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Today I heard “regex,” short for “regular expression,” out loud for the first time with a /dʒ/ instead of a /g/ as I had always guessed. I felt the same experience when I first heard the abbreviation for character as identical to “char” rather than as /ker/. Is there any research on the patterns by which people choose to pronounce newly coined abbreviations? Does an abbreviation being technical (and therefore more likely to be a word that one might only ever encounter in writing [I’ve heard “regex” once until today, and have never heard “eval” or “cin”]). This is going off the deep end (consider it the “bonus portion”), but for more obscure subjects, is there any evidence of “genealogies” of certain universities producing certain pronunciations?

  • This is likely to get closed as language-specific, but surely it's just following common English pronunciation patterns? "Regex" has G followed by a front vowel, which is generally /dʒ/ except in certain specific loanwords (hence the very similar "regent"). And in almost all cases, CH is /t͡ʃ/. I'd imagine they're just filling in sensible defaults for unknown words. – Draconis Sep 11 at 5:00
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    What factors go into the emergence of those pronunciations is within the scope of this site I think. – Nardog Sep 11 at 7:09
  • I would agree that regex and char pronounced as they are in their expanded versions are more popular. Anyway the general reason why these are unstable or undefined, and thus why the other forms have any currency at all, is that they are written more than spoken, and even many native speakers in the field have heard them spoken rarely if not never. Like "var" and "ch" and so on, they evolved as conventions because people had to type them frequently, but at first people would still use the expanded version when speaking. – Adam Bittlingmayer Sep 11 at 9:45
  • So you could find similar for very very rare words (that are not abbreviations) that the well-read know passively but have almost never encountered in speech. – Adam Bittlingmayer Sep 11 at 9:47

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