Saturday, May 06, 2006


It's SU-DO-KU, for heaven's sake!

An old brainteaser asks, "What word is always pronounced wrong?" The trick answer is: the word "wrong." Haha, fine, but a real stumper is the inability of the most ardent fans of the latest rage in puzzledom to pronounce the name of their new favorite pastime.

Sudoku, from Japan, is a grid consisting of a three-by-three arrangement of smaller grids, each of which is a three-by-three arrangement of squares. The grid is initially seeded with digits from 1 through 9 in some small number of its squares. The goal is to fill in the remaining squares with digits 1 through 9 such that no digit is repeated in any one row, any one column, or any one subgrid. There may be more rules but I forget.

Perhaps eight people so far have professed to me their passion for Sudoku. Considering that the word is spelled phonetically, is only six letters long, and poses no phonetic challenge for native English speakers, I would think that someone who dawdles over these puzzles every day in the Washington Post or some other publication would pronounce its name correctly with no mental exertion. But over and over I hear either "su-du-ku" or "su-du-ko." Only once have I heard "su-do-ku."

Is a puzzlement.


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