From a Richard Stallman speech:
So, the design decisions were made, the next thing I needed was a name.source
Of course, we hackers
*always* want to pick
amusing, or naughty names
for all the software we write, that's part of the purpose of writing the software.
yeah, why you write code is to give you the opportunity to use a funny name.
there was a hacker tradition,
when you're writing a program similar to some other program,
you can give the new one a name, which is a recursive acronym, saying "<this> is not <the other>".
in the 60's and 70's there were many TECO text editors.
And most of them were called this-TECO or that-TECO or whatchamacallit-TECO,
one clever hacker called his version " TINT",
which stood for " TINT Is Not TECO".
The first recursive acronym.
in 1975, I developed the first Emacs text editor.
There were many Emacs-like text editors after that,
and many of them were called this-emacs or that-emacs or whoseswhatsis-emacs,
But one was called "FINE" for "FINE Is Not Emacs",
and there was "SINE" for "SINE Is Not Emacs",
and there was "EINE" for "EINE Is Not Emacs".
Then EINE was almost completely rewritten and the new version was called "ZWEI",
for "ZWEI Was EINE Initially".
So I looked for a recursive acronym name,
Is Not Unix".
But there was a problem; all the obvious four-letter possibilities were,
the problem was, none of them was a word.
Which means there was nothing to make it particularly funny.
I looked a little bit further, and,
I tried *other* ways of making a recursive acronym and I discovered,
that if I used a contraction,
I could get the,
the funniest word in the English language,
to be the name. And that word, of course, is "gnu",
which is used for a lots of, fuh, lots of jokes, lots of funny songs,
'course it stands for
"GNU's Not Unix".
Now the reason why people have fun with it that the dictionary says it's pronounced "nu".
you shouldn't believe a dictionary, because
the *real* pronunciation has a click sound in it, it's something like [click]nu.
I'm probably not saying it right,
but the British colonists didn't even try.
they just said "nu",
and the wrote it with a "G", meaning:
"We're not pronouncing something here".
And then that,
that got put in the dictionary and labeled as "correct".
when it's the name of our system,
please pronounce a hard "G", pronounce it "gnu".
If you speak of the "nu" operating system, you'll get people very, very confused.
Because, we've been working on it for sixteen years now, so it's not so "new" anymore.
There are two theories: