Over the past two decades, tech communities have engaged in heated debates over the pronunciation of certain terms. This is especially true for acronyms like GIF. Some believe it should be pronounced “jif” despite the fact technologists seem to have adopted the hard-“g”.
Another acronym that is frequently a source of argument is SQL, which stands to represent Structured Query Language. Some people insist on using all three letters, while others prefer to use “sequel” with confidence. Which is correct?
Because this battle is raging within our office, the SPOTO blog editors cannot take sides. There is also the perennial question of whether a hamburger can be considered a sandwich, and if so, what would a hotdog count as a sandwich?
Here’s a history of the term tech term to help answer your question.
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The introduction of “SEQUEL”.
SQL is a structured database. It was first introduced in 1970 in a paper titled “A Relational Model for Data for Large Shared Data Banks.” The paper proposed a way to allow users to pull data from computers, without having to know how it is organized. IBM was also working on a query language called SQUARE. This was an acronym for Specifying Questions as Relational Expressions. SQUARE was a way of sending queries to a database.
In 1974, a paper entitled “SEQUEL: Structured English Query language” was published. It was intended to announce the refinements made to SQUARE. The paper was written by the SQUARE group and titled “SEQUEL: A Structured English Query Language” and presented many concepts that led to the databases that we have today.
Unfortunately, SEQUEL’s team soon discovered that their term was already taken. British aircraft producer Hawker Siddeley had already registered a trademark for the name, so it couldn’t be used. The vowels were removed from this acronym and it was reduced to the SQL acronym that we know today. To make the full term Structured Query Language, the word “English” was also dropped.
In 1979, a company called Relational Software released ORACLE V2. This was the first release of SQL. Relational Software later changed its name to Oracle Corporation. Although vowels were removed, early tech professionals still referred to the technology as SEQUEL. However, new tech professionals grew up and insisted on pronouncing SQL. Many argue that the letters should be spelled out, rather than made into words, even for the various variants, such as T-SQL.
SQL vs. Sequel
Donald D. Chamberlin is one of the most prominent advocates for SQL. He was one of two creators of SEQUEL. Chamberlin believes SQL is the correct pronunciation, even though he was partially responsible for the original name. Many believe that Chamberlin’s opinion matters more than others because he is the co-creator.
Chamberlin actually referred the ISO Standard to SQL, which is the acronyms for SQL, when he made the decision. Chamberlin, however, continues to pronounce it “sequel” but acknowledges that both pronunciations are common.
Both pronunciations can be used, but the SQL vs. Sequel debate is not always easy to resolve. It is interesting to note that battle lines can be drawn between different SQL flavors.
For example, people on the Oracle side prefer the “sequel” version, while those in the Microsoft ecosystem prefer the three letters. This is not a hard-and fast rule.
You can prepare yourself for success in your career by asking your colleagues and employers how you prefer it to sound, and then choosing that option.
No matter how they say it,