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In Stephen Baxter's Xeelee universe there is a race called the Qax who conquered humanity and enslaved them for three hundred years, starting around 5088 AD. As I've read the stories I've mentally pronounced "Qax" as "quacks" probably because it is a mildly amusing tag to apply to ruthless dictators. But I don't remember reading how Qax was supposed to be pronounced.

How is Qax pronounced?

  • The new short story book, Xeelee: Endurance, has been pretty good. – Mark Rogers Jan 15 '16 at 1:58
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"Kh-axe", apparently. At least according to Baxter's Exultant: Destiny's Children.

... These numbers had been assigned by the long-vanquished Qax - pronounced 'Kh-axe', the alien occupiers of Earth in the years before Hama Druz. The huddling domes of the Conurbations, bubbles of blown rock, were essentially Qax designs; they had been preserved as a kind of permanent memorial of that dreadful time. But Nilis, with a wink, told them that the locals referred to their cities by much older, pre-Occupation names, though not a trace of those older settlements had survived the time of the Qax. Thus they had first landed at Berr-linn, and Nilis's base was in a city called Lunn-dinn.

  • Wow… that is probably the least intuitive and helpful pronunciation helper I've ever seen. Like Kh-axe is somehow more figureoutable than Qax – Janus Bahs Jacquet Jan 15 '16 at 2:29
  • @Janus It isn't as random as it looks. kh is the hard k sound as in loch as opposed to the sound at the end of bike or kick. The latter sound is pitched higher and is made with the tongue closer to the palate. – Kyle Jones Jan 15 '16 at 3:12
  • @KyleJones Well, no… it’s actually made with the tongue further away from the palate (assuming you're talking about the Scottish/Irish pronunciation of loch, where the <ch> represents [χ]). I don't know anything about the Xeelee universe, so perhaps I'm just missing that there's a general pronunciation guide, but I wouldn't have a clue whether the <kh> was in fact meant to represent /x/ or not, nor what the hyphen was meant to represent (disyllabicity? glottal stop?), or indeed whether axe is meant to be pronounced like the English word or with an actual e at the end (or something else)… – Janus Bahs Jacquet Jan 15 '16 at 3:17
  • @Janus Sorry, I was talking about the other k sound. I'm not sure a human is supposed to be able to pronounce Qax, which is probably the point. – Kyle Jones Jan 15 '16 at 3:46
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    The pronunciation Baxter proposes is what I always used in my mind, but then I'm Dutch. I assumed the absence of a 'u' after the 'q' meant it was pronounced similarly to 'qat'. – user45485 Jan 15 '16 at 10:25

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