Saturday, February 25, 2012

Fee, fi, foe, fum

I found myself wondering about the correct pronunciation of the Greek letter φ (phi). Somehow, I acquired the habit of saying "fee." But it turns out that mathematicians say "fi" as in "fly."

It seems that in Greek, the first pronunciation is correct. However, if we were to follow that route, we'd have to pronounce π as "pee," and that just feels wrong.

A more common question is about "data." See howjsay. I pronounce data like "date-uh." I have a memory of this being drummed into me in Latin class. Perhaps we should just "say it like the Romans did," but see the above for one problem with that approach. Anyone know an authoritative source?

2 comments:

Sasuga said...

Maybe Wikipedia is a good online source. I'm from Latin America and have to say Americans think they can change the original pronunciation of everything.
It is not only in science. Nikon is "Neekon" and not "Nykon".
In Roman and Greek 'i' is 'ee' and for American 'i' we write 'ai'.

I can't understand your doubt about the word data.

DocDee said...

From http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/data
da·ta noun pl but singular or pl in constr, often attributive \ˈdā-tə, ˈda- also ˈdä-\