This is How You Pronounce Ubuntu


It irks me when names are mispronounced—especially when it’s easy to figure out the right way to say it. Some examples include “line-ix”, “oh-es-ex”, or “you-bun-too”.

The mispronunciation of Ubuntu is becoming more common now. As it gets more popular more are getting the opportunity to mangle it. When I first saw the name I proceeded to mess it up myself, but I immediately sought out the right way to say it. I found a video clip of Nelson Mandela pronouncing it. It was most informative and quite clear.


Ah, but people still want to argue.

Shure. Kep one beeleeving thate.

Just because someone can figure out what you mean doesn’t make it right. If that were the case then what would be the point of syntax at all? Why not just gesture wildly and grunt until the other person gets the idea?

It’s a name. And there’s a right way to say it. Put the effort in.

Ooo. Boon. Too.

[ Updated May 2014: Updated for brevity. ]


  1. We’re not talking about varying pronunciations of common things. These are names that have explicitly defined ways for pronouncing them as determined by an accepted authority. Linus Torvalds is a Linux authority and he says very clearly that Linux is always pronounced “Lih-nucks”. That means something. Apple explicitly says that it’s “OS *TEN*”. And it’s the same with Ubuntu. They told us how they want us to pronounce these things because it matters to them, so it should matter to us as well.

  2. I’m not advocating an anal enforcement of static language (that would be stupid). Language changes; it always has and it always will. The point is simply that all pronunciations of well-defined names are not equal. Calling the capital of the U.S. WAY-Chang-TONE (Washington) is not a different type of correct. And the fact that someone could figure out what you meant doesn’t make it so

  3. There is a slider between promoting accuracy in communication using syntax and allowing the natural evolution of language. Either extreme is wrong. My simple point here is that when we have an explicit and authoritative example to follow in the case of a name we should embrace it and promote its proper usage.

  4. So, ultimately, is this as important as our next elections in the U.S. or solving the energy crisis? Of course not. But it’s just a website talking about language and geek stuff. Relax. 🙂

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