Another question is about the reasons for calling P/poly "P/poly". My question is instead about its (verbal) syntax rather than its compositional semantics:

How is "P/poly" pronounced (in English)?

  1. Like "p polly"?
  2. Like "p slash polly"?
  3. Like "p given polly"? (Maybe the slash for advice is analogous to slash or vertical bar for conditional probability: $\mathsf{P}(A/B)$.)

I hope it's OK to ask such a trivial question. I'd rather not develop a bad habit during self study.

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Personally, I use the first one: "P poly" $\endgroup$
    – nir shahar
    Commented Jun 11, 2020 at 15:03
  • $\begingroup$ I also use the first one. $\endgroup$
    – ryan
    Commented Jun 11, 2020 at 15:39
  • $\begingroup$ I always used 2 but I might be in the wrong here. $\endgroup$
    – Ariel
    Commented Jun 11, 2020 at 17:29

1 Answer 1


The Complexity Zoo has a pronunciation guide by Scott Aaronson "for those who insist on communicating verbally about complexity." It recommends the "p slash polly" option.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Ah, good. I knew of the Zoo, but not the pronunciation guide. (I know few of the beasts in it, beyond popular house pets such as NP.) Based on the comments, I guess there is some linguistic variation, but I'll give the Zoo the status of dictionary and follow its recommended usage. I am disappointed to learn, however, that "NISZK" is not pronounced "nishk", given that "sz" has a sound in some languages such as Polish. It was English that I asked about, though. $\endgroup$
    – Mars
    Commented Jun 11, 2020 at 19:56
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ @Mars As I native English speaker, if forced to pronounce NISZK as an acronym (and not an initialism), I would probably come up with /nɪsk/ or /nɪzək/. The "sz" would never give /nɪʃk/ in English, and /nɪzk/ has a nasty voiced-unvoiced consonant cluster which makes it phonotactically unlikely. Also, I personally omit the slash when pronouncing "P/poly", but I will defer to Aaronson in my answer as the authoritative source. $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 12, 2020 at 5:53
  • $\begingroup$ I'm also a native English speaker, but was exposed to a tiny bit of Polish when I was younger. I understand that "sz" is a pretty strange combination to parse in English. $\endgroup$
    – Mars
    Commented Jun 12, 2020 at 16:13

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