Do you FOSS or do you FLOSS?

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Recently a person was writing a paper and they used the term “FLOSS” (meaning Free and Li[bv]re Open Source Software) instead of “FOSS” (meaning Free and Open Source Software). The author happens to have been from Latin America and writing for a United Nations sponsored paper. In these types of papers the term “FLOSS” is used quite regularly. This caused issues with some people in the United States and the United Kingdom (among other places) who really wanted to see the term “FOSS” used. When asked about this, I answered back:

Is “FOSS” or “FLOSS” a trademark? Do we have to be consistent in its use in order to protect it legally? I think not. So all we really have to worry about is “getting the point across”….in having people use Free, Li[bv]re, and Open Source Software.

In the beginning of Linux there was always the question of “Is it pronounced LINNOOKS or LYENOOKS?”

In 1994 Linus made a little audio file that said “Hello, this is LEANUS TORVALDS, and I pronounce “LEANOOKS as LEANOOKS”.

This had very little effect, since no one in North America or Western Europe outside Scandinavia could say “LEANOOKS” or even “LEANUS”.

Finally Linus said:

“I do not care how you pronounce it as long as you use it.”

After Linus had moved to California I called him on the phone, and he answered “LYENUS”. I said “Linus, that is not even your name.” He said, “I know, but no one in California can say “LEANUS”, so I am “LYENUS”.

I learned a good deal about Linus’ philosophy of life from that exchange, and I must admit that it has changed a bit of my life too.

But I know that some people are not as flexible as Linus, sooooo, I would suggest that for the Anglo-American translations it be Free and Open Source Software (FOSS), but when translated into Spanish and Portuguese it be Free, Li[bv]re, and Open Source Software (FLOSS).

I usually leave it up to the original author and the “translators”.

This was not enough, however, and it seems that the uproar around acronyms is raging unabated. I would have loved it if Richard Stallman had named his organization the “Freedom Software Foundation” and called it “Freedom Software”, perhaps the whole “open source” term might never have appeared, but Richard did not. No one is perfect. Personally I feel the more we stress the “Freedom” part of F*OSS, the better off we are, so I lean toward “FLOSS”, but I also sometimes use “FOSS”. Both acronyms have the word “Free” in them, and both have the word “Open”. Please do not stone me if I do not use “your” word.

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