Do You Pronounce GUI ‘Gee-Yu-Eye’ Or ‘Gooey’?

Do You Pronounce GUI ‘Gee-Yu-Eye’ Or ‘Gooey’?

Yesterday, Lifehacker attended the Unified Communications Expo in London where assorted industry experts converge to discuss the future of collaborative business technology. As you’d expect, many of the presentations focused on new graphical user interfaces (GUIs) that aim to disrupt touch screens. During these speeches, we couldn’t help but notice an interesting anomaly — around half the presenters pronounced the aforementioned acronym “gee-yu-eye” while the other half plumped for “gooey”. Which do you prefer?

GUI picture from Shutterstock

Saying each letter individually tends to be the preferred pronunciation when it comes to acronyms, even when the letters can be formed into a meaningful word — nobody pronounces CIA as “si-ah” or “ki-ah”, for example.

There are exceptions to the rule, however. The acronym for ‘heads up display’ (HUD) is almost always pronounced as a word, as is NASA and CSIRO. Some acronyms have evolved into fully-fledged words, such as scuba (“self-contained underwater breathing apparatus”) and laser (“light amplification by stimulated emission of radiation”).

GUI is a tricky one, however. It seems we haven’t reached a consensus on how to pronounce it yet. Personally, I prefer to say each letter individually — “gooey” just sounds icky and non-computational. With that said, many prefer the latter, including a brace of UCexpo professionals who deal with the concept on a daily basis.

On paper, “gooey” actually makes more sense — it’s quicker to say and thus easier to pop into conversation. On the other hand, the lack of clearly defined letters renders the acronym nearly impossible to decipher if you’re not already familiar with it.

A strong case could also be made for dispensing with acronyms altogether: they have the potential to confuse and alienate a portion of your audience for the sake of brevity. This is why we always spell it out in full the first time it appears in an article, even if it’s extremely common.

We want to hear what our readers think. Do you pronounce it “gee-yu-eye” or “gooey”? Or do you go the whole hog and give each word its proper due? Have at it in the poll below!

[polldaddy poll=8815106]


      • I used to always say ‘Es-Que-El’ but since working at my current job I’ve started saying it as ‘Sea-Quill’, I guess that’s because everyone here pronounces it that way.

        • It’s always been pronounced more “Sequel” in the teams I have been apart of.

    • This one we can answer definitively that “sequel” should be the preferred form; it was originally named SEQUEL (for Structured English QUEry Language) but was later changed due to a Trademark conflict, and pronouncing it as sequel remained the preference of the creators.

      Of course by similar logic the creator of the graphics interchange format says it’s pronounced “jiff”, which doesn’t jive with a lot of people! 🙂

      Also in support of the “sequel” pronunciation, the general English rule for acronyms is that they should be prounounced as words (see “modem, laser, scuba, etc.) as long as it isn’t prohibitively difficult to do so.

  • Wow; so many people on the gooey train. I much prefer saying each of the letters like an initialism; as an acronym it just sounds stupid to me. But hey; personal preference right? I hope we get some consensus on this in the future.

      • I think the implication is that the consensus will be right, which it currently is not.

      • Well its only 69% now. But yeah; thats not much of a consensus. Plus I meant from a more thorough survey, rather than just a Lifehacker post.

  • Its funny, I defend GUI as “gooey” because its easier to say, yet I’d rather die than pronounce URL as “earl”. If someone did drop G-U-I in conversation first I’d use that instead for the sake of clarity though – and that’s what’s important here, clarity.

  • HUD is almost always pronounced as a word, as is NASA and CSIRO

    CSIRO? I always say the letters and have only ever heard people pronounce it SEE-ES-EYE-AR-O

    • I vac-worked at the Clayton site and it was pronounced “sci-roh” by everyone I met working there. Pretty much every person I’ve spoken to outside of the organisation pronounces each letter, except, I guess, people who’ve done enough work with employees for the word pronunciation to rub off.

      I’ve also met one person who pronounced it “Cicero”.

    • Yeah, I did to, but it seems everybody who works with or for CSIRO pronounce it syro.

      Baah, won’t matter much soon anyway if we keep the current science slashing government in power…

  • Jooey, like GIF.

    Seriously though, I’ve never heard GUI spelled out in 30+ years of software experience.

  • I find that computer geeks *tend* to pronounce common acronyms as words. Thus “SCSI” as “scuzzy”, “SQL ” as “sequel”, “vi” as “vye” (even though “vee-eye” is the official way), EMACS as… well, EMACS, GIF as GIF (usually with a hard G), JPEG as Jay-peg, AJAX as A-jax, ISO as eye-so. The main exceptions are where there’s no obvious way to do it – “PHP” comes to mind.

    To be honest, the last point seems to dominate.

    • The only one I don’t do is sequel for SQL, I say each letter for that one. Same goes for DB product names, I say MySQL, not MySequel.

    • Technically the rules for English are that you should pronounce acronyms as words unless you are unable to do so.

      Of course clarity is more important than technical correctness in actual communication, but it’s nice to know that the rule supports the common behaviour.

  • Personally, I prefer to say each letter individually — “gooey” just sounds icky and non-computational.
    This is my reasoning. It sounds almost as ridiculous as stupidly pronouncing .gif as ‘jiff’. You can’t take anyone seriously if they do that.

  • Ive always said ‘Gooey’. The reason I’ve used that particular pronunciation is due to both Gates & Jobs using it and i guess because of that i thought it was the correct pronunciation.

  • >almost always pronounced as a word, as is NASA and CSIRO

    I don’t think I’ve ever heard CSIRO pronounced as a word

    • It never is unless you work there. Everyone I met when I worked there pronounced it as a word.

      I was only there for about a year as a tech guy so I still spell it out.

    • A lot of people in Canberra pronounce it as a word. Or at least a lot of science people do (i.e. everyone in all the science faculties at ANU)

    • I guess that depends on your definition of a user interface. The Donald Norman school of thought would suggest anything a human interacts with is a user interface: door knobs, light switches, car steering wheels, toilets, keyboards and so on and on and on…

    • It’s common to provide some form of backup to the GUI for a few reasons.

      Command line interfaces are low-bandwidth, easy to set up and support interactions which can be difficult with a GUI. They’re also a lot easier to use for blind people.

      Even the Server flavour of Windows now has an option to install without a GUI. (Yes, Windows with no windows.) I believe Powershell is used as the native command line language in that case.

      On the other hand, while “gooey” for GUI is common, I’ve never heard UI as “Yooey”. Typically it’s pronounced “User Interface.” 🙂

  • I say “Gooey” and “Sea-Quill” but when it comes to “Standard Operating Environment” I say “Ess-Oh-EE” and it really shits me when people say “Sowey”… No idea why… Just does…

  • I’ve found this to be quite culturally bound. Having worked in the world of IBM mainframes I found that Americans would spell out words with a vowel in them (CICS would be C-I-C-S) while they would make a word from acronyms without (SQL would be sounded as Sequel) whereas Australians and British folk would do the reverse (CICS is sounded as kicks) while SQL is splelt out. I always found this strange.

    As to the CSIRO, we always sounded it out in my home. My dad worked there for close to four decades.

  • Is this another one of those “does it really matter” type things like the pronunciation of gif and the incredibly petty argument whether it’s pronounced gif or jif?

  • Only pronounce the letters if you’re using the abbreviation for the medical condition – genito-urinary infection.

  • Gooey for GUI, Ewe-y for UI (which I use far more than GUI) but Ewe-X for User experience, which I use far more again.

    Also, Es-Que-El for SQL.

    I find I tend towards saying the letters unless pronouncing a word feels quicker.

  • I have never heard anyone pronounce each letter and would assume they were unfamiliar with the term if they did.

    NEVER heard of CSIRO being pronounced as a word rather than each letter.

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