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Recently, this question appeared on ELL asking about the pronunciation of the word "gradle", which is not an English word, but a brand name of a piece of software.

Initially I (wrongly) assumed the question was about some extremely unusual ordinary noun, because it was spelled with no capital letter, and hence the question would be off-topic by virtue of being a simple dictionary-lookup, but later it became obvious that the question is in fact about a trademark for a minor product, and hence IMO is off-topic because it cannot be answered authoritatively, since the pronunciation of brand names is decided by the owner of the brand.

Two close-votes in, I closed this question as off-topic, following several precedents that questions about how to pronounce a single word is off topic - either because the word is a real English word and hence can be looked up in a dictionary, or it is not a real English word, and hence is not suitable for ELL in the first place:

However, since I've closed the question, four re-open votes have been cast on the "gradle" question, suggesting some dispute over this principle within the community.

Consequently, my question is this:

Are questions about the pronunciation of brand names, trademarks, fictitious names and so on be acceptable on ELL, or should they be closed as off-topic?

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    You suggested that it could be answered by a dictionary and is therefore off-topic. It can't be answered by a dictionary, so that wasn't appropriate. If it's going to be closed, it needs a better reason. – snailplane Dec 7 '13 at 19:51
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    Anyway, it's not like the pronunciation is entirely arbitrary. Gradle would never be pronounced /ˈæntˌiːtə/. If you asked a hundred native speakers, you'd probably get one of two basic pronunciations from almost all of them. – snailplane Dec 7 '13 at 19:53
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    You could simplify this question to "Are questions about the pronunciation of proper nouns on-topic?" – snailplane Dec 7 '13 at 20:20
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    The pronunciation of some proper nouns are clearly on topic. For example, the pronunciation of David, Chicago or Pawtucket. But the pronunciation of made up names, brand names and trademarks aren't so clear and aren't followed consistently; for example GIF, Nokia, Nike, Ale et Ange or Givenchy are not pronounced according to some clear-cut set of rules. – Matt Dec 7 '13 at 20:50
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    But especially for uncommon brand names like gradle, the only way to know for sure what how it is pronounced is to ask the people that own it. The question is excessively localized, and cannot be answered by a native speaker in an authoritative way, and hence is not (IMO) a good fit for ELL. The best the questioner can do is to look up similar words in a dictionary (such as ladle) and try pronouncing the words similarly, which in this case was also not done. – Matt Dec 7 '13 at 20:53
  • Still, if this is your reasoning for closing it, you should say so on the question, not just here. The comment and close reason you used don't apply, so I voted to reopen. It's strange to write that a question is off-topic because it can be entirely answered by a dictionary when that is clearly not the case. – snailplane Dec 7 '13 at 21:12
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I agree with everybody on this matter :)

It seems to me that Matt is correct: this is an off-topic question—not, indeed, for the close reason originally given, but because we are no more capable than OP of giving an authoritative answer.

On the other hand, I think this question may provoke an answer which would be interesting and valuable to our vistors.

Accordingly, I have edited the original question to a form which might elicit that answer: "How can the pronunciation of unique proper names be determined?"

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    This is the right way to handle this problem: Make a localized question more valuable to a broader audience by reframing it to have wider appeal. It's best to remember that this community exists for the sake of the community, not any particular individual. Generally speaking, questions written with a tone of: "I have a question, someone help me" garner very few upvotes, but questions that seem to say: "Here's a question that all of us might find interesting" do considerably better. I think many questions in the first category could be transformed with a bit of careful thought and editing. – J.R. Dec 10 '13 at 11:18

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