How to Pronounce "Varchar"

Noah Over, Application Developer

Article Categories: #Code, #Back-end Engineering

Posted on

The definitive guide on how to pronounce "varchar" from one of the few correct people.

Disclaimer: The views of this author do not reflect the views of Viget or the Viget Dev team. As a matter of fact, most of them disagree with him on this point.

Almost one year ago, I sparked a debate in our Dev team's Slack channel over pronunciation of the word "varchar" when I posted the following message:

I just want to put it out there that "varchar" should be pronounced with both syllables rhyming with "air" instead of rhyming with "bar".

It was met with a lot of disagreement and minimal1 support. Ever since that fateful day this topic has weighed heavy upon me. I just could not believe how so many of my respected peers could be so completely and utterly wrong. Not only were some of them rhyming the syllables with the word "bar", but some even had the audacity to use the "ch" sound in the second syllable.

One developer, who I hesitate to even name for fear of embarassing them2, had the audacity to say:

Eww... You're not wrong, but I hate it.

First off, thank you. You are correct in saying I am not wrong because it is in fact you who has been wrong this whole time. Secondly, hate is a strong word that this anonymous developer should save for things they truly detest. Don't just go throwing it around willy-nilly. That is not the point of this article though. The point is to prove why you should not hate my pronunciation, but in fact love it because of how right I am and how wrong you are.

Why I'm Right

Let's get the obvious out of the way up top. "Varchar" is short for "variable character" or sometimes "character varying". No one argues with pronouncing the first syllables of those words with the "air" sound. Also, no one argues that "character" starts with the "ch" sound found in words like "change". But for whatever absurd reason, people seem to think they can then argue the pronunciation if you drop the end of the word off. That should not be the case and I don't want to live in a world where it is. Instead, I choose to respect Anglo-Saxon settlers that migrated from West Germany to Britain during the 5th century and came up with the English language and all the beautiful contradictions that come along with it.

Now, you might be thinking to yourself, "Noah, the words 'vary'3 and 'character' actually have origins based in Latin, Old French, or even Greek. Are you sure the originators of those languages pronounced it the same way you are?" Yes, of course I am.

Let's start with "vary". It was originally introduced to Middle English from the Old French word "varier" and the Latin word "variare". Then, the Latin word "variare" comes from another Latin word "varius". That Latin word "varius" is pronounced like "/vəˈɾiws/", which if you plug it into a helpful tool like this IPA Reader, you can tell that it is still pronounced with the same sound as the word "air"4.

Moving on to "character". It was introduced into Middle English from the Old French "caractere" which in turn came from the Greek "kharaktēr". The Old French "caractere" clearly has the "air" sound when you type it into Google Translate's French to English translator and hit that pronunciation button5. Also, both "caractere" and "kharaktēr" use the hard "k" sound in "cat" as opposed to the "ch" sound you hear in "chat"6.

When you take all of this evidence into account, there is only one logical conclusion. That I am right and everyone throughout history agrees with me, except for certain developers in this modern day society.

Why You're Wrong

Now that we have definitively proven that I am right, we must also definitively prove why everyone else7 is wrong.

The main argument that I see for other pronunciations is that shortening words should allow for different pronunciations based on these new spellings. This is a ridiculous argument that they are clearly just applying on a case-by-case basis depending on how they feel about any given word. For example, no one pronounces "limo" with the "I" sound found in "lime". Instead, they are pronouncing it like "limousine"8, exactly as shortened words should work.

Another argument that comes up a lot is that they were taught these incorrect pronunciations. Have you ever thought about growing up and realizing that not everything you are taught is true? I was once taught that if I ate watermelon with seeds, one would grow inside of me, but then I grew up, so you should to and stop pronouncing "varchar" like a child that believes everything your teacher says.9

Those really seem like the only two arguments as to why "varchar" should be pronounced in any way other than my way. Since I have provided definitive proof10 as to why those arguments don't make sense, I think we are pretty much done here.


There is not really much more to say. Surely by now you have all changed your minds and understand the errors of your ways. I would like to thank those of you that supported me on this mission from the very beginning11. I would also to thank my doubters for further motivating me to succeed.

I'll leave you with this. World peace is a noble goal but how will we ever achieve it if everyone disagrees on this one simple question12 with an obvious answer13?.

At least we all agree that GIF is pronounced with a hard "G".

This article was intended for laughs. I do not actually care how you pronounce "varchar". Pronounce it however you want. Don't @ me.

  1. Just Annie.↩︎
  2. Nick, it was Nick Telsan.↩︎
  3. The root word of both "variable" and "varying" to simplify things.↩︎
  4. Did the author find other pronunciations that contradict him online? Maybe. Is he going to reference those pronunciations anywhere in this article in order to present a fair and balanced argument? Definitely not.↩︎
  5. Is this another example of the author ignoring contradicting sources? I cannot confirm but seems possible.↩︎
  6. Actually couldn't find contradicting sources for this one, so take that doubters!↩︎
  7. Except Annie.↩︎
  8. Limo - what one rides in when they are right about this issue.↩︎
  9. I feel it is important to point out that I believe you should listen to the experts on most things. Don't want this joke to feel too much like screaming "Do your own research!".↩︎
  10. Incoherent rambling↩︎
  11. Still just Annie.↩︎
  12. How is "varchar" pronounced?↩︎
  13. "vair-kair"↩︎
Noah Over

Noah is a Developer in our Durham, NC office. He’s passionate about writing Ruby and working with databases to overcome problems.

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