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I hear that "Windows XP" is commonly called "Chā P" because the letter "X" may be pronounced "Chā".

Are there other Latin characters that have similarly peculiar pronunciations?

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4 Answers

up vote 6 down vote accepted

There is no single way to pronounce a given letter in the Latin alphabet. The set of rules varies wildly depending on the speaker's geographical location.

That being said however, I have, a few years ago, compiled a list of common (more Northern I believe) pronunciations of Roman letters. You can find it on this subpage of my Wiktionary homepage: Roman Letters in Mandarin.

For your convenience, I am going to paste it here:

字母  漢語拼音標音                    同音字
A     ēi    
B     bì                            閉
C     sēi                           塞(白讀)
D     dì                            地
E     yì                            意
F     ái fu                         癌副
G     jì                            既
H     éi chi    
I     ài 或 ái                      愛 或 癌
J     zhèi                          這(口語)
K     kèi   
L     ái lur                        癌露兒
M     ái mu                         癌木
N     ēn                            恩
O     ōu                            歐
P     pì                            僻
Q     kiùr  
R     àr 或 ár                       二
S     ái si                         癌四
T     tì                            替
U     yōu                           幽
V     wēi(聲母多為唇齒音 IPA: /ʋ/)    微
W     dá bu liu                     達不六
X     ái ke si                      癌克四
Y     wài(聲母多為雙唇音 IPA: /w/)    外
Z     zèi

Just on your specific example, chā is certainly possible as X resembles the cross. I have never heard of people pronouncing XP like this before though.

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I assumed ChinesePod's vocabulary wasn't too obscure, perhaps they included this one just for fun, then. –  Matthew Rudy 马泰 Jan 23 '13 at 13:42
I'd add more: 'H -> ai chi' 'G -> zhei (yes. the same as J)' 'K -> kai' 'L -> ai le(r)' –  Mike Manilone Jan 28 '13 at 4:57
You are welcome to edit my answer. Just make sure you add intonations. –  deutschZuid Feb 12 '13 at 7:54
This is terrible... Nobody really intends to say that... Everyone intends to say the letters as they are in English (Z is called zed), but many have an accent... In primary school, the pupils are taught a different system (a certainly very different one from above), but no one really uses it beyond that particular lesson. –  user58955 Sep 24 '13 at 6:05
It's an approximation and yes some people do say it like that. I am not sure how much you've mingled with people from various parts of China/different working classes/education levels, but you sound like you've heard it all which I highly doubt. I've already mentioned that there is no single way of pronouncing it and the table I presented is only one way of representing the letters. –  deutschZuid Sep 24 '13 at 21:44
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Reading X as cha1 is definitely informal, almost online talk. It is only because X resembles a cross (叉) and cha1 is easier to pronounce.

This kind of meme is highly local and may not last long. Some other commonly used ones are actually from poker card names:

A: 尖 (pointy)
J: 钩 (hook)
Q: 圈 (circle), 蛋 (egg) or 皮蛋 (preserved egg)

This 'nicknaming' is not limited to Latin characters, but also symbols and signs, e.g.

Windows icon: 飘 ((flag) waving). E.g. 飘悠悠 (Windows key, U, U) means 'shut down your PC'.

Again these are highly geographical and may go away at any time like any other urban catchwords.

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Interesting. I've seen the J=钩, Q=(皮)蛋 before, but not the other ones. How do people say "apple" key? –  Stumpy Joe Pete Jan 23 '13 at 5:53
@StumpyJoePete I am not aware of any nicknames for the apple key. Some 果粉 may know:) –  NS.X. Jan 23 '13 at 7:57
That's pretty interesting. I'm surprised ChinesePod didn't mention the 叉 reference (I should double check). –  Matthew Rudy 马泰 Jan 23 '13 at 13:35
@NS.X. this is the answer I was looking for, but it seems I phrased my question wrong. Should have said "Why is X sometimes pronounced Cha1, and are other letters treated similarly?". But given the title I gave JamesJiao's answer is the right one. –  Matthew Rudy 马泰 Jan 23 '13 at 13:48
@NS.X. Lol at 果粉 –  Stumpy Joe Pete Jan 23 '13 at 18:52
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Chinese people pronounce "X" as "Chā" because "X" is not easy to pronounce (at least is harder than "Chā") and "X" looks like a cross, and a cross is pronounced as "Chā" (叉) in Chinese. Chinese people also pronounce "XCode", a code editor on apple Mac, as "Chā code".

As this "custom" derives from the difficulty of pronunciation, I think there may be some other similar "customs" for other Latin characters. However, as far as I, who is a native Chinese speaker, know, "X" is the only special case.

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X, pronounced as Chā in Chinese, looks like two stick. X is also corresponding to the Chinese character 叉. If you do your math homework wrong, your math teacher will use her pen to write a shape like X. I don't know whether your teacher gives one.

You mean Latin alphabet?

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I think the OP is quite aware of the origin of X. His question is geared more towards how Latin characters are pronounced in general. X was just an example. Please do not ask a question in an answer. –  deutschZuid Jan 23 '13 at 4:48
@James Jiao. Thanks. –  Brooks Jan 23 '13 at 6:12
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