The curious case of “UChi” and its pronunciation

The Free Dictionary tells me that UCHI is the acronym for The University of Chicago. But if that were the case, shouldn’t it be TUOC?

I visited the official university website and it says said

Our official full name: The University of Chicago
Wherever possible we prefer to use the full name of the University: The University of Chicago.


Social media abbreviation: UChi
In social media platforms, UChi is an acceptable abbreviation when UChicago [its official informal name] won’t fit due to character constraints

UPDATE May 07 2018
The University has since updated its site, the information can now be found on pp.16-17 on the pdf.

The University recognizes that UChi is not an acronym, and calls it an abbreviation, I can tell because is made up of the first three letters of University Chicago

It then goes on to explain why U of C and UC were rejected. Apparently, these acronyms are used by other universities but it fails to mention anything about TUOC.

The same website also omits the issue of its pronunciation, leaving me to ask how do I pronounce the abbreviation UChi?

The letters ch is usually pronounced in three different ways: The first is [tʃ] as in church, cheese, cherry, butcher, speech, and so on. The second is [ʃ], this normally occurs in some French loanwords such as machine, chandelier, chic and moustache. And the third sound is pronounced [k] in words of Greek origin, such as stomach, school, Christmas, chemistry, technology and others, too numerous to mention.

I can confidently discard the third sound [k] based on how I know Chicago is pronounced, which leaves me with the sounds [tʃ] and [ʃ]. Is the “ch” in UChi the voiceless postalveolar affricate t͡ʃ or the sibilant /ʃ/? Wikipedia tells me that that the latter is also called a voiceless palato-alveolar fricative

  • Is there a reason why the institution snubbed TUOC in favor of UChi? Is this form of abbreviation exclusive to UChicago?
  • Is UChi pronounced as one word, (you chee /juː tʃiː/ or you shee /juː ʃiː/ ) or as initials?
  • Is writing the abbreviation “UChi” in block capital letters a mistake?

This post is not a duplicate of the Difference between an acronym and abbreviation?

I am not asking what is the difference between the two forms. As I mentioned previously, and clearly, UChi is an abbreviation not an acronym such as NATO and IUPAC, or an initialism such as FBI. If nothing else, I have proved that the question is not one of general knowledge (unless perhaps you’re a Chicagoan).


The abbreviation Chi is well established to refer to the city of Chicago.

One of the city’s nicknames is Chi-Town. See Chicago Tribune’s “Does anyone use ‘Chi-Town’? And why NYE organizers chose it” (January 6, 2016). The nickname is dated to at least 1931.

The preferred pronunciation of Chi- in Chi-Town seems to be shy (/ʃaɪ/), as evidenced by

(1) this pronunication on Forvo by someone “who was born about 20km from the University of Chicago main campus”

and perhaps more interestingly by

(2) the spoken (not sung) pronunciation by singer C.W. McCall in his #1 hit song (USA) of “Convoy” which can be heard at about 2:15 in this YouTube video.

However, a popular “contrary” pronunciation of Chi occurs in ChiSox, which refers to the baseball club Chicago White Sox, as opposed to the cross town rivals Chicago Cubs. In this case, the pronunciation of Chi- is correctly pronounced as chai (/tʃaɪ/). For instance, here is its pronunciation on Forvo. (Note that locals do not generally use the term Chi-Sox as this is apparently a “national abbreviation” for the team to distinguish it from the Boston Red Sox or Bo-Sox, which, similarly, Boston locals don’t use.)

When we come to how UChi is pronounced, we see that the Chi already has two possible pronunciations, one with [ʃ] and on with [tʃ]. We also have to recall that the “social media abbreviation” UChi is itself an abbreviation of UChicago, which is the official abbreviation of the university and the one found throughout its website.

A linguistics professor at UChicago told me that she had never heard UChi pronounced; other locals told me the same thing; and Page 15 of the university’s guideline (here’s the link to the pdf again) does not offer any pronunciation—perhaps because it did not expect anyone to actually pronounce it, or perhaps because it figured everyone would read it as UChicago (you-Chicago).

So, since there is no official pronunciation, and since UChi is itself an abbreviation of UChicago, speakers and readers are left to fend for themselves. Yet locals have given me four possible pronunications for UChi:

1 ju-ʃaɪ, with Chi as in Chi-Town

2 ju-tʃaɪ, with Chi as in Chi-Sox

3 ju-ʃiː (you she)

4 u-tʃiː (oochie) as in Uchi-con (oochie-con or simply oochie), the university’s annual anime convention. Hear the pronunciation at this UChi-Con video (2017) and/or this video (2018). This one from 2016 is funny, as the VLogger plays with the pronunciation of Chi in UChi-Con and even says U-something-con.

A dormitory at UChicago was selling coffee/tea mugs with UChai on them, as a pun on chai (tea) and UChi, per a student at UChicago. However there is no official pronunciation. Most locals, I would guess, read UChi on social media as if it were spelled out UChicago, unless they were talking about UChi-Con.

As for TUOC, this would not be in accord with universities that actually place the the in the names proper, as The Ohio State University, abbreviated OSU, and The University of Texas, abbreviated as UT.

Source : Link , Question Author : Mari-Lou A , Answer Author : Arm the good guys in America

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