Has Neil Stephenson ever commented about how the character's name Da5id should be pronounced?

Failing that how is the name pronounced in the audio version?

I'm re-reading the book and my inner voice is confused...

  • 28
    Since 5 is V in a Roman numerals, I'm guessing, "David"? May 27, 2014 at 18:42
  • Thanks, well it is just a guess but, since it seems to make sense and has a couple of upvotes, I'll add it as an answer rather than just a comment. May 27, 2014 at 18:58
  • Since 5 is spelled with an 'F', his name would be pronounced 'Dafid' rather than 'David'.
    – Morgan
    May 27, 2014 at 19:09
  • 3
    Since Dafydd is a Welsh name, and "f" in Welsh is pronounced like "v" in English, then it would still be pronounced "David" if the "5" stood for "f".
    – Mike Scott
    May 27, 2014 at 19:23
  • While Richard's answer below re: Audiobook pronunciation is almost certainly the correct answer (and when I read the book, I always read it as David, despite not making the connection to the roman numeral); if l33t speak were intended an alternate pronunciation would be Dasid, where the 5 is representative of an S.
    – Doc
    May 27, 2014 at 21:08

3 Answers 3


In the Jonathan Davis-narrated audiobook, the consistent pronunciation is David ('deɪ-vɪd').

Obviously the choice of a l33t name (e.g. replacing one or more characters for a number) is intended to identify him to the reader as a hacker/cracker both in and out-of-universe.

In this case, the letter v (which corresponds with the Roman numeral V) has been replaced with the number 5.

  • 3
    @DVK This was written before annoying crap like "133t" and all that crap. It's brilliant. May 28, 2014 at 1:04
  • 3
    @MeatTrademark snow crash was written in 1992, this style of name dates from at least the 1950s ( 'Hen3ry' in 'An evening wasted with Tom Lehrer', released in 1959 ) May 28, 2014 at 12:49
  • 5
    @Richard: What the heck does "appears superficially similar to" mean? Only the most pedantic would argue that "the Roman numeral V" is not a letter V, and I'm pretty sure no Romans would have argued that way. Sure, the concept of five is different than the numeral 5 or V, but in script form, which is what we are discussing, the Roman numeral for five is a letter V. May 28, 2014 at 14:41
  • 3
    @thepopmachine - it's not pedantry, it's accuracy. The roman number V is not the same as the letter v. They don't share a common root
    – Valorum
    May 28, 2014 at 15:43
  • 4
    @Richard: Wikipedia: Roman numerals, the numeric system used in ancient Rome, employs combinations of letters from the Latin alphabet to signify values. May 28, 2014 at 16:35

Disclaimer: I haven't read the books so this is just a guess.

Since 5 is V in Roman numerals, I'm guessing "David".

  • I don't recall it ever being explicitly stated in the book, but this is how I've always pronounced it in my head.
    – phantom42
    May 27, 2014 at 19:00
  • 3
    This isn't an answer, it's speculation from someone who's admittedly not even read the material in question -- at best it qualifies as a comment (and, in fact, you did make it a comment -- why then turn what's clearly not up to snuff for a full-fledged answer into one?). It's good as a comment, but completely unsuitable as an answer.
    – Kromey
    May 27, 2014 at 19:36
  • 1
    @Kromey: I don't see any reason not to speculate in an answer as long as it is not wild speculation. This happens here all the time! It's fine as long as it is explained and as long as it is clear that it is only speculation. As to why I made it an answer, see my comment above. May 27, 2014 at 20:04
  • 1
    @Kromey: no worries, you have nothing to apologise for. But I don't think there is a difference between speculation and guessing. We will have to agree to differ. May 27, 2014 at 20:17
  • 1
    @Wikis Like I said in my last comment, I erred in expressing myself correctly initially.
    – Kromey
    May 28, 2014 at 14:09

There's another (though highly unlikely) possibility. To be able to send text (SMS) messages on phones that were not Arabic enabled, Arab teenagers created a system using the Roman alphabet and the numbers 3,5,7 and 9 to represent sounds not found in English.

'5' is, more or less, an aspirated 'h' sound.

The beauty of their system is that you can write Arabic perfectly well in it, and from left to right as well.

But I doubt that Stephenson had this in mind.

  • 1
    This is interesting but largely irrelevant to the question asked. At most it should have been a comment.
    – Valorum
    May 28, 2014 at 16:53
  • Yech. I hate Arabeezy even more than 733t. May 28, 2014 at 16:56
  • 1
    Sure it does; it suggests that another pronunciation is treating the 5 as a hard "h" or Spanish "jota" sound. How is this not answering the question?
    – user26732
    May 29, 2014 at 16:25
  • @user26732 - Well, firstly because there's no canon reason to assume that Stephenson knew anything about this piece of SMS esoterica
    – Valorum
    Jun 1, 2014 at 6:31
  • @Richard: And there's no reason to assume that he didn't know. We don't know one way or another.
    – user26732
    Jun 1, 2014 at 10:44

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