accepted

To quote Wikipedia on this:

SQL was adopted as a standard by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) in 1986 as SQL-86[19] and International Organization for Standardization (ISO) in 1987. The original SQL standard declared that the official pronunciation for SQL is "es queue el".2 Many English-speaking database professionals still use the nonstandard[20] pronunciation /ˈsiːkwəl/ (like the word "sequel").`

Several other links also confirm that a consensus on the matter of pronunciation still isn't close.

Btw, why does it matter?

Edit: Another example of natural language evolution y'all

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It matters because hearing "sequel" is like fingernails on a blackboard for some of us... And so we grow out our nails and carry small slates to enable reciprocity. –  Shog9 Sep 30 '10 at 17:06
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@Mr.C - Wait! You're an english speaking person, and you're just now noticing the habit of english speakers to shorten pronunciation in various ways, according to where from does the particular person comes from (UK, USA, India,AU)? It is a natural evolvment of the language, nothing else - some pronunciate it this way, others that way ... and then one of those ways gets accepted. To me, for example "sequel" is much easier to pronunciate, as well as more "fluent" than "es queue el" (notice: I'm not a native eng. speaker). Similar example, colour vs. color (in this case both the writing and the –  Rook Sep 30 '10 at 17:10
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I don't think the pronunciation has as much to do with language evolution as it does nostalgia and possibly anachronistic regionalism. –  Peter Turner Sep 30 '10 at 20:03
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@Mr. C - Do you say "laser" or "L-A-S-E-R"? Some frequently-used acronyms tend to pronounced as if they're words, and that's not a bad thing. –  Joel Mueller Sep 30 '10 at 22:27
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@Joel: I don't mind acronyms, but SQL isn't an acronym - it's an initialization that folks try to pronounce by making up the missing letters. If you want to argue that the long-defunct language SEQUEL should be pronounced the same as the word "sequel", you stand on much firmer ground... –  Shog9 Sep 30 '10 at 23:29

SEQUEL = Structured English QUEry Language.

For a good historical perspective read

Don Chamberlin: ...A bunch of things were happening at about this time that I think we ought to mention just in passing. One was that we had to change the name of our language from SEQUEL to SQL. And the reason that we had to do that was because of a legal challenge that came from a lawyer. Mike, you probably can help me out with this. I believe it was from the Hawker Siddeley Aircraft Company in Great Britain, that said SEQUEL was their registered trademark. We never found out what kind of an aircraft a SEQUEL was, but they said we couldn't use their name anymore, so we had to figure out what to do about that. I think I was the one who condensed all the vowels out of SEQUEL to turn it into SQL, based on the pattern of APL and languages that had three-lettered names that end in L. So that was how that happened. ...

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So I guess SQL was the sequel to SEQUEL –  Tim Goodman Sep 30 '10 at 17:22
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@Tim: Hence why we say "sequel" I guess? –  Josh K Sep 30 '10 at 17:46
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Actually, SEQUEL really was pretty much SQL as we know it. The name was dropped only because when IBM tried to get a trademark on it, they found out that somebody else had already trademarked that name (an aircraft company, IIRC). The official position that it should be pronounced "S-Q-L" comes only from the fact that doing otherwise could be interpreted as trademark infringement. –  Jerry Coffin Sep 30 '10 at 19:29
    
@Jerry you're right, I just took the time to read more of my link. –  Peter Turner Sep 30 '10 at 19:56
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I blame my University Professor. I guess he didn't like those trademark lawyers and made a point to teach all of his students to pronounce it "sequel" just to be subversive :-) –  Dean Harding Sep 30 '10 at 23:47

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