Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Sync or synch?

I usually abbreviate various forms of the word "synchronization" with the spelling "sync". It just looks right to me, perhaps because it seems to be the more common spelling---the iTunes command, the band 'N Sync, etc. I've also seen it spelled "synch", but that looks a little weird and less aesthetically pleasing to me.

The linguist in me, however, realizes that the root is χρόνος ("time"), and the Greek letter chi (χ) is always transliterated into the Roman alphabet as ch. So it seems that one should preserve the final "h" in the abbreviation. "Synch" is more correct...but I still don't like the way it looks.

I feel torn between aesthetics and linguistic purity.

34 comments:

Richard C Haven said...

If you are abbreviating a word, then clarity is the goal. If "sync" is clear, than that is the best (most aesthetic) choice. Form is function.

Cheers

Chris said...

The letter Xi (Xi, as opposed to Ksi) represents a voiceless velar fricative. In the Roman Alphabet, the voiceless velar fricative is represented by the ch digraph. However, most words containing a voiceless velar fricative in borrowee language have the voiceless velar fricative coverted into a voiceless velar plosive, due to English-speakers' traditional inability to voice the appropriate pronunciation.

Thus, in the english language,because the H in Synchronise no longer serves a purpose at all (the ch digraph being converted into a sound that can be represented solely by C), Sync would be more correct that Synch would if you're following the rules established in the English language.

Language Lover said...

Thanks, Chris! That makes perfect sense to me. If I understand you correctly, what you're saying is that the actual sound represented by chi does not exist in English. It's actually equivalent to the German "ch", which English speakers tend to mispronounce as a hard "c" (the fricative to plosive conversion). I do remember this now from my one year of Greek, though I'd forgotten since we typically pronounce the letter itself as "kye". At least it's not as bad as "ksi" which English speakers inevitably pronounce as "zye".

(I need to figure out how to support other fonts in the comments.)

Jeff said...

This might go under "clarity" - but "synch" could be interpreted as "cinch" (as if someone had misspelled the word), whereas "sync" couldn't.

Anonymous said...

I was about to use the word "synched" somewhere but the spell-check keeps underlining it. So I searched Google and found your useful take on the matter.

I appreciate that some have an aesthetic taste for sync, but as you point out, the "h" completes the sound.

That's why to me, "sync" just does not look correct or pleasing at all, let alone "synced". I already have the whole word appreciated in my mind as "synchronize" so I automatically see "synch" as sounding like sink.

Someone said "synch" can look like "cinch", but to me "sync" looks like "since".

So I guess it's all in the eye of the beholder, and even though Firefox wants to label "synch" incorrect, I realize Firefox also doesn't know what "non sequitur" is either (and a host of other, more common words), so I will stick with synch.

This was a fun exercise in etymology. Thanks! ;)

Anonymous said...

I had the same dilemma, but traced my confusion back to a simliar word, "psych", as in "psyching someone out". However I like the explanations given here, so I'll use sync and psych...and just live with the dichotomy.

Tomato, Tomahto...

Karina in Maine

Anonymous said...

Great discussion, thanks!

Anonymous said...

I tried to “psych” myself up to make the switch to make the switch from “synch” to “sync” as you suggest, but my enthusiasm waned when I realized I’d need to “psyc” myself up instead.

Elloa said...

I am editing a book, googled 'sync vs. synch' and came across this! And the executive decision is, sync!

Thanks.

Jill M. said...

Great discussion - helpful to the issue!

Anonymous said...

★★★★★

Anonymous said...

you guys are such nerds!!! the world really doesnt care about the voiceles velar fricative converting to a velar plosive. blogging should be eliminated from the internet.

TheTarnas said...

Nerds or not, the info is great. You may go on speaking in grunts, if that's what you prefer.

Thank you to all who have previously contributed. The responses definitely pointed me in the direction I needed. I especially like the comparison to "psych".

dJ rHo said...

Why thank you for this blog post. I've been annoyed for a few months going back and forth with colleagues in Europe and Asia regarding a project which will keep our shared data in sync. They keep subtly encouraging me to write synch and even correct my spelling in some documents. I just can't do it, it feels wrong. But I won't be as adamant in changing it all back since I realize it is probably just as appropriate to write 'synch'. Seems silly, but things like this do get people worked up when trying to maintain professionalism and corporate style continuity. Suppose if it's a real problem we should just spell out the entire word.

Anonymous said...

I like sync better.

Anonymous said...

I am aware of the larger popularity of sync over synch. However, I feel synch to be the more correct form. The ch should be thought of a single, inseparable letter, similar to th. You would not separate the c from the h when hyphenating sync-hronized, and neither should you drop it when abbreviating.

On the other hand, I do understand that the English language is shaped by usage instead of logic, and the sheer force of apparently incorrect usage will make the sync usage correct, by definition.

Anonymous said...

Sync and synch are both in the dictionary as abbreviations of synchronize (synchronise).
So if there are two abbreviations for one word then the shorter abbreviation should be preferable in all cases. Especially considering that the 'h' is silent and therefore redundant in linguistic terms.
Grammar has nothing to do with it I'm afraid.

MissMarketing said...

Awesome discussion. I was reading a psychology report and the word "synch" was used. I've never heard it used this way and found this highly intelligent, and very useful discussion about both ways and the possible perceptions too. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

I tend to think of abbreviated words as "viable" portions of the original word. You wouldn't write syncronization, because the h in that word is purposeful. The logical chunk, therefore, is synch.

However, that leaves me up a creek when parsing refrigerator. Frig? What the frig should the spelling of this common abbreviation be?

Secondly, your only example is part of the reason I stick with synch: the band N' Sync. Bands often deliberately misspell words when creating their names (perhaps more likely in the 80's and 90's). I do not trust that this is a valid example of good spelling. Any examples of "sync" in, say, a novel or medical journal?

Tara Pibel said...

I've always thought the correct spelling was synch and 'N Sync bastardized it (as bands are wont to do). However, I looked at Oxforddictionaries.com and it has synch as the second-choice spelling. OK, I'll join the rest of the USA and spell it sync.

Language Lover said...

Thanks for all the comments, everyone! It's amazing that this post I wrote so long ago still generates so much interest.

Anonymous said...

I came across this blog post because some documents written by a couple of Indian guys were using synch. It was driving me crazy! Perhaps that is how they learned but after reading all the comments I will continue with sync.

I agree with abbreviations being used to shorten words so sync in better.

And the abbreviation for refrigerator is fridge. While it's an abbreviation, it's also a word by itself.

Rhonda Wray said...

Thank you! I wrote a note in a wedding guestbook spelling it "sync," but I was plagued with doubt ever since over whether I should call my friend and tell her to add the "h." There. I feel all better.

Anonymous said...

The problem with "sync" is its conjugation. Past tense ("synced") and present participle ("syncing"), would have the "c" pronounced as an "s" rather than "k" according to standard english pronunciation rules ("c" followed by "e" or "i" is typically pronounced "s"). We're taught in kindergarten that "c" has a "k" sound, but that is only half the story.

Similarly, "ch" having the "tch" sound is only a third of the story, since it frequently is pronounced "k" or "sh". I don't know of a spelling rule that determines how it is pronounced, though.

Roland Clare said...

A compendious post.

Everything here but the kitsch 'N Sync ...

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dwadelson said...

i agree with anonymous regarding conjugation. i am trying to decide whether to use SYNC or SYNCH for a status variable in some code i am writing. SYNC is more succinct, as others have noted. the problem is my variable can take on values of NEEDSSYNCH, SYNCHING, or SYNCHED ... or alternatively, NEEDSSYNC, SYNCING, and SYNCED. the latter two i would read as "sincing" and "sinced", rather thank "sinking" and "sinked"...so i think i'm going to go with leaving the H in there, though i could see others coming to the opposite conclusion.

Anonymous said...

Top of the Internet! (after the entry from merriam-webster.com)

Good to read all my thoughts -- and then some -- addressed here.
Except the practicality of what to do about those conjugations.

I'm going to experiment with the radical step of putting readability above internal consistency(!) and use "sync" / "synching" / "synched".

--Nev.

Ray Reglo said...

Really good conversation on what could be looked a very informal part of language "an abbreviation." I am bothered by the two different spelling from a technology-based perspective. Semantic searching will need to include both spellings for accuracy.

On a more practical note: I think we are all admitting that we are all working from the same root word "Synchronize" and it's tenses. When I see sync or synch I see it as synchronize or synchronization, whichever fits. In my "need for speed" world I simply abbreviate it as sync, and if I need to add a tense to it becomes sync'ing or sync'd. I know this will run afoul with some of the opinions offered here. So, I am standing by for the fallout. (smiles)

Anonymous said...

My first job was in movie business. Dailies were Synch on Non Synch. That was standard so still spell it that way without thinking. As commented by others synched, synchronous, synching, synchronicity all look wrong with no h.

amarres de amor said...

good post, i think that you must investigate, because exist a lot of laws to regulate it, regards.

Anonymous said...

Art
Altamonte Springs, FL

The way it seems most reasonable is to have it in 3 forms. These are the ones I use depending on whether I am talking about the root word, or a present action, or in the past. Ex: Have, has, had. He would like to have a new car. He has a new car. He had a new car. Likewise: I will sync the video and audio. I am syncing the video and audio. I sync'd the video and audio. In the past tense I use it like a contraction. In the same way one might use shouldn't or don't. So, that said, it makes it simpler and less confusing to use: Sync (for Synchronize), Syncing (for Synchronizing), Sync'd (for Synchronized).

Bill McKinney said...

When in doubt, don't abbreviate.

redviolin said...

I vote for Synch and Psych for aesthetics and linguistics appeal.