IT Employment

Is it okay to pronounce URL as a single syllable?

Rex Baldazo asks: Is it common practice to pronounce URL as "Earl," or is it more common for people to spell it out as U-R-L when they talk about a URL?

I'm starting a new job in a couple weeks, and so I'm in transition at my current job. I've been spending all my time in meetings, debriefing the various people who are taking over the bits and pieces of all the projects I'm working on. 

In many of these meetings, I have to describe how our reporting system (based on Oracle Reports) works. Inevitably, I have to discuss the URLs generated by the system. (Based on the user's selections, our homegrown PL/SQL app generates the proper URL format for the report servlet and then issues the HTTP GET to retrieve that URL for the user.) I almost always pronounce URL as one syllable rather than enunciate each letter, so it ends up sounding like a homophone for "Earl".

In almost every meeting, someone asks me what an "Earl" is. As soon as I spell out U-R-L, they know what I'm talking about. It's not that they don't know what a URL is -- they've just never heard anybody say it as a word before. They're used to people spelling out the three individual letters.

I know I did not come up with this pronunciation by myself -- I must have picked it up at a previous job. There has to be at least a few other folks out there saying it this way besides me. But all of these people who look at me funny when I talk about "Earls" in a meeting have me worried. It makes me fell like I might be doing something stupid.

Is it common practice to pronounce URL as "Earl", or is it more common for people to spell out U-R-L?

214 comments
WLD
WLD

South-by-SouthWest Interactive (Austin, March-teenth) has given an award for the 'best website' for many years now. "And the Earl goes to..." FYI

WoW > Work
WoW > Work

For some reason, I use U.R.L., not "Yoo-rl" but I do use Sequel and Say-tah. I've heard people pronounce "LOL", and "ROFL" (sadly)which sounds so dumb. But Whizzywig? Yea, I've used that. Of course, we all hit the Mac machine, not the M.A.C. machine. But we don't hit the "Attem" machine. What about a "Nick card" instead of NIC? I guess it depends how you hear about that tech. But if people claim it's to save time, that's BS. And if I *ever* hear "yoosebee", that person's getting a kick to the face.

apotheon
apotheon

Now, [b]that[/b] was funny!

Oz_Media
Oz_Media

IT has rewritten the English dictionary. While literary scholars 'play on words' for amusement and to feel somewhat elite above the 'common folk', IT is no different. IT nerds, geeks, etc. Have decided to write a enw dictionary of IT terms to make the 'common folk' appear unattached to whath "THEIR" (the IT folk) realm is. WYSIWYG - is not pronounced "Double-U, WHY, ESS etc.) it's pronounced 'Wizzywig'. When working near the offices where Maximzer and EC Builder were engineered in Vancouver, I met a lot of their team who were using EARL (in the early 90's) but I still say U.R.L. when speakign to people NOT all geeked out and who aren't impressed with the rewritten Acronymish language (a bastardized version of English). I think it also makes people who were once seen as losers, dorks, shutins etc. feel like they belong in a secret club or society because they have developed their own language, even if it is just another acronym. Let 'em have their Earls and Wizzywigs, the rest of us can speak English too.

memphis10ec
memphis10ec

The old TV series called "UFO" pronounced it "YOU-foh". If that's ok with you, then pronounce URL any way you like. I have one friend who pronounced URL as "YER-uhl". I asked him how he would pronounce "U.R.N." based on that, to which he replied, "hmm...in that case it'd be 'urine'!" From then on, he only pronounced it "You-Are-Ell". It also helped that we had a guy in our group named Earl, and whenever anyone would pronounce URL that way, he'd think he was being called, and would say "What?"

ryan.mclean
ryan.mclean

Pronouncing it like that not only makes my teeth hurt, it causes me to fly into a fit of rage :) Not sure why, I guess it just sounds dumb to me. Like spelling it out is too difficult or takes too long.

breathe
breathe

This may sound really dumb, but it seems to me that if you are constantly the one who is needing to explain what an "Earl" is, then U'RE the one with the really steep learning curve! Condescend to the lower beings whom you must deal with and use terminology that's COMMONLY understood and S-P-E-L-L I-T O-U-T (that is unless you just like to feel superior...)

rod
rod

Pronounce it how YOU WANT TO pronounce it.

earl.capps
earl.capps

Since my parents named me Earl, after my grandfather, I would rather NOT have URL pronounced as a single-syllable word!

techrepublic
techrepublic

If anything it's "your-ell" not "Earl". It starts with a frickin' "U", so where did the "E" sound come from!?! Jeez! Personally, I pronounce the letters: U-R-L.

Richard_P
Richard_P

Two thoughts on this. Firstly if you try this in English (as opposed to American) it isn't really pronouncable as it would be "Oorul" or something like, a bit of a mouthful or possibly a brand of mouthwash. Secondly, I think you probably already have the answer. If you're trying for effective communication and one way (U-R-L) works more often than another (Earl), go for the way that works.

toni.bowers_b
toni.bowers_b

Hey Rex! This is a funny question. I worked with you a couple of years ago and I admit being taken aback by your pronouncing of the url acronym. Not because I didn't know what you were talking about, but because every time I heard it, I couldn't help but think of the word "hurl" from Wayne's World (and all that that entailed). Anyway, there's my shallow addition to the conversation. ; )

Justin James
Justin James

Rex - Congrats on the new job! Hope you get to experience less frustration with Oracle ecosystem stuff than you do now. All of this seems to have been lost in the debate over Earl. BTW, if your "technical" co-workers can't figure out what you mean by "Earl", that's just... let's say from what I've read here, I am not particularly impressed with your current co-workers and this just confirms that. J.Ja

apotheon
apotheon

What the heck is "yoosebee"?

Absolutely
Absolutely

He posted that in his 'Thinning Down the Herd' thread, after I posted something that was not funny.

david
david

Q: Why do people take an instant dislike to you? A: It saves time. Another paraphrased quote from Spike, whom you have probably never heard of let alone appreciated. He was one of the finest humourists in the English language (which is not the same as the American language, to make a point).

david
david

Infamy, infamy, they've all got it in for me

jeff
jeff

To me, I don't try to pronounce WYSIWYG, I just say out the full word. Of course, being an IT professional I have never a need to say anything about a WYSIWYG since no one needs to deal with it! (usually only in the lack of an IT division or professional will you even need anything that advertises WYSIWYG) I digress, I find it hard to believe you'd find any IT professional (outside of small groups in rural areas or that have a really weak IT group, ie. with outside influence from non-IT members) where if you said 'earl' to them they'd go "Oh yeah I found that through google!" rather than "Who's Earl?".

Absolutely
Absolutely

That would just be a waste of time. [i]Pronounce it how YOU WANT TO pronounce it.[/i] I want to pronounce it correctly. Why does that bother you?

apotheon
apotheon

If people don't understand what you're saying -- you don't care? I guess, if you don't give a crap whether anyone understands you, it doesn't matter how you pronounce things. You have a point.

apotheon
apotheon

Thanks for providing yet another good reason to call it "you are ell". I have yet to run across a good reason to pronounce it "Earl".

Bizzo
Bizzo

"your-ell", is that the Spanish pronunciation of Jor-El, Superman's dad?

david
david

this thread has a pronounced stupidity. s-t-u-p-i-d-i-t-y pronounced "stupidity" (thanks to Spike Milligan this time) and, c'mon. where's that synopsis, no-lifers?

read
read

In discussions I hear Earl and Yuri quite often, and so I consider myself bilingual. However, I would not say them myself and prefer U-R-L and U-R-I.

david
david

(Catherine Tate) I can't be arsed to read the 65 posts in this thread just to find out how to pronounce URL. Can someone from the earlier posts whose authors clearly don't have lives please provide a synopsis and summary? Oh heck, I've just realised by posting here that I don't have a life either. ps I pronounce it "web address".

RexWorld
RexWorld

I'm looking forward to the new challenge. There will even be a chance to work with more open source software again, which should be a lot of fun.

neilb
neilb

"lost in the debate over Earl" would possibly be relevant if it were not for the title of the original piece. He asked - and we ALL gave an emphatic "no". I notice that the OP (that's Oh, Pee by the way) doesn't even WRITE the damn thing correctly - "urls". If the OP is experiencing difficulties with ALL of his soon-to-be-ex-co-workers and with ALL of us (except you?) then this might suggest that your support of his stand for the freedom of the URL acronym is misplaced. :)

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

U-S-B, for the initially challenged. ;) Aside: I have over thirty years in radio and electronics. When I first heard the initials U-S-B, I couldn't understand why a computer would need (or even want) to use Upper SideBand! :D

jeff
jeff

We could always have fun at work with a guy named Earl. "Hey go that(maybe I already gave it to him) earl and look how horribly designed and fruity looking that earl is."

Louis Pace
Louis Pace

Or is that purple and furry? "Ur" can make the same sound as the "Ear" in Earl. Ok - I've read the entire post. All 90+ messages. I love this kind of debate! I say U-R-L, but then again, I also say Sequel. However, you do have me convinced that GIF is not a brand of peanut butter; I promise to change. :) I have just one last question which remains unanswered: What DO they call ATMs in the south? :) Thanks for the entertainment!

apotheon
apotheon

Being offensive doesn't get you much traction. Figure it out yourself. I sincerely hope nobody gives you the easy way out as long as you keep acting like that.

jlapp
jlapp

I agree, this is the most ridiculous blog I have ever seen. Yet I read it! LOL And I am posting, but primarily because the robots name is Bender, I have never heard of Earl on Futurama. Guess I live in the country of Yoosa now. Used to be the U.S.A. Then again I work for N.A.S.A. Time to get to work fellow geeks. Thinking we all need a night out.

apotheon
apotheon

More work with open source software . . . ? Excellent! What kind of work is it? Inquiring minds want to know. . . . and congratulations!

Justin James
Justin James

... Rex getting a new job was much more interesting that a minor linguistic flareup which was readily resolved with a trip to the dictionary. :) J.Ja

Oz_Media
Oz_Media

CD's a much more understandable acronym. "I need CD before we go out." "What's wrong with the ones in the car?" gottas love how technology destryed language. hey there's a song in there! Just like "Video Killed the Radio Star". (The Buggles wrote it, just to save you looking it up) :D

seanferd
seanferd

refer to them as "ATM machines". :^0

jevans4949
jevans4949

... called them cash dispensers in the early days.

The Scummy One
The Scummy One

atom or atum or maybe autum (not to be confused with autumn or an atom).

rob mekel
rob mekel

as in Asynchronous Transfer Mode or Active Traffic Management or Air Traffic Management or ... Automated teller machine :D Rob

apotheon
apotheon

My sense of humor got shot off in Bosnia. . . . and I'd laugh if you said something funny.

david
david

I hope you are soon recovered from your sense of humour bypass operation.

seanferd
seanferd

Man, you need to look around some more. :D

jlapp
jlapp

I stand corrected oh ye Lord of Futurama trivia. Still think this is the most rediculous blog I have ever seen on a tech site, but it has been entertaining!

Louis Pace
Louis Pace

You may want to go back and re-read the post. A link was provided to a Wikipedia entry on URL the Robot. It has a picture and everything.

apotheon
apotheon

. . . as long as you use a high-quality dictionary.

apotheon
apotheon

"American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language" is a name, not a regional restriction. It does contain British pronunciations, for instance. The OED is not "the standard". It's one dictionary -- and it's a dictionary that practices linguistic definition by throwing every piece of crap that comes by at the wall, just to see what sticks. It has "D'oh!" in it, as a word. Mind you, that's a word with an exclamation point at the end. Yes, the OED is [b]that[/b] bad.

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

When talking with users, I usually just say "web address." Most know what I mean without question. For those that do ask, I usually reply "You know. The www thing." That almost always turns on the light.

alaniane
alaniane

is only applicable to the US. What does the Oxford say? It's considered the worldwide standard. Come off your high horse. Mispronunciations have been modifying languages for centuries. If you're really that concerned that mispronouncing URL is going to affect the way people communicate then stop using acronyms or initialisms to begin with. Uniform Resource Locator is not that difficult to say and it leaves no doubt as to what you are talking about.

apotheon
apotheon

"[i]Unraveling the fabric of the tapestry of social interactions?! c'mon. Aren't you overstating the importance of this issue just a tad?[/i]" Nope. I'm taking the long view. You may think that one mispronunciation won't destroy our ability to communicate with each other -- and, technically, with a very limited view, you're correct. On the other hand, if we take that attitude with every single pronunciation, you're wrong. In other words, if we take that attitude as policy rather than as a single, isolated incident, effective communication suffers the death of a thousand cuts. If you just apply it in this one, isolated case, and declare the "pronunciation doesn't really matter" attitude off-limits to everything else, you're creating an arbitrary exception, which is logically indefensible. If you apply it uniformly, on the other hand, you nickel-and-dime the language to death. The only logically consistent policy in this case that doesn't destroy our ability to communicate is to take the attitude that correct pronunciation matters. "[i]I think that language and society outght to be able to withstand a couple of 'mispronounced' words.[/i]" Let's view a brilliant example of that policy in action, taken to its logical conclusion. Read [url=http://techrepublic.com.com/5208-6230-0.html?forumID=102&threadID=252313&messageID=2417137][b]Maybe[/b][/url], by TR user [url=http://techrepublic.com.com/5213-6257-0.html?id=4891969][b]jeff@[/b][/url]. "[i]M-W is a real dictionary , whether you like it or not. Disparaging them just because they disagree with you is somewhat childish.[/i]" If you think that's why I disagree with the Merriam-Webster dictionary, you didn't read what I said very closely. Perhaps the reason you don't object to policies that might destroy our ability to communicate one another is related to the fact that your reading comprehension skills suck.

~Omega~
~Omega~

As professionals of the field related to the "word" ::choke::, WE are the authority over how that word is pronounced, not some dusty old (electronic) lexicon! By popular vote, and a healthy vote by proxy (a majority of the customers I have ever had) URL is U.R.L.

mrdad2u
mrdad2u

Unraveling the fabric of the tapestry of social interactions?! c'mon. Aren't you overstating the importance of this issue just a tad? I think that language and society outght to be able to withstand a couple of "mispronounced" words. M-W is a real dictionary , whether you like it or not. Disparaging them just because they disagree with you is somewhat childish. BTW, for what it's worth, I've always said and heard U-R-L, but that's just me.

apotheon
apotheon

"[i]No dictionary can be considered canonical. The fact that the alternative pronounciation appears in a major dictionary of note (regardless of your personal opinion of it) is much more authoritative than the non-inclusion in an older dictionary.[/i]" The problem is in the inclusion policies of various dictionaries, and the relative sloppiness of definitions and attendant characteristics of the entries. "[i]The American Heritage Dictionary that you cite is from 2000; the M-W seems to be from 2003.[/i]" Three years is not nearly long enough to go from no mention to inclusion without any indication of nonstandard usage, short of some kind of authoritative statement of standardization. [b]At minimum[/b], a reference to an "Earl" pronunciation should be explicitly labeled nonstandard. "[i]It is quite possible that the alternative spread into substantially more common usage during those 3 years.[/i]" How long has "[url=http://www.bartleby.com/61/7/B0020700.html]bad[/url]" been used widely to mean "good"? [url=http://www.m-w.com/cgi-bin/dictionary?book=Dictionary&va=bad]Here[/url] is the Merriam-Webster entry, for comparison. In this case, the two agree: that usage of "bad" is nonstandard. Shouldn't it have become an official definition within three years of initial widespread use, by your argument? Why is it still listed as "slang"? It's still identified as nonstandard because [b]it's still nonstandard[/b]. The listing as slang, however, has a lot of inertia by now -- so the fact Merriam-Webster dictionaries seem to be trying to keep up with the Joneses (or the OED, in this case) enough to degrade in quality in recent years has more of an effect on newer terms with newer nonstandard usages. That's my theory, anyway. "[i]I really, truly, do not. In this case, it is nearly impossible to prove that the alternative is not valid.[/i]" It's always difficult to prove a negative, regardless of its accuracy. You must use inductive logic to arrive at such a conclusion with any accuracy, and I still haven't seen a system for formal proofs of inductive reasoning. "[i]If the initialization had included period ('U.R.L.') this would be a slam dunk against the alternative; without the periods, it is wide open to interpretation. The RFC, which I would consider the only 100% accurate source, does not include a pronounciation guide.[/i]" Something tells me you don't pronounce RFC "r'fk". Typing periods after every letter in an initialism gets old really fast -- thus the lack of periods in many initialisms. Even the examples of initialisms distinct from acronyms (also known as "alphabetisms") in the Wikipedia entry about these forms of abbreviation eschew periods. "[i]Who better to give me the *preffered* pronounciation than Tim Berners-Lee?[/i]" I hadn't thought of that approach. Good job on the research. "[i]Interestingly enough, right before that, he states that the SMTP protocol is the reason email is worthless for many people unless they have sys admins devoting a ton of resources to protecting the users, and also states that many users are returning to using the telephone due to the problems with email.[/i]" Even if he invented email (rather than the web browser) and SMTP (rather than HTML), he still wouldn't automatically be an authority on statistical behavior of email users as a result. Now, if you told me that the inventor of SMTP pronounced it "smut-pee", I might take it as real evidence of something. "[i]Oddly ironic, stumbling across this.[/i]" So . . . at least one prominent technologist agrees with you. Of course, except in response to those who agree with you, people who disagree don't have any reason to talk about their opinions on the matter -- so they likely form a silent majority, especially considering the rarity of public statements about how "broken" SMTP is. "[i]At the end of the day, you are trying to find a rationale to show that the world needs to fit a particular mold.[/i]" No . . . I'm trying to find and advocate a point of commonality so that people can [b]communicate effectively[/b]. Without observed conventions of language, there is no language at all. "[i]The truth is, language is becoming incredibly flexible and pliable.[/i]" Translation: Postmodernism has so infested academia that it has turned against one of its core proper purposes -- imparting the social conventions necessary to expression and analysis of ideas via reasoned dialog. As a result, the fabric of the tapestry of social interactions is unraveling a little at a time, and people think this process is a [b]good[/b] thing. "[i]I was raised, for example, to always put the punctuation within quotes, but over the last few years, putting it outside of quotes has become not only common, but accepted in many circles (I do it when writing informally, but won't do it within my posts, because I feel that the quote should only contain what is being quoted!).[/i]" I have been in conversations where I've been "accused" of being a prescriptivist, as contrasted with descriptivists. In general, I think the prescriptivists have it more "right" (as you should be able to guess from my above paragraph about the "tapestry of social interactions"). I'm not actually a prescriptivist, however, in the sense that is commonly intended by the use of the term. Rather than being someone who just thinks language has already been prescribed for us and shouldn't change, I'm someone who thinks its official forms should change only with compelling reason. Changes in the way punctuation is used (especially by really hardcore computer geeks, who understand nested scopes better than most people) are actually a good thing, by that standard. There is a compelling reason: it reduces confusion over the character of quoted material and sentence structure. Replacing "URL" with "earl", by contrast, is justified by no compelling reason, and actually decreases the efficiency and efficacy of the term for clear communication. "[i]does the Jargon File count? It has the alternative as well[/i]" The ESR version of the Jargon File doesn't just grant "Earl" equal standing with "URL", however. It instead makes a statement to the effect that "Earl" is nonstandard with the words "the latter predominates in more formal contexts". "[i]most academics would consider to be of a decent quality[/i]" Most academics also seem to think that stealing from the most productive members of society and giving to the least productive somehow makes everything peachy, and will magically ensure that everyone lives happily ever after -- rather than what it actually does, which is: discourage the production of wealth and subsidize failure. They're wrong. "[i]There is no standards commitee for the English language, once something gets into common usage, that *is* the standard, regardless of what the academics and linguistics folks say is *correct*.[/i]" Take a longer view than "Oh, well, two percent of the population are using a nonstandard pronunciation after three years." Please. Faddish language instruction is not a very good idea.

Justin James
Justin James

I have never in my life heard the Merriam-Webster dictionary disparaged. In fact, I cannot recall any dictionary being referred to as "mediocre". No dictionary can be considered canonical. The fact that the alternative pronounciation appears in a major dictionary of note (regardless of your personal opinion of it) is much more authoritative than the non-inclusion in an older dictionary. The American Heritage Dictionary that you cite is from 2000; the M-W seems to be from 2003. It is quite possible that the alternative spread into substantially more common usage during those 3 years. I am really not sure what basis you are standing on to say that the alternative is absolutely no good. I really, truly, do not. In this case, it is nearly impossible to prove that the alternative is not valid. If the initialization had included period ("U.R.L.") this would be a slam dunk against the alternative; without the periods, it is wide open to interpretation. The RFC, which I would consider the only 100% accurate source, does not include a pronounciation guide. Now, that got me started on a multiple hour adventure tonight (I really was planning to write about free market economics). Who better to give me the *preffered* pronounciation than Tim Berners-Lee? After a ton of digging, I found a lecture where he does indeed pronounce it "U-R-L" (http://webcast.oii.ox.ac.uk/download/oii/20060314_139/20060314_139.mp3 - right around 10:30). Interestingly enough, right before that, he states that the SMTP protocol is the reason email is worthless for many people unless they have sys admins devoting a ton of resources to protecting the users, and also states that many users are returning to using the telephone due to the problems with email. Oddly ironic, stumbling across this. :) At the end of the day, you are trying to find a rationale to show that the world needs to fit a particular mold. The truth is, language is becoming incredibly flexible and pliable. Rules that held true even a few years ago are no longer true. I was raised, for example, to always put the punctuation within quotes, but over the last few years, putting it outside of quotes has become not only common, but accepted in many circles (I do it when writing informally, but won't do it within my posts, because I feel that the quote should only contain what is being quoted!). The point is, the "alternative pronounciation" is common enough to be included in at least one modern, major reference (does the Jargon File count? It has the alternative as well) that most academics would consider to be of a decent quality. It is common enough so that lots of people have heard it. There is no standards commitee for the English language, once something gets into common usage, that *is* the standard, regardless of what the academics and linguistics folks say is *correct*. Never mind the fact that the entire topic feels dangerously close to trolling... sheer genius, throwing something this petty into the water for us to argue over. :) J.Ja

apotheon
apotheon

Merriam-Webster has become a mediocre dictionary. It may be better than the OED for precision and accuracy, but it's still suboptimal. A better, more accurate, more precise dictionary by far is the American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language. It gets [url=http://www.bartleby.com/61/1/U0150150.html][b]URL[/b][/url] right.

Justin James
Justin James

"While the dictionary may say that "Earl" is an acceptable pronunciation, if your listener does not understand, the communication has failed." Which begs the question: how in the world am I supposed to know that my audience does not recognize a dictionary-approved pronounciation *until I've used it*? I agree that communicating clearly is quite important. In fact, writing about that very topic was my first really popular post at TechRepublic. Maybe I don't have the problem with this that others seem to, because when I speak to a non-technical audience, I do not use "URL" *regardless of pronounciation*. I use "address". Why? For the same reason I have the following split terms for speaking to techies and non-techies: USB storage device/thumb drive DIMM/memory stick sub-directory/folder ... and so on. Once again, though, I would truly hope that a technical audience would have enough on the ball to figure out what "URL" meant based on context if it was pronounced in a single syllable. We communicate just fine, despite the fact that people constantly say "what-cha-ma-challit" and "thinga-ma-bob" in place of other words. I would hope that a difference in the pronounciation of a single word ("URL") would not impair the meaning of an entire conversation. If it does, chances are that one or more parties to the conversation are having much more severe problems, and "URL" is just the focal point. J.Ja

Tig2
Tig2

Isn't the point to communicate successfully? When I address one of our European peers, I find that using the spelling and syntax that is common to that group to be a more effective way to communicate. When my audience is primarily United States, I shift. Regardless of what the dictionary has to say on the subject, if I am responsible for the communication, I am also responsible for insuring that my audience comprehends. This may mean stepping out of my comfort zone and using different verbiage or pronunciation in an effort to encourage comprehension. While the dictionary may say that "Earl" is an acceptable pronunciation, if your listener does not understand, the communication has failed.

neilb
neilb

Given that this is a site for IT professionals and that in the vexing question of 'URL' vs 'url', two people have indicated that they accept the acronymic version, I think we have to question the accuracy of the dictionary. As to the relative importance of the OP's new job when compared with the question of his word usage, I don't really care about his new job. The job was only included in his original question to set the scene. Anyway, I'm done with this. Neil :D