A previous meta thread, Re: Mathematicians whose names are commonly mispronounced, concerned the appropriateness of a particular big-list question on pronunciation of mathematicians' names. I agree with the closure of that question, but I don't think that questions about pronunciation of mathematicians' names should be off topic in general. Basically, I agree with Aryabhata's comments on Adrián Barquero's answer in the other thread.

I'd like to know what people think in general, but the reason this comes up now is the recently closed question The pronuncation of “Tychonoff” and “Alaoglu”. I voted to reopen, and my preference would be for focused questions like this to be on topic. Please share your opinion if you want.

In case you want an explicit question:

  • Should questions about pronunciation always be off topic? If not, under what circumstances are they off topic?
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    $\begingroup$ I woul not mind it if it were one question, but a herd of questions on a per-person basis would be immensely annoying... This should really be a page on Wikipedia or something in that style. $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 31, 2011 at 20:07
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    $\begingroup$ Mariano: It would be nice if there were a simple reference we could direct everyone to. If that were the case we could answer one question with the link, and close the rest as duplicates (as long as the reference really does answer all such questions). I agree that it could be annoying if there were a herd, but if they are not coming in rapidly I don't think it is a problem. I don't expect them to come in rapidly, but maybe I'm wrong. $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 31, 2011 at 20:11
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    $\begingroup$ The how to pronounce question seemed fine to me. If we can help stamp out some of the more obnoxious examples (Fur-Matt, You-Ler, Beau-Lyai) we will have done a service. $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 31, 2011 at 22:25
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    $\begingroup$ @AndréNicolas: As Phira said, some reformulations of that question would have worked better. For example, if one wanted an English reference for pronunciation of some of the more common names encountered by undergraduates, then a link to the following page might be a good answer: nsm1.nsm.iup.edu/gsstoudt/pronounce.html. Perhaps someone should post such a question. $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 31, 2011 at 22:31
  • $\begingroup$ @Mariano Re: big-list of name pronnciations: this was debated in the prior meta thread - see the comments to Adrian's answer there. $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 31, 2011 at 23:28
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    $\begingroup$ Interestingly, there are two reopen votes for the big-list question now, with no explanation whatsoever for why they want the question reopened. If someone gives a good reason why the question should be open, then I might even consider lending my support, but otherwise I honestly think we should just let the sleeping dogs lie. (I'm not sure if this comment is off-topic here.) $\endgroup$
    – Srivatsan
    Commented Jan 2, 2012 at 2:22
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    $\begingroup$ @Srivatsan: I consider your comment on topic, thank you. I welcome all comments or answers pertaining to appropriateness of questions on pronunciation of mathematicians' names, both for particular questions and in general. On the other hand, if someone were interested in making a case for that question in particular, it might make more sense to do so in the already existing meta thread for that question. $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 2, 2012 at 3:30

1 Answer 1


I think that the particular example is fine (because of the context given), although it should be very much encouraged that the asker includes something like "I am an American giving a talk on Tychonoff spaces in Russia." This would eliminate most of the problems of the other thread.


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