Writing for Business

Jan 21 2010   4:05PM GMT

How do you pronounce ‘SQL?’

Ivy Wigmore Ivy Wigmore Profile: Ivy Wigmore

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Which is correct?
There’s ___ SQL Server tool available to help DBAs with almost any performance issue they may face.
a. a
b. an

Answer: Either, depending on how you pronounce “SQL.”

Explanation:
SQL is either pronounced as “sequel” or by pronouncing the individual letters (usually — read on for more variations). So, in speech, chose “an ess-queue-ell” or “a sequel” and then follow that practice in your writing.

SQL server expert Rudy Limeback claims that the preferrred pronunciation is “ess-queue-ell”:

SQL is sometimes pronounced “sequel,” but mostly by people who have experience only with Microsoft’s database system SQL Server, usually pronounced “sequel-server,” which is one of the most commonly used database systems today. The more accepted pronunciation is “ess cue ell,” in which each letter is spoken separately. A few people, for whatever reason, pronounce it “squeal” or “squirrel” but this is rare.

Okay. I’m in the habit of pronouncing it that way, anyway, although “sequel” seems like the snappier alternative — which I’m usually all for. I will say that I hear “sequel” more often from most of my tech-y contacts.

But I hadn’t realized that “squeal” and “squirrel” were options. Henceforth, “squirrel” it shall be, as far as I’m concerned. And so then, my sentence would be pronounced: “A squirrel injection attack takes advantage of poor website coding practices.” Pesky squirrels!

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4  Comments on this Post

 
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  • n0v1c3
    After your quotation, "A squirrel injection attack ....", you need to add outside the quotation marks: (tic, NOT trusted Internet connection) -- you can't be serious about calling SQL "squirrel". hahaha
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  • sridharneelakantanathpecom
    Hi Ivy,
    Would like to point out a slip in your explanation--"So, in speech, chose ....". This should have been "choose". Increasingly people are using "chose" when they mean "choose". "Chose" is the past tense of "choose". 

    Also I see a big amount of people using "affect" when they mean "effect" and vice versa. Even people from the UK are making this mistake. Perhaps in one of these days you can include an exercise this in your Writing for Business column.

    By the way I never miss to try and answer the question in your column. It is great! Brings out the subtleties in the great language that English is.

    Thank you and with regards
    Sridhar Neelakantan
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  • tksmith45458
    I understand Rudy's point that the "sequel" pronunciation has come to be closely associated with the MS SQL Server product and therefore "S-Q-L" is more vendor agnostic.  However, that is not the case if you go back to the very beginning.  Chamberlin and Boyce, the IBM authors of the original Structured English Query Language initially called it SEQUEL but had to change it to SQL due to an existing trademark.  The original "sequel" pronunciation stuck with many in the IBM culture.  Although as a former IBMer, I can tell you that both pronunciations were common among IBMers as far back as the late 80s, well before SQL server came on the scene.
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  • tksmith45458
    The rise of the term NoSQL also favors the "sequel" pronunciation.  I don't know of anyone who says "No S-Q-L" although some people may.  "No-sequel" just seems far easier to say!
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