Tuesday, April 12, 2016

How to pronounce LIRE

One of the difficulties of the English language is that it is often not clear, how to correctly pronounce words. For example, Edinburgh, Gloucester, and Leicester are often mispronounced. Fortunately, a dictionary will teach you how to pronounce a word correctly, and if you do not find it there, you can try the Wikipedia.

The situation is a little more hairy in the case of acronyms. Often there is a pun, which can guide you in guessing the pronunciation, but sometimes it is a genuine acronym, and therefore impossible to guess.

In the age of big data, the default approach to crack this riddle is to crowd-source the answer on a social network. Blast the question on Twitter, write a small R program using twitterR, and calculate the statistical mode. You can even get creative and use the PBSmapping package to plot the locations of the responders.

Unfortunately, the crowds are not wise and they might never have crossed path with the acronym, so they just guess. This is a classical case of garbage-in, garbage-out. In German, this process is also known with the expression "mit Kanonen auf Spatzen schiessen."

People were debating how one might pronounce LIRE, a Java library that provides a simple way to retrieve images and photos based on color and texture characteristics. LIRE is an acronym for Lucene Image Retrieval and is used to build content based image retrieval (CBIR, rhymes with cyber) systems.

Nothing is easier than shooting a one-line email to the creator Mathias Lux in Klagenfurt (do not fear, the Lindwurm is made of stone and will not byte you) and you get the correct answer, no need for confidence intervals: "Ich persönlich gehe von der italienischen Sprechweise aus"— it is pronounced the Italian way: li like liberty plus re like record.

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