This is such a great question. I love to discuss this kind of stuff on
While there are some rules for nomenclature of things scientific. I have
not heard of any hard & fast rules in the pronunciations. We have so
many new scientific terminologies and acronyms flying around for all
sorts of things (cell lines, gene names, restriction enzymes, dyes,
microsatellite primers) not to mention different languages overlaping. I
have seen people use initials, locations, even humorous acronyms
(sometimes languae specific). Some areas have a general guideline for
naming things such as a gene, but how we pronounce it during spoken word
can take on many variations.
In American English -
We often just go with 'what sounds comfortable out of your mouth'.
Sometimes it is the least amount of syllables but not always. We
normally copy what we hear from a teacher or supervisor. But, like you,
we may have only read it rather than hear some term being pronounced by
someone really in-the-know. Language is often so pliable that we take
on little microcosms of terminologies within a common environment just
so we can communicate with each other within the same lab.
In my realms of contact, HindIII is pronounced hin-dee-three, and EcoRI
is ee-co-are-one, but RstI is are-ess-tee-one.
109 can be pronounced one-hundred-nine OR one-oh-nine OR
And I have heard HEK-293 cells called "heck-293".
As for your english . . . it may not be your first language, but you
have mastered it in writing. And the fact that you observe these
differences means that you are being exposed to english in ALL its'
complexities and slangs. Hazah for diversity!!!
From: [Only registered users see links. ] [firstname.lastname@example.org]
On Behalf Of Peter Frank
Sent: Thursday, February 03, 2005 8:13 AM
To: [Only registered users see links. ]
Subject: Pronunciation of numbers in plasmid names, etc.?
I don't know if this is the right place to ask but I assume in a pure
English language newsgroup most people probably wouldn't know a lot
about scientific terminology, so I thought I better post it here.
There are many scientific terms in molecular biology with numbers in it,
such as plasmid names, molecule names, or cell line names.
I am not a native speaker of English, which is why I have mostly only
read these terms but not heard them.
Here are some examples I am not exactly sure of how to pronounce:
pUC18 (heard it being pronounced pUC eighteen) - plasmid
pUC119 (heard it being proncounced pUC one nineteen) - plasmid
JM109 (heard it being pronounced JM one oh nine) - bacterial strain
HEK-293 (?) - eukaryotic cell line
Hs578T (?) - eukaryotic cell line
Hsp70 (?) - protein
CD135 (?) - protein
How would you pronounce these? Are there any rules?
Another thing I noticed is that acronyms are usually spoken as words as
far as this is possible. "pUC" is spoken as a word, not as "pee-you-see"
(sorry for this sort of phonetic description of the letter P but I don't
know to do it any better without phonetic symbols available), whereas
"pGEM" seems to be spoken "pee-gem". Then, I am not sure if this rule
always applies. I can't imagine the HEK-293 cells to be called
[Only registered users see links. ] ("Deanne Bell") wrote:
OK, good to know.
I thought as much. I also heard that many scientists - if in need for
an acronymic name for something new (e.g. newly discovered gene,
phenotype) - try to make up acronyms in a way that allows them to be
easily pronounced and sometimes they even try to make it sound funny
as you mentioned already.
This often involves using more than one letter from certain words that
the acronym is composed of. And in some cases, the pronunciation of
the acronyms seems to be pretty much freeform, i.e. their
pronunciation does not correspond to the "rules" of phonetics but
instead is rather meant to please the ease of pronunciation. I am
trying to recall an example from molecular biology right now (and I
definitely know there are several such acronyms in this field) but
unfortunately none comes to my mind at the moment.
I had so many funny moments due to small missunderstandings when
pronouncing the acronyms as I used to do in spanish, that I think it's a
great part of the scientific-english learning that nobody should miss.
I still remember the face of my first english-speaking supervisor when I
was explaining my cloning in a "pee-you-see" plasmid :-)
What about the acronym for the E.coli L-fuculokinase? :-D