Not To Be Confused

The other day, I got this email:

From (***REDACTED***)
to moc.xitami|hp#moc.xitami|hp
date (***REDACTED***)
subject (***REDACTED***)

Dear iMatrix,

Recently I was sent a link to one of the blogs on your website, an article, which I found quite interesting.

However, to my dismay, I also realized that iMatrix had fallen into the trap of not doing their PR homework when choosing your company nomenclature.

In particular I am referring to the use of the unique Danish vowel 'Ø' as part of the abbreviation for your 0MQ messaging/parallelism library. To wit, the letter Ø is not just an extra element in the ASCII table that doubles for 0 (zero).

The Danish language has no less than three vowels, which are unique to it. They are Æ ('ae'), Ø ('oe') and Å ('aa'). The form of writing them with two letters is just a convenience for the benefit of non-Danes. The actual pronunciation is nothing like those vowels concatenated, that is why Danish has unique letters for those sounds.

Notice that these three letters are grouped in the extended ASCII table along with similar unique letters from other languages. Ie. 'Ö' is a very similar sounding letter, which is found in Swedish and German, among other languages.

Worse still, then these letters are extremely common in Danish, and your abbreviation ØMQ doesn't read anything like 'Zero somethingorother' in this language.

Here are some examples of Danish words using the letter Ø:

Ø : (Yes, the letter alone) Island.
Fanø : Name of a Danish Island. There are many more like this, as Denmark has hundreds of islands of varying sizes.
Sø : Lake.
Sønder : Southern.
Søndersø : Location name, 'The southern lake'.
Strøm : Flow or current, both of bodies of water and electricity.
Grøn : Green.
Sønderstrømfjord : Location name on Grønland (aka. Greenland to non-natives).
Sød : Sweet.
Dør : Door.
Øre : Ear.
Øje : Eye.
Køn : Pretty.
Kød : Meat.
Føre : To lead.
Køre : To drive.
Før : Before.
Købe : To buy.
København : Name of our capital, often translated into English as Copenhagen. 'Havn' means harbour, so København can be roughly translated as 'The trading harbour', which it is.
Grøft: Ditch (long depression in the soil for rainwater.)
Høj : Hill.
Grøfthøjparken : Name of the street, where I live. Means 'The park with the hill and the ditch'.
Rød : Red.
Fløde : Cream.
Grød : Porridge.
Rødgrød med fløde : Name of an old fashioned dessert, the name of which is completely impossible to pronounce correctly by anyone but native Danes. English and most other languages simply doesn't have the 'Ø' sound. This sentence is often used by Danish children to tease non-natives by trying to get them to say it. It is a red porridge (more like jello, actually) made from strawberries and served with chilled cream.

In other word: Ø is not a funny looking zero. It was included in the extended ASCII table because it is vital to writing Danish on a keyboard. I realize that historically the American IBM engineers used a shorthand with the slash over the zero to distinguish it from the letter 'O'. But the ASCII code for their slashed zero was the ASCII zero, not the Danish letter. They basically changed the optical image of zero for the convenience of humans and did not introducing a new character for the purpose.

So you guys are basically looking really strange to us over here. Do note that using ØMQ instead of 0MQ also ruins your ratings in the search engines. Only Danish keyboards will have the letter Ø directly available for typing, and we do not think of Ø when we hear the English word zero. So basically no-one, anywhere on the planet, will know how to correctly search for the name of your product.

Kind regards


The Danes, it seems, take their alphabet very seriøusly. The last thing we want is to annoy anyone, especially someone whose ancestors used to raid northern Scotland for grød and haggis. But the writer of this email, Mr (***REDACTED***), from (***REDACTED***) (if that is even his real name), shocks us with his lack of knowledge, not to mention his 'accidental' mispelling of iMatix. Ø and ∅ are two totally different letters. They don't even look remotely similar!

It's true that all of us have sometimes written ØMQ instead of ∅MQ by accident (the letters are like right next to each other), but I'm going to set the record straight. For all Danes, ∅MQ is pronounced "The-letter-not-to-be-confused-with-Ø-em-queue", or if you are a mathematician, "empty-set-times-M-times-Q". The rest of us can continue to say "zero-em-queue".

For the collectors of software trivia, ∅MQ is possibly the very first product ever to use a Unicode name. Where ∅MQ goes, Gøøgle cannot follow!