For example.

"The round button is to start engine, and the square button is to turn on aircon".

Even though the aircon button is say 3cm x 5cm. It feels to me that saying "the rectangular button" is uncommon and geeky.

Any better alternative?

  • No, it is not geeky. It's the only way to say it. – Lambie Nov 11 '16 at 13:47
  • I've converted my comment into an answer. – stangdon Nov 11 '16 at 17:50

Rectangular is not uncommon or geeky at all. Even very young children are taught words for shapes like rectangle ("In preschool, children can learn to identify and name circles, triangles, squares, rectangles, and ovals") so every English speaker should be able to easily understand it.

If you call a rectangular button "square", people may understand what you mean, but it could be confusing. Square has a much more specific meaning than just "not round", and if you tell people to look for a "square button" and they don't see one, they may think that the instructions are wrong, or were written for something different from the thing that they are looking at.

In short, if something is a rectangle, call it a rectangle, not a square.

  • 1
    Although it may depend on how far from square it is. Something which is 38x40 would likely be seen as "square" to the average person whereas something that is 5x10 would not likely be seen as square – eques Nov 11 '16 at 17:52
  • @eques - Fair enough, although I doubt any but the most nitpicky would say "You called this a 'square' button, but the lengths of the sides are actually in the ratio 102/100!" If it looks square, then it is, speaking loosely, a square, but I don't think anybody would look at a 3x5 rectangle, which is approximately the proportions of a flag, and call it "a square". – stangdon Nov 11 '16 at 20:17
  • Right. I meant more that people aren't very likely to be confused if something not quite square is called square. – eques Nov 11 '16 at 20:22

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