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Out of the Suitcase #44: "Kay-OH-see-um" or "Kay-OS-ee-um"?

Posted by Michael O'Brien on 24th Sep 2023

Chaosium President Rick Meints shares stories from a life-time as a collector of all things Chaosium.

While chatting after a team meeting this week someone mentioned how different people on the team pronounced our company name in different ways. I mentioned that many years ago Chaosium ran a somewhat tongue-in-cheek ad that included this very topic. 

The first example I could find was on the back cover of Different Worlds issue #4 from Aug/Sept. 1979. Being one of my personal favorites, I included this back cover ad in my book, the Meints Index to Glorantha 3rd Edition aka MiG3.. 

As we note in our Frequently Asked Questions, Greg named the company "Chaosium" back in 1975. It combines the word "chaos" with "ium" due to living in a very chaotic two-bedroom apartment filled with two families totaling eight people near the Oakland Coliseum. Before incorporating in February of 1981 the company usually called itself "The Chaosium." 

Since day one, the way to pronounce "Chaosium" caused some debate and confusion. Many people unfamiliar with the company seldom know how to say our name and usually have to ask how to pronounce it. I'm sure that's part of the reason it was put into early Chaosium ads, since most people had only recently discovered the company and its products. 

The opening paragraph of the ad reads: 


Pronounciations don’t matter. You want games to enjoy, not to salute respectfully and shelve; you want games you’ll be proud to mention and display, not hide in the closet. However you pronounce Chaosium, remember that the word means games which you’ll play as well as read, games faithful to their fantastical or historical backgrounds, games which are evocative rather than pedantic, games which do not artificially restrict play, games which are presented to you without childish advertising, rigid formality, or incompleteness. CHAOSIUM: games to play. 

*noun, place of chaos (affectionate) 

The phonetic pronounciations listed around the edge of the ad include: 

  • CHOE-zi-um KOR-a-sum 
  • KAY-os-i-um 
  • CHO-by-um (if you have a cold) 
  • KAY-o-SEE-um 
  • Kay-OS-i-um 
  • Kay-OZE-i-um 
  • KO-zy-um 

I’ve heard many other variations while on a phone call or chatting in our booth at various shows. I certainly hear it from family and friends who are not gamers and feel confident that I have run off and joined the circus. 

For the record, Greg always pronounced it Kay-OS-ee-um. With a smile, he usually corrected me every time I said Kay-OH-see-um. That makes sense. Just say the word "chaos" followed with "ee-um." 

Somewhat off topic: A good friend of mine worked at the front desk of my college dorm (South Quad at U of M). They had a staff newsletter titled "Chaos". While talking to her one evening I spied an issue of it on the front desk and noticed that they used the "Chaos" from the Chaosium logo as their title. I mentioned that to her and she said they pronounced "chaos" as CHOWS. My providing the historical context of its origins never made a dent. I wonder if they still call it that all these decades later...