NES Isn’t Pronounced ‘N.E.S.’

NES Isn’t Pronounced ‘N.E.S.’

Words are pronounced however people pronounce them, and to insist otherwise is to fight a losing battle. This is why “giff” and “jiff” are equally valid. But for those who care, according to a new Nintendo 3DS game, NES (the classic Nintendo Entertainment System) is pronounced “ness”.

On Twitter, gamer Kyle McLain shows a screen from the Japanese version of WarioWare Gold for 3DS, which puts the characters pronounced “ne” and “su” above NES. Thus, “nesu”, which is the closest that Japanese characters can get to “ness”. Eurogamer confirms.

User LeoTheCollector replies with a US Nintendo ad for Kirby’s Adventure, which ends with “Only on N.E.S.”

So if the pronunciation of an ’80s gaming console is something you like to argue about, you still have evidence on either side. If you trust the Japanese copywriters for a current Nintendo game more than the US advertisers, go with “ness”. If you believe that because “NES” stands for English words its pronunciation should not be decided by a transliteration back into Japanese, then WarioWare Gold changes nothing.

I just want to point something out: If you follow the rules, “ness” implies that the SNES is pronounced “sness”, 3DS is pronounced “three deess”, and N64 is “nuh-sixty-four”.

In his essay “Politics and the English Language”, Orwell lists five rules for improving one’s sentences. But he adds a sixth: “Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.”


    • Americans pronounce it N-E-S. Similarly, they pronounce SNES as S-N-E-S.

      British pronounce is even weirder. They say “Nez” and “Snez”.

      Seems we Australians are the only ones that have it right. We pronounce it as “Ness” and “Sness”.

      • “British pronounce is even weirder. They say “Nez” and “Snez”.”

        When you speak English and have the British flag on your flag you can’t say the British pronunciation is weird it’s correct and you are wrong!

    • I thought that was the point of the “Ness” Character in Smash Bros all those years ago?

    • Me; because in the 80’s that’s what it was called.

      I have noticed a clear dividing line between Gen X who abbreviate the console names and milennials (whose first console was probably a Playstation) who make it into an acronym. (The first time I heard someone say ‘sness’ was on Good Game – I thought they’d taken a blow to the head!)

      Let me confirm for you: It’s N.E.S. and get the hell off my lawn!!!

    • That’s how my friends and I pronounced it back in the day. ‘Nez’ was the lazy way, ‘N.E.S’ was when you had to spell it out to someone, and ‘Nintendo Entertainment System’ was what you explained to your parents when you had to show individual consoles cause they thought everything and anything with a controller and a screen was a “Nintendo”.

      • Honestly I don’t think I used the terms at all til maybe the GCN era. And like… all the acronyms are just things you use when typing, you never say them. It’s “Nintendo, Super Nintendo, Sixty Four, (Game)Cube”, etc.

    • “Nez” is the common British pronunciation. I’ve personally never heard an Australian call it that, everyone I know pronounces it “ness”.

      It also doesn’t make any sense. Where does the ‘z’ sound come from? It’s clearly as ‘s’.

      • Generally in English words that end with one s have a z sound and words that end in two s letters have a ss sound.

        E.g. mess, fuss, guess all sound like ss
        E.g. boys, girls, cars all sound like z

        • The problem with that is that those examples are all plurals and “NES” is not a plural. It would be more akin to words like “kudos” or “sinus” or “fetus” or “plus”.

          • Similarly would the problem with those not be that they use vowels other than E? I want to say that kudos sounds like a borrowed word too, and sinus/fetus latin? Though I’m no linguistics scholar, I just go by instinct and with what feels right even if I’m not certain why that is. Also I can’t think of any words that end in -es that aren’t like… greek or something anyway.

          • Ah yeah I can see your point with plurals.

            As said by @mrtaco below, would be good to compare to words that end with -es. I can’t think of any from the top of my head!

            I think people will always argue over how to pronounce stuff, especially acronyms, there’s no defined rules. For example why do we say U.S.A. in letters but NES in one word?

  • I just want to point something out: If you follow the rules, “ness” implies that the SNES is pronounced “sness”, 3DS is pronounced “three deess”, and N64 is “nuh-sixty-four”.

    Uhh, no it doesn’t.

    For a start, “3DS” isn’t an acronym, and you just pronounce it exactly how it’s written: 3-Dee-Ess.

    Secondly, “N64” does not form a pronounceable word like “NES” and “SNES” do and also isn’t a true acronym. Once again you just say it exactly how it’s written: Enn-sixty-four.

        • I saw it as a portmanteau of 3D and DS, the 3D part being an evolution of the standard DS handheld into something new. Then the 2DS was a devolution of that portmanteau into something else.

          And both were handy puns at the same time.

      • Or developer system, if you are carrying on from the DS which was said to stand for both.

      • 3DS isn’t an acronym because that’s the actual name of the system.

        In the case of the NES, the system was actually called the Nintendo Entertainment System, and gamers shortened it to NES. That wasn’t the case with the DS and the 3DS – even though the “DS” part can technically stand for either “dual screen” or “developer system”, that’s not the actual name of the device. You don’t see “Nintendo Dual Screen” on the box, you see “Nintendo DS”.

      • Also, if you want to be technical, an acronym is only a pronounceable word made up of the first letters or syllables of other words. If those letters don’t actually form a pronounceable word, like for instance “3DS”, or “N64”, it’s technically called an initialism, not an acronym.

  • Holy fuck this isn’t how language works, lol. Opinion doesn’t dictate functions of grammar. As a life long linguist I am absolutely ashamed of this sort of bullshit.

  • Doesn’t surprise me too much. Initialisms have no equivalent in Japanese, so where they are used, they most often are pronounced as a acronym of the letters. You can see this as well in car culture where people who roll in “VIP” style cars are referred to as “vippers”.

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