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Words that changed their pronunciation owing to their spelling
Posted: 09 March 2017 07:24 AM   [ Ignore ]
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I was thinking about such words earlier today and came up with the following examples.

Forte (meaning strong point)
Schism
Pomegranate (now usually 4 syllables rather than 3)
Falcon/almond, etc (now usually with the l pronounced)

Any others? BTW it’s an interesting process. Words such as the above whose pronunciations have stood for at least 2 or 3 centuries suddenly start to change in the second half of the 20th century. Why? The spellings hadn’t changed but the pronunciations started to. What drove the process? Was it American influence? Broadening vocabularies (ie words which had not been used by hoi polloi became known by them and pronounced as spelt)? All of the examples I gave above were pronounced in the traditional fashion when I was a schoolboy in England in the 1950s but since that time have changed so I’m pretty sure we can date the beginning of the shift to around the 1960s, at least in the UK. I’m just not sure of the reason.

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Posted: 09 March 2017 07:39 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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Along the same lines, i think:  “Ye”, as it “Ye Olde Shoppe”.  People pronounce it with a “Y” sound, but it still should be a hard “Th”.

I’ve heard a few Okies pronounce “drought” as “drowtht”; not knowing what to make of the “gh”, presumeably.

Edit: Okie lore.

[ Edited: 09 March 2017 07:42 AM by donkeyhotay ]
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Posted: 09 March 2017 08:55 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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Pomegranate:  I’m guessing the additional syllable is the schwa between the m and the gr.  Do we need the spelling to explain its presence?  It seems to me that English phonology offers sufficient explanation.

As for the subject line, the classic examples are words that were spiffed up with more Latinate spellings, with the pronunciation (sometimes) following.  “Comptroller” is a good example.

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Posted: 09 March 2017 09:40 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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Wikipedia has an article on spelling pronunciations with these and other examples.

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Posted: 09 March 2017 09:43 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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Pomegranate (now usually 4 syllables rather than 3)

I’ve never heard, or heard of, the three syllable version.

The OED mentions the three syllable version as a US variant. Was it ever used in the UK?

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Posted: 10 March 2017 04:40 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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OP Tipping - 09 March 2017 09:43 PM

Pomegranate (now usually 4 syllables rather than 3)

I’ve never heard, or heard of, the three syllable version.

The OED mentions the three syllable version as a US variant. Was it ever used in the UK?

I can hardly trust a word Mnemosyne says these days but I thought it was. It’s certainly possible though that I picked it up when I served with US troops in Westphalia in the mid-60s. And thank you for the link, doc, I had no idea there was a wiki covering this.

ETA a few comments on some of the pronunciations in that list linked by Doc Tl,,,,

Clothes was historically pronounced the same way as the verb close My God, I suddenly feel like Rip Van Winkle. Is this an overstatement or do people really say clo/ð/s now, rhyming with loathes?

medicine - some speakers use two when they mean medicaments and three when they mean medical knowledge. Say what? Is this an American usage? I’ve never come across this, I always use the 2 syllable pronunciation.

ski, originally pronounced /ʃiː/ (as it is a loanword from Norwegian), now usually /skiː/. Never heard of the former pronunciation.

The one that amuses me is the old pronunciation of Susan as S /ʊə/ san. You still hear it occasionally in the speech of the upper classes. Historically words such as blue were pronounced similarly. I’m sure OED used to indicate this although it may have been another word I was thinking of. You can still see traces of the ancestry of that pronunciation in the entry though in the ME blyu and the Anglo-Norman bliu. How they managed to speak it thus boggles the mind, small wonder the pronunciation changed!

[ Edited: 10 March 2017 05:44 AM by aldiboronti ]
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Posted: 10 March 2017 06:56 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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Clothes was historically pronounced the same way as the verb close My God, I suddenly feel like Rip Van Winkle. Is this an overstatement or do people really say clo/ð/s now, rhyming with loathes?

It’s always been closer to close than loathes for me.

medicine - some speakers use two when they mean medicaments and three when they mean medical knowledge. Say what? Is this an American usage? I’ve never come across this, I always use the 2 syllable pronunciation.

Yep, ‘merican fer sure.. med-ih-sin

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Posted: 10 March 2017 07:16 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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Is this an overstatement or do people really say clo/ð/s now, rhyming with loathes?

I shouldn’t have to remind you not to trust Wikipedia; I’m not saying nobody says “clo/ð/s,” but I’ve never heard it and I’m pretty sure “many speakers” is a wild overstatement.

Is this an American usage?

The three-syllable pronunciation is universal in the US.

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Posted: 10 March 2017 07:45 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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Is this an overstatement or do people really say clo/ð/s now, rhyming with loathes?

I pronounce it that way.

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Posted: 10 March 2017 10:51 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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Dr. Techie - 10 March 2017 07:45 AM

Is this an overstatement or do people really say clo/ð/s now, rhyming with loathes?

I pronounce it that way.

Same here.

OED gives /kləʊðz/ as the only British pronunciation.

It also says U.S. /kloʊ(ð)z/. I can’t say I’ve heard the non-ð much in American film and TV but I shall keep an ear out now.

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Posted: 10 March 2017 12:29 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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"Falcon/almond, etc (now usually with the l pronounced)”

As to almond, I have childhood memories (leftpondian) from the early 1950s of people pronouncing it without the l. Then the l
appeared and has remained common ever since.  I wonder how much of the change might be attributed to early television commercials for a candy bar called Almond Joy?

I was perplexed by falcon.  I don’t recall a change in pronunciaion.  I asked my British wife to say it. She pronounces the first syllable to rhyme with ‘fall’, or something closely approximating that.  Most Americans, in my experience, say it so it sounds like ‘Al’, short for Albert.  How was it said in earlier BE, and what does it sound like now?

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Posted: 11 March 2017 04:50 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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cuchuflete - 10 March 2017 12:29 PM

“Falcon/almond, etc (now usually with the l pronounced)”

As to almond, I have childhood memories (leftpondian) from the early 1950s of people pronouncing it without the l. Then the l
appeared and has remained common ever since.  I wonder how much of the change might be attributed to early television commercials for a candy bar called Almond Joy?


I was perplexed by falcon.  I don’t recall a change in pronunciaion.  I asked my British wife to say it. She pronounces the first syllable to rhyme with ‘fall’, or something closely approximating that.  Most Americans, in my experience, say it so it sounds like ‘Al’, short for Albert.  How was it said in earlier BE, and what does it sound like now?

Falcon with the l sounded is the general pronunciation in the UK. In my youth, as I recall, the non-l version /ˈfɔːk(ə)n/ was RP although OED places it second now, obviously for good reason.

Thank you, lh, and no, I didn’t trust that Wikipedia entry at all, hence my comments on particular words. I’m going to edit it by deletion of clothes now. The word has no place in the list if that pronunciation is not general.

BTW I’ve been browsing Wikipedia a lot lately and I find myself constantly having to edit articles. The amount of misinformation there is quite breathtaking. It gives one pause for thought: if there is this much misinformation on the subjects I do have some expertise on then how much is there on subjects of which I know little? Caveat lector indeed!

[ Edited: 11 March 2017 05:17 AM by aldiboronti ]
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Posted: 11 March 2017 05:40 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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Wikipedia does not operate by trust, but instead by a system of careful referencing. Every piece of information in Wikipedia is required to have a reference from an appropriate source, or be subject to deletion.

If you do see something that you think is incorrect, it is best that you check the reference before acting. The entry you’ve deleted referenced, indirectly, the Oxford English Dictionary.  In this case, you’ve edited a list of “Examples of English words with common spelling pronunciations”. There is no implication of generality. For instance, “salmon” is listed, as “occasionally pronounced with an /l/”.

The entry you deleted referenced, indirectly but quite adequately, The Oxford English Dictionary. The text redad “clothes was historically pronounced the same way as the verb close ("Whenas in silks my Julia goes/.../The liquefaction of her clothes"—Herrick), but many speakers now insert a /ð/, pronouncing a voiced th.”

This statement is not just obviously correct, but also is supported by a reference to the most prestigious and comprehensive dictionary in existence, and is a perfectly valid entry in a list of “Examples of English words with common spelling pronunciations”.

I’ve reverted your edit and hope that your many recent edits have not all been so cavalier.

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Posted: 11 March 2017 07:11 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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I pronounce it that way.

Same here.

Huh!  Once again, Wordorigins has expanded my knowledge base.

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Posted: 11 March 2017 01:44 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]
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Fowler says, I think, that pronouncing ‘forehead’ as written instead of as ‘forrid’ is the preserve of the half-educated who wish to demonstrate that they can spell, but I’ve never heard anything else in the UK. By contrast, Americans seem to have preserved the less rational pronunciation, or at least did when I lived there.

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Posted: 11 March 2017 02:19 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]
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I, on the other hand, don’t recall ever having heard “forrid” in the US.  Even when my parents and other family used to recite the rhyme,

“There was a little girl
And she had a little curl
Right in the middle of her forehead.
And when she was good
She was very, very good,
But when she was bad, she was horrid,”

they used the “spelling pronunciation” of forehead.

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