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Poll: Sequel or S-Q-L?
113 points by j_baker on Sept 13, 2010 | hide | past | web | favorite | 130 comments
I'm just curious how people pronounce the name of the database query language. It seems like most people say Sequel, but I'll occasionally hear someone spell it out.
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I pronounce it "sequel" because it was originally called "SEQUEL"

SQL was developed at IBM by Donald D. Chamberlin and Raymond F. Boyce in the early 1970s. This version, initially called SEQUEL (Structured English Query Language), was designed to manipulate and retrieve data stored in IBM's original relational database management system, System R, which a group at IBM San Jose Research Laboratory had developed during the 1970s.[6] The acronym SEQUEL was later changed to SQL because "SEQUEL" was a trademark of the UK-based Hawker Siddeley aircraft company.


Funny, I pronounce it "ess queue ell" because it was originally called "SEQUEL". But now it's not. So it's distinct.

It's interesting how two people can use the exact same justification to come to two totally different conclusions.

Psychologically, confirmation bias and/or plain ol’ rationalization may be at play

I'm with you. If I was using Sequel, I'd call it Sequel. Alas, I'm using SQL, so I call it S-Q-L.

I suppose I look at it the other way...the makers intended for it to be called SEQUEL, and because of copyright issues, they changed it to SQL. It doesn't change the fact that they really wanted it to be SEQUEL. Similarly, I still call SciFi network SciFi and not SyFy, because the original name was SciFi, and they only changed it because of copyright issues.

It looks like the Sequel is winning in the poll vs S-Q-L too!

Sci Fi changed its name not because of copyright issues, but to distance themselves from science fiction. According to Wikipedia, the trademarkability of Syfy was of less import than the unambiguous spelling and the ability to justify 70% non-scifi content.

This is really interesting. IBM Legal would have wanted us to pronounce it S-Q-L, then, because encouraging pronunciation of the initial name would continue to infringe upon the Hawker Siddeley trademark!

All the more reason to say 'sequel'. :D

Aside: Is it true that everyone thought the relational model was too slow to be practicable, until the Oracle team put a very fast implementation together (as Larry Ellison claimed in an interview)?

EDIT according to the article, Oracle had the first commercial version of it, and so from their point of view at the time, I guess it was true. It doesn't say if IBM's release a few weeks later was of comparable speed.

There were academic systems that (a) didn't use the SQL langauge (b) came before Oracle, but wasn't commercialized as quickly as Oracle.

Oracle's biggest business decision was standardizing on IBM's standards, according to Ingres founder Mike Stonebraker. Hugh Darwen and Paul McJones have all had stories about this. One source is: http://www.mcjones.org/System_R/ DB2 was also only funded by IBM on the premise that DB2 would increase disk storage sales: http://www.informationweek.com/news/software/database_apps/s...

Hm, thought IMS was the original IBM database. You'd be surprised how many legacy mainframes still run this system.

I spent a summer at the IBM San Jose Research Labratory and met some of the original database team. Bruce Lindsay was one of them and he is a fascinating guy with a genius brain.

It said "original relational database". IMS is hierarchical, which has interesting echoes amongst OO databases.

S-Q-L without question.

* It works in all contexts ("sequel" gets clunky with names like PostgreSQL)

* It's not some aircraft company's trademark

* MySQL officially states their product's name is My S-Q-L (though they don't mind MySequel, but it's not the real name)

* Unlike "ARP" or "BIOS", "SQL" doesn't map to just one pronunciation. "Squeal", "Squirrel", and others are just as "valid" as "Sequel". Frankly, if I had never heard of SQL/Sequel and you put those three letters in front of me and made me pronounce them, "Squeal" is probably what I'd go with.

Funny but I once met an isolated developer who lived away from any other technologists. He pronounced it squeal. It was hard not to laugh but I couldn't correct him because he was giving us a presentation. The best I could do was offer the sequel alternative in our dialog.

I've often been tempted to call it squeal myself.

To be fair, PostgreSQL is clunky no matter what.

True. The root 'postgre' is awkward in English. 'Sequel' seems to fit onto it a little better than 'es que el', but neither is ideal.

'Postgre' is improper always. You should either say 'Postgres' or 'Post gres que el'. There is a Factoid on the Postrgres site about proper pronunciation, and there have even been discussions about just going back to the name 'Postgres' which was the original name of the project.

I think S-Q-L gets clunky with names like Microsoft SQL Server.

"It's not some aircraft company's trademark"

In the US, this is considered legally ok because nobody would confuse an aircraft with a query language. For example, you have Delta airlines and Delta faucet.

With some of the complaints about the language I have read from its users, squeal may be a more accurate name for it.

postgresequel just sounds greasy.

3rd option for "It doesn't matter, I don't really pay attention to which I use or perhaps I alternate between them... and I won't hold a grudge against anyone who says it differently?"

If that's too long, you can just an option that reads "Doesn't matter"

Well the question is which you use, not which is "right". I guess an option for "I use both" would be appropriate.

You can vote for both.

That's still not a good answer. My use of "sequel" or "S.Q.L" depends on many factors. For a non-technical crowd, or one that I otherwise know is unfamiliar with the topic, it's always S.Q.L. Similarly, If I'm throwing around many terms in a technical discussion, I will often use S.Q.L., that being the clearer form. I say "sequel" in the context of "let's take a look at this sequel here..."

I'm a totally inconsistent hodgepodge.

I pronounce it S-Q-L when talking about the base language., but I pronounce the Oracle variant as P-L-S-Q-L. I pronounce the Microsoft product as Sequel Server, but I pronounce MYSQL as My S-Q-L.

Same here. I think you should be able to use them interchangeably.

Pronunciation discrepancies are common in this field. How do you pronounce "char"? Or "cout" and "cin"? C++ was the first language I learned and I did so entirely through books, so I came up with my own pronunciations for everything. It wasn't until years later that I went to college and for the first time heard other people saying these terms orally. It was quite a shock to hear my professor say "char" (as in "charcoal"). That's pronounced "care" dammit! :)

I pronounce "cout" as "koot", and "cin" as "sin", as silly as that may be. Why? Just the terms my young virgin programming mind settled on, and there's just no way after all these years I can drop the habit.

Same here, I still get surprised when someone says char(coal), I always read it as char(acter)... I'd go with c-out and c-in however.

care, c-out, c-in

It took me years to switch from 'jif' for 'gif' with a hard G. I finally gave up because it seemed like I was the only one.

care, cout, sin, jif/gif. I go for what's laziest, because it's human nature.

"The official way to pronounce MySQL is 'My Ess Que Ell' (not 'my sequel'), but we do not mind if you pronounce it as 'my sequel' or in some other localized way."


I only ever use MySQL, so have always said "Ess Que Ell". I work with guys who say "sequel" by default.... it's not caused any friction as yet.

Sequel, as in "my sequel" because it takes less time. I gravitated to this when I started having to use the term a lot more. Interestingly, I still say "post gray ess queue ell", dunno why. Actually, more often I'll just say "post grays" because the "SQL" at the end doesn't help disambiguate from anything else that starts with "postgre"

I'm pretty sure PostgreSQL is intended to be pronounced "post-gress-q-l", given its relationship to Ingres ("in-gress").

I've always called it just postgress, perhaps because of that reason.

I usually pronounce PostgreSQL "post-greh-see-quel", though sometimes I use the pronunciation you give, just as sometimes I pronounce MySQL as "my-s-q-l". Partly it depends on the conversation, since I tend to fall into whatever the other person is calling it.

They used to have a sound bite on the Pg site. They do not pronounce it that way. They pronounce it...ah here you go:


S-Q-L here. Every time I hear "Sequel" I get this strange fluttering twitch in my left eye and an inner desire to go postal :)

The correct pronunciation as stated in the standard is "ess que ell". I can't quote the ISO standard because it doesn't seem to be freely available, but I'm quoting C. J. Date from his book SQL and Relational Theory:

In particular, I follow the standard in assuming the pronunciation "ess cue ell", not "sequel" (though this latter is common in the field), thereby saying things like an SQL table, not a SQL table. (page xvii)

What's a "SQL table" ?

I say Sequel Server, but S-Q-L in all other instances.

What I have always found a little awkward is the use of 'a' or 'an' when written in a sentence. For example "..run a SQL query.." versus "..run an SQL query..". The spelling is the same, but the author's pronunciation can differ.

This poll contains 327+271 votes, yet has only 59 points.

Worth voting in, but not up.

Do you really think this poll should be worth >500 points? (Now >1000)? I voted to count my opinion for the OP, but I would hardly recommend it as being "intellectually stimulating".

The problem with voting up main stories is that they become part of your "saved stories", and I really don't want this link to be there, so I'm not going to vote it up.

Number of syllables is the key factor. Sequel = 2 syllables. S-Q-L = 3. Sequel wins. Flows much better in conversation that way too.

This reminds me of the amusing trivia that it is faster to say "world wide web" than "WWW".

I've heard some radio ads render it "triple W", which flows pretty nicely.

Same reason here. As a side note, I've noticed that non-techies more often refer to it by S-Q-L so I'll change it up when I speak with them. I suppose pronouncing it "sequel" is more of an industry jargon type of thing.

I say "sequel" ("s-q-l" hardly rolls off the tongue) but often in my group we call it "skewl", because in addition to shaving off half the syllables of "sequel", it sounds fittingly sorta gross.

"Skew-Lite" was common at previous jobs, for me.

Never met anyone in real life that says sequel, well, except when referring to Microsoft products - perhaps a US thing?

Another weird one I noticed is some people pronounce GIF as jiff, rather than giff.

Jiff is actually the correct, though rarely used, pronunciation

Doesn't the G in GIF stand for Graphics? You'd think the hard G would carry over into the acronym. Or is it because the G in GIF precedes an I and therefore gets pronounced as a soft G?

I'm reading too far into this. Why do you say Jiff is correct? For the record, I rarely hear "giff" myself.

This is just copy-pasted from Wikipedia:

"The creators of the format pronounced GIF with a soft "G", /ˈdʒɪf/, as in "gin". However, another alternative pronunciation uses a hard "G", /ˈɡɪf/, as in "graphics", reflecting the expanded acronym. Both pronunciations are given as correct by the Oxford English Dictionary[2] and the American Heritage Dictionary.[3] According to Steve Wilhite, the creator of the GIF format, the original pronunciation deliberately echoes the American peanut butter brand, Jif, and the employees of CompuServe would often say "Choosy developers choose GIF", spoofing this brand's television commercials.[4] This pronunciation was also identified by CompuServe in their documentation of a graphics display program called CompuShow.[4]"


I didn't mean to make a mountain out of a small off-hand remark, but I thought it was interesting point. I too say "GIF", with a hard "G" - always have and always will :)

If memory serves, the creator of the gif format was known to say "choosy programmers choose gif", a reference to the classic "choosy moms choose Jif" slogan. He always said the official pronunciation is "jiff". His name escapes me though.

This is how I've always pronounced it. Anything else just seems weird to me.

You just made me realize I use both. Now I just have to figure out if there is a pattern to when I use each and if I am imparting any meaning with my choice.

It's quite a little linguistics problem.

I think I tend to say "sequel", especially when discussing "SQL Server" or "MySQL", because "Ess Cue Ell Server" or "My Ess Cue Ell" is a lot slower to say than "Sequel Server" or "My Sequel".

But then I go to discuss PostgreSQL and I'm pretty much stuck saying "Post Gres Cue Ell" because, seriously, how else should I say that? "Postgres Sequel"? "Postgree Sequel"?

The alternative is to fall back to calling it "Postgres". And sometimes I do that, because PostgreSQL is torture to pronounce no matter how you try to do it.

I used to say S-Q-L in France but when I arrived in SF everybody was talking about "sequel" ... it took me some time to figure out what this damn sequel was.

Now I use sequel in english and S-Q-L in french. I was thinking it was the english way to say it.

This poll proves me it's wrong :-)

Similar in Germany, at least in my experience. I mostly hear it being called Ess Kuh Ell.

I use S Q L except when talking to a Microsoft devotee, they seem to use sequel mostly.

I have a friend who while converting from a pre-SQL RDBMS to Ingres liked to call it Squeal (the whole package from that era, 1989 or so, wasn't exactly great although it did get the job done).

Before I heard anyone else pronounce it out loud, I pronounced it squeal as well.

Although I try to use sequel nowadays, I still occasionally hear myself say squeal.

I prefer squeal, so I can call it MS Squeal Server, or My Squeal

"Sequel" only when talking about MS SQL Server.

Ess-Queue-Ell all other times.

I'm exactly the same. I try to make a point of saying "Ess-Queue-Ell" because I consider it more correct, and less ambiguous (not just because of the previous query language, but because 'sequel' is a word in common usage, and 'SQL' is not). However, I think I see saying "Sequel Server" as a brand. If I saw "SQL Server" outside of a Microsoft context, my first though would probably be that of a generic client-server RDBMS.

Both, for purely pragmatic reasons. I don't really care about the history of the pronunciation, I just want to be understood. So to reduce confusion, in conversations with other developers I generally just use whatever everyone else seems to be using.

If it's just me speaking, I get to choose -- in that case I start off with "Sequel", for the tiny reason that it rolls off the tongue a bit more easily (hey, it's one less syllable!).

Used to think that "sequel" was just an arbitrary way to "pronounceable-ize" SQL. So a friend and I retaliated by saying things like "MySquirrel".

I think "yew-are-ell" and "earl" for URL are similar: both are in wide use, with the figurative/fewer-syllables variant gaining over time.

P-N-G vs "ping" is another one I've heard recently.

I just realized that, when I refer to MS SQL, I pronounce SequelServer

However, when referring to MySQL, or SQL the language, I pronounce it as Es Queue El

Although it's a matter of opinion, I break it down like this:

1) SQL is an acronym 2) Acronyms are typically enunciated letter by letter, although it's not uncommon for them to be enunciated as a word either (ARP is read as a word, although it's an acronym for Address Resolution Protocol).

Since I see more acronyms get enunciated letter by letter vs complete word, I tend to say ES-QUE-EL.

It's only an acronym if you pronounce it squeal or sequel. If you say SQL, it's an abbreviation.


Do you say "URL" as "You are ell" or as "Earl?"

I have some odd sort of deep seeded hatred for people who pronounce that as "Earl".

If you're talking about URLs all the time, 'earl' saves a lot of time/syllables.

Tried to train myself to say "earl", but I keep spelling it out.

I have heard `Squirrel', albeit in jest.

Sequel on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. S-Q-L on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. Neither on Sunday.

Sequel for the same reason I say Nasa and not N-A-S-A or Scuba not S-C-U-B-A.

But by the same logic, USA is pronounced "yousa", URL is "uhrl", and HN is "hun".

and LASER would be pronounced "Lay-zer"

Just now, in a regional language newspaper of India, I saw that a misguided reporter used LED(Light Emitting Diode) as if it was Led, the element. :). So clearly, abbreviations should not be read out.

I came into my current job having always pronounced it Ess-Cue-Ell. However, not a single person at my job has pronounced it as such. Sequel all the way. I quickly picked up the local pronunciation.

Technically, your supposed to spell it out, but unless I'm talking about PostgreSQL (which doesn't work unless you spell it out) I say 'sequel' because I like it better.

I seem to switch back and forth. I'll say "sequel statement", but "write some SQL". Maybe "sequel" when it's an adjective, "SQL" when it's a noun, something like that.

I use sequel more and more now (probably reaching 100%) because I deal constantly with executives and non-IT personnel and they all use "sequel".

I say 'sequel', I write 'SQL'.

The former has one less spoken syllable, the latter has three less written letters, and everyone knows what you mean either way.

Sequel in casual conversation, S-Q-L in interviews.

I say "sequel" in English because its inventors decided so, but "SQL" in Portuguese because it's an acronym. Can I vote for both?

If I'm referring to Microsoft SQL Server, I pronounce it "Sequel". In all other cases, I pronounce it "Ess Queue Ell".

Who cares? the question is when you say it do people understand what you're talking about? This is a holy war thing.

I'm french , I'll vote for S-Q-L then

Yeah, Italians mostly spell it out too: "esse - cu - elle"

I just thought of this, but if you're French wouldn't "son cul" work pretty well?

I met someone a few months ago that preferred "Squall". Gave me a case of the chuckles.

I can't believe this is even close. I've never heard "S-Q-L"

In Europe, most people say SQL.

in my experience, many people working with microsoft SQL tend to call it SEQUEL, and non-microsoft folks tend to call it S-Q-L. just my $0.02

seek well?

"sequel" for SQLite and MS SQL server.

SQL for everything else.

The question is, how do you spell NoSQL? :)

Nosscule! (rhymes with minuscule)

er s/spell/say

Both, depending on the day and my mood.

you run a "sequel" server but when you write queries you do so in "SQL". That is how I do it.

Sequel. Post Gres Q-L My S-Q-L

Sequel, Postgres, MySequel

Dr. Stonebraker says 'sequel'

here in Brazil we all pronounce it S-Q-L.


es-cue-ell, of course


I had a coworker who used to intentionally pronounce it "SQUEEL" as in squeel like a pig.

I heard that pronunciation from a couple of IBM guys about 15 years ago.

Like Leenoox vs. Lih-nux vs. Lie-nux, or v-i vs. "vigh" (rhymes with "high"), it's just preference. There is no clearly "correct" pronunciation.

However, the first "a" in Nevada is like the "a" in "cab". That's not negotiable. ;-)

Ummm. There absolutly is a correct pronunciation for Linux. Any person who's been involved with it for more than 10 years will remember the AIFF file floating around:

"My name is Leenus Torvalds and I pronounce Leenux, Leenux"

And while there's some slack on how to pronounce SQL (because of the origins (QUEL from Stonebraker and then the whole SEQUEL/SQL issue), it's understandable and acceptable that people could pronounce it either way.

However with Linux, given that the author is named Linus and has named it after himself, I think it's fair to say, Leenux is the proper way.

But I don't pronounce hardly any of the words {hello, this, is, Linus, Torvalds, and, I, pronounce, as} the same way he does, so why should I pronounce "Linux" the same way? (In other words, pronunciations are localized.)

According to Linus it is pronounced lihnux


I hear Lenux more often than Leenux, though I have to say my preference is Leenux, given that his name is Leenus.

I said Lie-nux for the first 5 years or so that it was around, based on the way I read his name as an American. I could be ok with Lie-nux or Leenux, but I've never agreed with Lenux.

The only reason he says it that way is because of his accent. And SQL stands for Structured Query Language you fucking idiot, there is no pronunciation.

I would say that you're absolutely right: "Hello, this is Leee-nooos Torvalds, and I pronounce Linux as 'Leee-noox'."

However: most English-speakers, Americans in particular, are not going to adopt Linus' accent when pronouncing the name -- although, as I said, I completely agree with that logic. There is no logical justification I've ever heard for the pronunciation of Linux as "Lih-nux".

On the other hand: it doesn't matter how you pronounce it. It's just a name. We have more important problems to solve! :-)

Actually, no. this is the most important problem I have to solve today ;) Thanks for not taking it too personal heh

For Linux there most definitely is a correct way. http://www.paul.sladen.org/pronunciation/ There is an audio file on that page for you to feast your ears on.

"Hello, this is Linus Torvalds, and I pronounce Linux as Linux!"

How do you think he says it?

Unless you live in Nevada, IA, where the first "a" is pronounced like the letter A. :-)

LOL, who knew?!

The academic database community pronounces it as "Sequel."

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