Another Dumb Book.

It’s been a while since reading about a new book on language made the bile rise within me; I’ve been very pleased with the increasing number and quality of good books on the topic. But Megan Garber’s piece in the Atlantic on Ross and Kathryn Petras’s You’re Saying it Wrong: A Pronunciation Guide to the 150 Most Commonly Mispronounced Words and Their Tangled Histories of Misuse accomplished that feat quickly and efficiently:

[…] the 180-page volume—a bloggy compendium of those words, featuring brief etymologies along with their correct pronunciations—does tell me, quite usefully, that “timbre” is pronounced “TAM-ber,” not “TIM-ber.” And that it’s “spit and image,” rather than “spitting image.” And “chaise longue” rather than “chaise lounge.” And “MIS-chuh-vus” rather than “mis-CHEE-vee-us.”

I’m feeling the bile again just copy-and-pasting that heap of steaming dung. Nobody says or writes “spit and image”; nobody except the kind of wretched pedant who would correct your “mispronunciation” of timbre or mischievous. (If you search on the phrase in Google Books, you get a bunch of usage guides.) And check out some of its “corrective pronunciations”:

açaí: ah-sigh-EE
phở: fuh
Budapest: boo-da-PESHT
Colombia: co-LOHM-bee-ya
Qatar: kuh-tahr
Uranus: YOOR-uh-nuss

You see the general approach: insist that English-speakers use an approximation of the pronunciation in the language the word was borrowed from, but get that pronunciation wrong enough to annoy anyone who actually knows the language. In Hungarian it’s BOO-daw-pesht (more or less), not “boo-da-PESHT”; in Arabic, it’s CUTter (with a really back C=Q), not “kuh-tahr.” And a lot of people are irritated, not impressed, by anglos pretending to give a Spanish twist to place names like Colombia and Nicaragua. And “YOOR-uh-nuss”? Seriously?

The only use for a book like this, the only possible excuse for its existence, would be if it confined itself to terms not found in dictionaries, like FOOD BRANDS (Fage: FAH-yay, Hoegaarden: HOO-gar-duhn) and FASHION DESIGNERS (Bulgari: BUHL-guh-ree, Givenchy: zhee-VON-she). But given their slovenly approach to other sorts of words, I don’t trust them on these, either. And check this out:

“In many cases,” they note, “so many people mispronounce a word that the new (originally wrong) pronunciation slowly becomes accepted … and sometimes even preferred.” They insist, though, that as that process takes place, there are clear lines between the correct and the incorrect. They note, in the book’s introduction, that 47 percent of Americans are “irritated” by mispronunciations and, as a result, correct their family and friends. In Britain, they add, “a whopping 41 percent go on the attack and stop a conversation to correct someone else.”

Clear lines, yes, that’s what this sort of peever always demands (and in the case of authors, claims to provide). Unfortunately, language is messy, people make different choices, and there are no “clear lines between the correct and the incorrect” — in almost all cases discussed in books like this, those terms are meaningless. And those statistics are clearly pulled out of the collective authorial ass. Please, people, if you want to know how a word is pronounced, look in a damn dictionary, and if there are two or more alternatives, feel free to use any or all. And shut the door in the face of anyone who shows up peddling crap like this.


  1. I have this (non-anglophone) friend who imagines he alone pronounces foreign names “correctly”, unlike those foreign idiots who don’t speak his language. Some pronunciations he despises are Gauss as /gos/, the English pronunciation of Michelangelo, and many others, and never fails to tell people how superior he is for pronouncing such names the “correct” way. Of course, what he really means by “correct” is “the way I pronounce it”, which extremely often has nothing to do with the original language, and sometimes are even further from the original pronunciation than the pronunciations he criticizes. For instance, he pronounces Chekhov as /’tʃehov/, Velázquez as /ve’lazkez/, Márquez as /mar’keʃ/, and Vasco as /’vasko/.

    Indeed, often he will hear a word or name pronounced in the original language (or at least with a pronunciation that is closer to the original one than his), and say it’s absurd (simply because he’s never heard it before and imagines that his pronunciation must be the right one). For instance, he once told me, “Trapezountas? How stupid these Englishmen are; it’s pronounced TREBIZOND.” Upon hearing an English speaker pronounce the Greek theta as /’θeta/, he immediately blasted him for not pronouncing it /’teta/, despite the fact that the original pronunciation /θita/ does indeed have a /θ/. And this is just a small sample of the large number of such condemnations he says on a regular basis. One time he asked me where the stress was on a Polish name, and I pronounced the name like in Polish, but he said I “was exaggerating”. He expected me to pronounce it not the Polish way, but rather his (“incorrect”) way with the appropriate stress.

    People everywhere adapt foreign words and names to fit the phonology of their own language. I have brought it to this friend’s attention multiple times that he does the exact same thing he calls people “idiots” for doing, yet he persists in being superior and looking down on “those barbarians”. Sigh.

  2. Kale hoe roor!

  3. What’s wrong with “YOOR-uh-nuss”?

  4. @Tvy Tyvy friend? I have colleagues/associates/contacts who are language peevers. They never get to be friends. Ask him how he pronounces unfriend

  5. Even if this kind of book were a good idea, offering pronunciation guides like “ah-sigh-EE” and “stoh-LEECH-nye-a” is straight goofy. Note that even in just those two examples the PRICE vowel is written in two different ways (neither of which, incidentally, makes any sense as a way to write that vowel except for those of us suffering Stockholm Syndrome w/r/t English orthography).

  6. And “YOOR-uh-nuss”? Seriously?

    Do you take the OED seriously? It’s the first pronunciation listed there for both the UK and US.

    I’m not sure I’ve ever heard anyone say mis-CHEE-vee-us seriously – I thought it was a mistake based on a misreading – but there are probably places where I’m wrong.

  7. I guess you’re elite when you get to tell people how to speak and spell, overriding well-established dictionaries. A few days back, I came across a post calling an apparent Trump supporter trailer trash for spelling “burqa” rather than “burka.” Seriously.

    M-W, Collins, Cambridge AmE, and Longman all list TIM-ber as legit.

  8. I haven’t looked at the OED (on purpose), but this is just to say that the pronunciation cited of ‘Uranus’ always struck me a a PC adaptation of the way I’d grown up hearing it pronounced, and pronouncing it. It still grates when I say it and out of delicacy pronounce it with the stress on the first syllable. Even Patrick Moore moved his pronunciation to the first syllable. As for ‘mischievous’, sorry, I grew up with the stress on the ‘ie’ and nothing and no one will get me to move it to the first. But I don’t mind any of all this perfectly normal variation. It’s just me. Yes, the book seems awful.

  9. David Marjanović says

    Oh, so people really say “your anus”? I thought that was only a deliberate pun.

    I grew up with the stress on the ‘ie’ and nothing and no one will get me to move it to the first

    There’s the stress, and there’s the insertion of the extra syllable from the misreading mischievious.

  10. Even Patrick Moore moved his pronunciation to the first syllable.

    If he did, it must have been very early in his career. He was already saying it that way in 1960.

  11. You can’t really win with Uranus: the pronunciations on offer are homonymous with urinous ‘full of urine’ and your anus. The squeamish just have to call it “the seventh planet” or something. Which risks confusion with Saturn, the seventh traditional/astrological planet in the geocentric sequence Moon-Mercury-Venus-Sun-Mars-Jupiter-Saturn.

  12. I used to have a pronunciation dictionary that was reasonably useful to me as a non-native English-speaker.

    It contained mainly names (especially given names, but also brand names and place names). While the latter are sometimes found in dictionaries, I haven’t found any others that would help me pronounce ‘Cholmondeley’.

  13. [ˈɦuɣaːʁdə] when it’s at home — at least the HOO is close.

    I always pronounce fashion designers’ names in fake French if they aren’t obviously Germanic. On the theory that they ought to be used to it.

  14. The squeamish just have to call it “the seventh planet” or something.

    Personally I’m still on “Herschel”—I don’t hold with changing foreign place names in English, no matter how foreign the place (or name-y the name) is.

  15. I though the first name was ‘George’.

  16. Oh, so people really say “your anus”? I thought that was only a deliberate pun.

    I don’t think I (a Yank) have ever heard anyone say it otherwise, though of course I may be forgetting. I’m aware the “urinous” version exists and I have nothing against it, but to claim it’s the only correct one is absurd.

  17. When I was a child we always used “mis-CHIE-vi-ous”, but at a certain age I realised that it was supposed to be “MIS-chie-vous” and adapted my pronunciation accordingly. I’d like to go back but it would somehow sound forced to do so.

    I’ve always said “u-RAY-nus”. It’s only since reading Harry Potter that I’ve noticed people saying it shouldn’t be pronounced that way.

  18. Eli Nelson says

    @Bathroom: interesting. Why would you like to go back? Do you feel like pronunciations learned in childhood are more genuine, and pronunciations adopted later in life are more pretentious? Or do you mean you’d like to do it to annoy prescriptivists?

  19. I though the first name was ‘George’.

    Nah, Georgium Sidus. Suitable for Romans only. I prefer the first English name—you know, the one promoted by a French astronomer writing in French.

  20. Stephen C. Carlson says

    I would like to suggest that the tetrasyllabic mischievious isn’t a misspelling or a mispronunciation but a (deprecated) by-form. It’s spelled and pronounced differently because it’s a different word.

  21. That’s certainly a reasonable position, but you probably won’t get many takers for it.

  22. The OED more or less agrees:

    A pronunciation with stress on the second syllable […] was common in literary sources until at least 1700, but subsequently became restricted to nonstandard usage; compare:

    1802 J. Walker Crit. Pronouncing Dict. (ed. 3) (at cited word), There is an accentuation of this word upon the second syllable, chiefly confined to the vulgar, which, from its agreeableness to analogy, is well worthy of being adopted by the learned… But what analogy can give sanction to a vulgarism..? In language, as in many other cases, it is safer to be wrong with the polite than right with the vulgar.

    The four-syllable pronunciation represented by [mischievious] probably developed from this variant by analogy: the rare termination /-ˈiːvəs/ , found only in this word and grievous adj., being replaced by the much more frequent /-ˈiːvɪəs/ of devious adj. and previous adj., effectively resulting in the substitution of [the] -ous suffix by [the] -ious suffix.

    This pronunciation (and its associated spelling) is generally restricted to nonstandard usage, but is also occasionally adopted by writers or speakers as a conscious affectation: see further Webster’s Dict. Eng. Usage (1989) 638/2, and compare grievous adj.

    Coleridge prints 1797 letters between a government spy sent down to check out him and his friends for French sympathies and the spy’s principal in the Home Office: the spy uses the phrase “mischiefuous [sic] gang of disaffected Englishmen”.

  23. David Marjanović says


    Any chance this is fv rather than fu?

  24. Eli Nelson says

    I wonder what analogy Walker was thinking of. Grievous is accented on the penult, but it’s a disyllable so it’s not possible for the accent to be any further back. All the trisyllabic -⁠ous adjectives related to trochaic English nouns that I can think of are stressed on the antepenult: slanderous, dangerous, marvelous, poisonous, venomous, valorous, rigorous. There are some -⁠ous adjectives from Latin that are stressed on the penult, like longevous and the old pronunciation of blasphemous, but that seems like a different phenomenon that wouldn’t be relevant to mischievous.

  25. I think it refers to the variant grievious /ˈgriviəs/, which does not shift but is otherwise similar to mischievious.

  26. Do you feel like pronunciations learned in childhood are more genuine, and pronunciations adopted later in life are more pretentious?

    Probably, yes. And yes, it’s a rejection of the prescriptivism that led me to change to something “better”. While it’s not always the case, I definitely tend to feel that the pronunciations learnt in childhood represent something more genuine, and the new pronunciations and usages in many cases represent corrections based on ignorance (spelling pronunciations, etc).

  27. January First-of-May says

    I can’t recall ever seeing the phrase “spit and image” before – not even as an example in linguistic discussions. But if I ever encountered it in a context where “spitting image” was appropriate, I would have probably interpreted it as a weird mistaken form of the latter.

    This whole thing reminds me of when, about two years ago, I saw a discussion about whether the Russian word кипиш(ь) [an informal word for “disturbance”; stress on first syllable] has a soft sign. I was very surprised, since up until then I was sure it was spelled кипеж (with a completely different, though homophonous, ending).

    And I pronounce “Uranus” as “yoo-RAN-oos” (i.e. almost but not quite “you ran us” – and, in my idiolect, still pretty much homophonous with “your anus”). I’m considering switching to the “you’re a noose” version, however.

    (Also, obligatory link for “pronunciations learned in childhood”. I think that’s the third or fourth time I’ve been linking to that page in Language Hat comments – I wonder if the author knows?)

  28. The Anita Hill-Clarence Thomas hearings made ‘sexual harrassment’ a widespread expression, in the US media at least. They also brought out the pronunciation HARrassment, rather than harrASSment, contrived for similar reasons, I presume, as those which endengered the alternate pronunciation of ‘Uranus’.

  29. Actually, HARass is the traditional pronunciation in RP and haRASS is an innovation, probably originating in the U.S., and now also making inroads in the U.K.

  30. Growing up in England in the ’50s and ’60s, I first learned the expression as “spit and image”.
    As for mis-CHEE-vous, surely nobody talks about ‘getting up to misCHEEF’? Why don’t people make the connection?

  31. I didn’t want to go too much into the different pronunciations of ‘Uranus’ (over which much ink has been spilled), but I did want to correct some misconceptions.

    Uranus is of course the Latin form of the Ancien Greek Οὐρανός Ouranós, though the Roman counterpart to the Greek sky deity was Caelus. Considering that the other planets use the Roman names of deities, this is the only one where the Latinized Greek name is used.

    The traditional pronunciation of Latin names in English follows Classical Latin stress, even for Greek names filtered through Latin. In other words, it assigns word stress to the penultimate syllable when it is heavy, and to the antepenultimate when the penult is light.

    For Ūrănŭs, the penult is light, so it gets antepenultimate stress and hence /ˈjʊər.ən.əs/, the pronunciation traditionally preferred by astronomers. The variant /juə.ˈreɪn.əs/ was probably influenced by the pronunciation of words like ‘uranium’ and ‘Uranian’. The OED still gives the URanus form first for both British and U.S. pronunciations, while also listing the uRAnus form for both. So does the Longman Pronunciation Dictionary and Merriam-Webster.

    TLDR: URanus is the traditional pronunciation, not an alternate form contrived to avoid the unfortunate homophony of uRAnus to ‘your anus’.

  32. David Marjanović says

    Uranium is named after Uranus, BTW.

    obligatory link for “pronunciations learned in childhood”

    Fascinating feature metathesis in atmosphere: -[tm]- > -[pn]-.

  33. As for mis-CHEE-vous, surely nobody talks about ‘getting up to misCHEEF’?

    It’s not “mis-CHEE-vous”, it’s “mis-CHEE-vi-ous”.

    It operates on the same principle as “KA-na-da” and “ka-NAY-di-an”.

  34. Kate B:

    As for mis-CHEE-vous, surely nobody talks about ‘getting up to misCHEEF’?

    The announcer on the kid’s channel Pop introduces “Robin Hood – Mischief in Sherwood” with MIScheef, so different stress pattern, but the same vowel in the second syllable. His accent sounds southern English to me. (For me it’s a schwa, I’m assuming that’s your pronunciation too?)

  35. Uranium may be named after Uranus, but -ium is a stress-imposing suffix so the pronunciation of uranium doesn’t have to obey the same stress as Uranus. Compare neptunium and Neptune as well as plutonium and Pluto.

  36. I don’t think I (a Yank) have ever heard anyone say it otherwise, though of course I may be forgetting.

    In my experience*, (American) astronomers, planet scientists, NASA people etc. usually say Úranus rather than Uránus. At least, I think that’s my experience; since I know both forms exist I don’t necessarily trust my memory to record who said what. But a quick review of youtube tends to support it. Carl Sagan said it that way, as does Bill Nye (I couldn’t find any recordings of Neil deGrasse Tyson saying it). I don’t know what you were up to in 1986, but if you caught any of the coverage of the Voyager 2 flyby you could have heard several people saying it that way. Since then the planet hasn’t been in the news much, so you may not have. But it is a common pronunciation among those people who have cause to talk about the planets a lot.

    *Mostly of listening to the Planetary Society’s podcast.

    I’m aware the “urinous” version exists and I have nothing against it, but to claim it’s the only correct one is absurd.

    I don’t disagree, but I also don’t think it’s any more absurd than to say that of the “your anus” version, and this book was clearly going to pick one.

  37. True, but it’s precisely the picking one that I object to. You’re right, of course, that picking the other would have been just as absurd; it’s just that that’s the one I’m used to, so it wouldn’t feel as absurd to me.

  38. “I wonder what analogy Walker was thinking of. ” — that was the OED, not Walker.

    misCHEEF — /ˈhæŋkərtʃɪf/ and /ˈhæŋkərtʃif/ are both standard.

    “mischievious isn’t a misspelling or a mispronunciation but a (deprecated) by-form.” — John Wells says the mischievious type of by-form “has no generally agreed name, but we could perhaps call it ’non-spelling pronunciation’”, which I find a feeble attempt.

  39. Eli Nelson says

    @mollymooly: It’s the OED quoting Walker. That might not have been clear from the formatting in this thread.

    I guess “mischievious” could maybe be called an analogical reformation of the word.

  40. Jongseong Park: British pronunciation aside, the prevalent US pronunciation of harrass was was with second syllable stress, as I recall correctly. I am less sure about broadcast pronunciation, but I have a vague memory that it was precisely during those hearings that it shifted from harASS to HARass, which I assumed was due to the special sensitivity of the matter at hand.

  41. I remember an episode of Rumpole of the Bailey, after the Anita Hill hearings in the U.S. (and after the show had jumped the shark), in which Sam Ballard and Claude Erskine-Brown discuss the pronunciation of “harass.” One of them prefers the traditional British first syllable stress, but the other, referencing recent political developments, recommends using the American pronunciation with second syllable stress.

  42. I keep spelling it harrass. I’m glad no one is giving me a hard time about it.

  43. We’ve all done it. Thank goodness for spell-checkers.

  44. I don’t know about the chronology, but I doubt that the older pronunciation HARass ever disappeared completely from the U.S. Virtually all dictionaries today list both types of pronunciations for both the U.S. and the U.K., with haRASS given first for the U.S. and HARass for the U.K., but with HARass and haRASS respectively as secondary pronunciations.

    Here’s the Longman Pronunciation Dictionary on this word: —The traditional RP form is ˈhær əs. The pronunciation hə ˈræs, which originated in the US, was seemingly first heard in Britain in the 1970’s. In time it may predominate in BrE, as it already does in AmE. Meanwhile, it evokes strong negative feelings among those who use the traditional form. Poll panel prefernces: BrE 1988, ˈ•• 68%, •ˈ• 32%; AmE 1993, •ˈ• 87%, ˈ•• 13%

    The Anita Hill–Clarence Thomas hearings were in 1991, so the American English poll panel preferences from 1993 may have been affected by that, of course.

    But the 1911 Century Dictionary only gives first-syllable stress for ‘harass’, so the dominance of the second-syllable stress in American English must be a twentieth-century innovation. I wish I had access to more dictionaries so that I could date the first appearance of the second-syllable stress for ‘harass’ in American English.

    In any case, I just wanted to point out that the pronunciation variants for some of the words being discussed that may be less familiar to some people are often legitimate and sometimes the older traditional forms, not recent innovations.

  45. David Marjanović says

    -ium is a stress-imposing suffix so the pronunciation of uranium doesn’t have to obey the same stress as Uranus

    Of course. I only meant to contribute a fun fact.

  46. One of my own peeves (heh, a non-prescriptivist’s peeve) is the word for a particular kind of fruit. As children we always said mandarine /mændəˈri:n/. Later, for some reason I switched to mandarin /mændəˈrɪn/, largely, I think, due to the spelling “mandarin”, which seems to be much more frequently encountered than “mandarine”, particularly in printed matter.

    I’m not sure of the distribution of these words in the English-speaking world, but in Australia mandarine was once reasonably common, although I think it’s declining — my own usage seems to be the mirror of a larger trend. But I feel annoyed at myself for starting out with mandarine and somehow correcting myself to mandarin simply because that’s how I usually saw it spelt.

    I’d always suspected that mandarine was the later form, created on the analogy of tangerine, which I decided was logical rather than scandalous (that’s my rebellious, non-prescriptive self thinking). Later, when I checked the dictionary, I found that the word had actually entered English from French mandarine. So like all prescriptivists, I was able to take refuge in the fact that my preferred form was “historically correct”. I decided to use “mandarine” in future, but having dropped one pronunciation in favour of another it’s harder to go back than you might think 🙂

  47. J.W. Brewer says

    I picked up first-syllable stress for “harass” circa 1980 from my wonderful (and not otherwise peeve-driven) 10th grade English teacher, who apparently thought it was “correct” when it was merely British and/or archaic.

  48. I just realized that while the word normally has final stress for me, if I used “harass” to describe a military tactic, it would have initial stress.

  49. Interesting!

  50. In my L2 English (mostly acquired in Montreal and Ontario) “harass” is differentiated by stress the way Brett describes.

  51. I remember Candice Bergen saying “hárass” in Boston Legal. For me it’s only ever “haráss”. I’ll admit, though, that I’ve never really given it much thought as a military term: “hárass” does sound kind of attractive there, I think because of its similarity to “harry”.

    One oddity that I did pick up from the British side of my family is “advértisement” – but through peer influence I’ve shifted to “ádvertisement”.

  52. If you wanted a man to encourage the van,
    Or hárass the foe from the rear,
    Storm fort or redoubt, you had only to shout
    For Abdul Abulbul Amir!

  53. La Horde Listener says

    “Stop saying it the stupid way.”
    -some kid in my old neighborhood

  54. Alon Lischinsky says

    I learned about the conflicting and equally problematic pronunciations for Uranus in essay by Isaac Asimov. IIRC, he suggested /uːˈɹæ.nəs/ as an alternative (though he believed that, being a sensible and unproblematic choice, it stood no chance of ever becoming popular).

    @Popup: you need the help of the brilliant Sir Reginald Pikedevant, Esq.. The video even has IPA captions!

  55. ádvertisement — how many unstressed syllables in a row is that? I thought there was a phonotactic rule against three in a row, so what happens in this case?

  56. I’ve never heard anyone say advertisement with initial stress. With antepenult stress, ad- gets a neutral vowel, whereas with penultimate stress it remains /æ/ (so-called “secondary stress”).

  57. I’ve never heard anyone say advertisement with initial stress.

    I do, and AHD agrees with me; I’m pretty sure it’s far more common than penult.

  58. Eli Nelson says

    @Lars: People who put the primary stress on the first syllable of “advertisement” put secondary stress on the third syllable.

    But in any case, I think three fully unstressed syllables in a row is possible. Doesn’t that occur in the last three syllables of “laboriously”? Or if you have a glide in that one, “ludicrously” or “languorously.”

  59. Advertisement with penultimate stress — really? I’d have said it was either initial (AmE) or antepenultimate (BritE).

  60. All I can say is that my wife and daughter say /ædvɚˈtaızmənt/, and they consider my /ədˈvɚtəzmənt/ weird. We are all native-born Americans from North Carolina, New York City, and New Jersey respectively.

  61. @Eli Nelson, so [ˈæd.vəɹˌtʰɑɪz.mənt]? Solves a mystery, that does.

    For some reason I’m OK with supernumerary unstressed -ly — I was thinking of words like comfortable being prone to losing the second syllable peak. Perhaps I mean three reduced vowels in a row.

  62. /ædvɚˈtızmənt/ is common in Cork.

  63. they consider my /ədˈvɚtəzmənt/ weird.

    So do I (for an American—I wonder where you picked it up?), but that’s not the point at issue. I refuse to believe you’ve never heard it with initial stress (which is, after all, the US norm); you simply haven’t been paying attention.

  64. Penult-stressed advertisement reminds me of final-stressed permit (the noun), but I don’t know the geographical extent of that pronunciation, either.

  65. Well, AHD5 agrees with you about the initial stress, but shows it with penultimate stress, as does the RHD at All of them show the antepenult version as a variant and not marked British or anything, so I can’t be the only American to use it. Doing a YouTube search for the word is unfortunately useless.

  66. All of them show the antepenult version as a variant and not marked British or anything, so I can’t be the only American to use it.

    Oh, I’m sure you’re not. I just don’t believe you’ve somehow lived your life in a bubble containing only your fellow antepenults. I mean, you’ve met me, though I probably didn’t say the word while we were hanging out.

  67. @JC: Well, they both also give /bɑːθ/ for bath without marking it as British or regional. I think they tend to take a “throw it in” approach on matters like that.

  68. I’m perfectly aware that the antepenult pronunciation isn’t the usual one in the U.S. The question is initial vs. penult, and I’m showing that different dictionaries, as well as different Americans, have a contrast there that no single dictionary reports. I just checked the OED3’s pronunciation from 2012, and they list the original (as well as the antepenult) as the American pronunciations. So what I think is going on is a shift from àdvertísement to ádvertìsement, leaving advértisement unaffected.

  69. In the movie Twelve Monkeys, Madeleine Stowe uses a very odd-sounding pronunciation of “advertisement” with antepenultimate stress. Both the actress and her character are American, but I don’t know if this is her natural pronunciation or not. The scene is probably online somewhere (it takes place after he’s Bruce Willis has kidnapped her, and she’s driving him somewhere), but I can’t seem to find it.

  70. I’m perfectly aware that the antepenult pronunciation isn’t the usual one in the U.S.

    Oops, sorry, I meant your fellow penults!

  71. So what I think is going on is a shift from ˌadverˈtisement to ˈadverˌtisement,

    My guess would be that it’s the reverse, with ˈadverˌtisement being derived straightforwardly from ˈadverˌtise, and ˌadverˈtisement being an adaptation along the lines of forˈmidable. Unless you also say ˌadverˈtise?

  72. Here’s the OED3:

    The position of stress varied in early use. Pronunciations with stress either on the second or the third syllable are found in 16th- and 17th-cent. sources. Most 18th- and 19th-cent. British pronouncing dictionaries record stress on the second syllable, although Walker (1806) and Knowles (1845) give third-syllable stress (with diphthongal pronunciation of the i) as an alternative. In U.S. usage, the now predominant first-syllable stress, which probably arose by analogy with advertise, is already recorded by Worcester (1860) and Webster (1864).

    Well, it’s not surprising that we all have archaic stress by continental standards. We’re New Yorkers (now), which is to say, islanders and half Europeans.

  73. J.W. Brewer says

    The British short form “advert” has first-syllable stress, right? Not that that’s inconsistent with second-syllable stress in the unclipped version, but still.

  74. It seems so old fashioned to teach people pronunciations in a book when the internet has audio of EVERYTHING.

    Also, they say that Fage yogurt is pronounced “fa-yay” but on all of Fage’s branding it says it’s pronounced “fa-yeh”.

  75. the internet has audio of EVERYTHING.

    The internet has all sorts of stuff; the question is what to trust. Sure, if you search on some random term, you’ll probably get a “How to Pronounce X” video, but lots of those are made by people who are clearly not knowledgeable enough. As for Fage, this video sounds clearly like “fa-yay” rather than “fa-yeh”… but who knows whether the guy actually knows how to say it?

  76. Case in point: I was curious how to pronounce the name of the Dano-Norwegian Hans Egede, the “Apostle of Greenland.” You tell me if any of the pronunciations at this site is even remotely plausible.

  77. They may be plausible for a word spelled like that in another language, but since the sample sentences are in fact about Hans Egede the answer is a resounding no! I tried adding a pronunciation and a word meaning, but it didn’t seem to take.

    Danish is more or less [ˈḛː.ɛð̯̠ː], I’m sure Norwegian has a less eroded form but at least the /g/ will be palatalized before /e/.

    (In Egede’s days the Danish was probably more like [ˈeɣeðə]).

  78. Trond Engen says

    None of the above. They have nothing to do with any variety of Danish or Norwegian that I’m aware of. The first sounds like French phonology with totally Unfrench intonation. The second is just weird — a non-rhotic German Egard or something, The third is British English, I think they must be automated from the written form according to different rules.

    Lars’s pronunciation shows how Danish is disappearing before our very eyes. The Danish historical dictionary Ordbog over det danske Sprog has [ˈe·ɋəðə], that is without “stød” and the first e long. The form I’m used to in Norwegian is a straightforward reading-pronunciation [‘e:gede], i.e. no palatalization, as is natural for a name that came to Norway as a clerical family name. The tone contour on the stressed syllable is 2, corresponding to the pronunciation without “stød” in Danish. Since the name is essentially a recent literary word, the tone correspondence need not be regular, but it is here.

  79. Trond Engen says

    Also, thanks for asking. Checking Norwegian Wikipedia I noticed that Egede’s mother was named Kirsten Jensdatter Hind, a name that is conspicuously close to some of my wife’s ancestors. We found her in our database as the older sister of my wife’s ancestor Peder Jensen Hind, parish priest in Trondenes. Now we can add “Hans Egede’s uncle and first teacher” to his biography. (No new research on our part, only an obvious oversight being mended. These clerical families are well documented.)

  80. Around your ears, more like — we aren’t much changing the written form yet.

    That curly-tailed ɋ is Jespersen phonetic notation for ‘open g’, and the updated guide to pronunciation gives a ‘semi-narrow’ IPA equivalent of [ɣ]. “Some of these pronunciations were gradually obsoleted after the first decades of the [20th] century,” as they put it.

  81. Trond Engen says

    Yes, it’s pretty much what you suggested in a different notation. I meant to corroborate it, not to suggest you were wrong.

  82. Sounds a bit more like fa-yay to me here:

  83. @Trond, I understood that. But AFAIK the ODS is the only major publication to use it, so I thought it was worth a remark. Also that the closest description in the guide is ‘open g’ and then a number of examples none of which have had a velar pronunciation for something like 100 years… (plus the IPA equivalent which doesn’t help many people).

  84. Stephen C. Carlson says

    As for Fage, this video sounds clearly like “fa-yay” rather than “fa-yeh”… but who knows whether the guy actually knows how to say it?
    Assuming eh denotes the checked vowel /ɛ/, I wouldn’t expect it to survive in that final position by English speakers. Rather, English phonotactics wants it to end with /eɪ/.

    It occurred to me that “fage” is φάγε (“eat!”). And the Wikipedia page confirms that it is indeed a play on that word and an acronym for the dairy company that produces it: Φιλίππου Αδελφοί Γαλακτοκομικές Επιχειρήσεις. It’s a bit of a cheat, since (I believe) Modern Greek orthography drops the gamma as: φάε.

  85. Yup. (In checking on it, it took me a minute to remember the suppletion τρώω/έφαγα.)

  86. Stephen C. Carlson says

    the suppletion τρώω/έφαγα. Yeah, it was already suppletive in Koine (and much earlier too), but I had forgotten that it had a different present stem: ἐσθίω / ἔφαγον, though τρώγω is attested in John, meaning “munch” or “chew,” not having yet ousted ἐσθίω from the paradigm. I find it neat that suppletion can and does persist over the course of language change, despite the opportunity for regularization.

  87. Me too!

  88. ἐσθίω is a historically cool verb in that its entire present system has been remade based on the imperative form: that -θι- is originally an imperative suffix, which has been swallowed up (appropriately enough) into the stem. Proto-Greek mothers must have had a good laugh when their toddlers, being commanded “ἔσθι!”, adorably replied “ἐσθίω!”.

  89. Ha, that’s a great image!

  90. “Behave!” “I am being haive!”

  91. Stephen C. Carlson says

    TR: Your explanation is much livelier and puts the meat on the bones (so to speak) of Beekes’s dry one: “Acc. to Schwyzer: 713⁶, the secondary presents ἔσθω and ἐσθίω developed from the ipv. ἔσθι (= Skt. addhi), but Hamp Glotta 59 (1981): 155f., simply derives ἔσθω from ἔδ-θ-.”

  92. I find it neat that suppletion can and does persist over the course of language change, despite the opportunity for regularization.

    Not only that, but when a suppletion does get lost, it is sometimes replaced by another suppletion: OE gá, éode, gegangen > go, went, gone.

  93. marie-lucie says

    I think I would have had a lot of trouble interpreting zhee-VON-she as the well-known designer Givenchy. (At first writing, zhee was even corrected to ghee). Anglophones assigning stress to French words is probably the worst obstacle to English-French oral communication. (And similarly, French speakers randomly assigning stress to English words).

    As for TAM-ber, I think I would tentatively interpret it as tambour ‘drum’.

  94. marie-lucie says

    SCC: suppletion can and does persist over the course of language change, despite the opportunity for regularization.
    JC: Not only that, but when a suppletion does get lost, it is sometimes replaced by another suppletion: OE gá, éode, gegangen > go, went, gone.

    Regularization is common at a certain stage in language acquisition but rarely persists in later speech, especially if the word is extremely common (as in the case above). Apparently some children say goed but later switch to went as they notice that children barely older than them use went.

    About went, how common is it for it to replace gone ? (here a regularization “past participle should be identical to past tense”). A number of people I know (not very educated) say I would have went.

  95. Replacement of the participle by the preterite of strong verbs is common in non-standard English varieties: I have wrote, I have saw, I have went. The converse is less common, and may be a hypercorrection. For whatever reason, though, I done (preterite) is much more common than I have did.

    In some cases, the standard took up unhistorical forms: the verbs dig/dug, win/won, spin/spun, cling/clung, fling/flung, sling/slung, sting/stung, string/strung, swing/swung, wring/wrung, slink/slunk, stick/stuck, bind/bound, find/found, grind/ground, wind/wound, abide/abode, dive/dove, fight/fought, hang/hung, hold/held, shine/shone, sit/sat, spit/spat, strike/struck have merged the preterite and participle completely. Stank was still used by Tolkien, but is in process of being replaced with stunk. And the original present rin, still current in Scots, has been displaced by the participle run.

  96. marie-lucie says

    Thanks JC. The same people I was referring to don’t say I saw but I seen.

  97. @ JC: I don’t know whether those forms are unhistorical – they may be old plural forms, as the plural of the past originally had the same ablaut grade as the past participle. In English, the last verb that shows separate singular and plural stems is be: was / were. In German, the separate stems are still extant in the modal verbs that go back to PIE perfects (kann / können); in the past tense, the levelling towards one stem was still ongoing in the 19th century, as is shown by literary forms like ward “became” (old singular stem, replaced in the current standard by wurde with the plural grade), or sungen “sang” (old plural, current standard sangen with the grade taken from the singular).

  98. And the original present rin, still current in Scots, has been displaced by the participle run.

    Aha — Da rinde/randt/rundet! I never realized. (The ds are old orthographic perversities that have never been pronounced). But it’s only used for inanimates like water, for animates it’s been replaced by the causative rende/rendte/rendt.

    German and the other Scandinavian languages have very similar verbs as well.

  99. What about pit? Is it in the process of turning irregular?

    Mr. Obama, freed from the political constraints of an impending election in the latter half of his second term, was also moving to put to rest a yearslong fight over the name of the mountain that has pit Alaska against electorally powerful Ohio, the birthplace of President William McKinley, for whom it was christened in 1896.

  100. David Marjanović says

    German and the other Scandinavian languages have very similar verbs as well.

    Indeed: rinnen/rann/geronnen for small quantities of liquid, rennen when legs are involved; rennen is regular in my dialect (/renɐ/, –, /grend/; short /n/ copied in from the 1sg and the sg imperative after word-final consonant shortening), but has acquired Rückumlaut in the standard: rannte/gerannt.

  101. Juha: Quite possibly. We already have weak but invariant bid, burst, cost, cut, fit, hit, hurt, let, put, quit, rid, set, shed, shut, slit, split, spread, thrust, wed, wet, and pit could easily be dragged in the same direction.

  102. for animates it’s been replaced by the causative rende/rendte/rendt.

    What about rende/ränna “spout; chute”?

    Cf Finnish ränni (borrowed from Swedish), and Estonian renn borrowed from German.

  103. The noun rende has the same root, it’s something that water runs in, but may have been borrowed from LG in this sense (ON had the formally identical renna for a span of time, because time also flows) and may have had another Ablaut stage in PGer (*rannio:n) — or maybe the same Ablaut stage as the causative verb rende (which has Umlaut like the noun) and the (singular) preterite randt of the strong verb (the dictionaries are confusing me here) but certainly different from rinde = *rinnan.

    I forgot to mention earlier that rinde of water is at best archaizing in Danish, and also when used of time — the causative has taken over there as well. The only firmly modern use is in the compounded verbal noun oprindelse = ‘origin’ (calque, originally of the sunrise but obsolete in that sense). Also I have now finally understood the old expression that someone was rundet af en god familie vel sim. — I had taken rundet as the pptc of runde = ‘make round’ (figurative for ‘shaped’ / ‘brought up’) but it makes more sense that it’s the pptc of rinde = ‘flow’.

  104. Nobody says or writes “spit and image”

    I’ve heard people say “X is the very spit of his father” – meaning they look similar. It’s still around in Scots.

  105. Mange tak!
    But where do løbe/ løb (löpa /lopp) slot in?

  106. Egede

    So [ˈḛː.ɛð̯̠ː] and [ˈʤaɪᵊɫz] are two reflexes of the same name.

    The only use for a book like this…

    It might be of some use to future linguists, the way Appendix Probi and other “Don’t Do It” texts of the past are useful to us.

  107. I’ve heard people say “X is the very spit of his father” – meaning they look similar. It’s still around in Scots.

    The dead spit of is still quite common in UK English, isn’t it?

  108. løbe is cognate with E leap and is a Germanic-only root that originally meant ‘jump up’ vel sim. (Cf Sw springa which has mostly usurped the ‘run on legs’ sense from löpa in the current language).

    While rinde/rende is from a PIE root meaning ‘flow’. That the two words now overlap to a large extent is just one of those things.

  109. @Lars:

    “Rindende vand” (running water) is still common, although almost a fixed expression.

    > rundet af en god familie

    “Rundet” feels very archaic, but “oprundet/oprunden” is quite familiar to me because of its appearance in many psalms, e.g. Ingemann’s

    Dans, lille barn, på moders skød!
    En dejlig dag er oprunden:
    I dag blev vor kære frelser fød
    og Paradis-vejen funden

  110. David Marjanović says

    But where do løbe/ løb (löpa /lopp) slot in?

    Funnily enough, this question also applies to German! The standard uses laufen as normal and seems to regard rennen as a bit of a vulgar exaggeration outside of the meaning “to race”. Correspondlingly, my dialect uses them as synonyms but usually defaults to rennen.

  111. @dainichi, yes I forgot rindende vand, and it’s not quite unanalysable yet. But getting there.

    @David, the pragmatics in Danish are about the same, rende denotes a less organized activity than løbe and is slightly exaggerated. Even race horses løber in Danish.

  112. I don’t know how it’s down South, but in my variety of German laufen also can mean “walk”, especially when used in contrast to other types of movement: Sein Auto war kaputt, darum musste er nach Hause laufen. “His car was broken, that’s why he had to walk home.”

  113. David Marjanović says

    Yes, I kept that out to keep things simple. It’s absent from the south, where “walk” is gehen or, in contrast to other types of movement, zu Fuß gehen: I’d render “walk home” as zu Fuß heimgehen in your example.

  114. marie-lucie says

    spit and image : what about spitting/spitten image ? (I think we had this discussion a few years ago but don’t remember if we came to a conclusion).

    Standard: C’est le portrait (craché)… de son père
    ‘S/he is the (spitten) image …of his/her father’ (cracher ‘to spit’)

    Southern: C’est son père tête coupée (same translation)
    lit. ‘S/he is his/her father, head severed’ (implying that a severed head would be impossible to identify as father or child)

    As I looked a lot like my father as a child, I heard this comment many times from my mother’s Southern relatives.

  115. So [ˈḛː.ɛð̯̠ː] and [ˈʤaɪᵊɫz] are two reflexes of the same name.

    Tolkien’s character Farmer Giles of Ham was known in the Book-latin as Ægidius Ahenobarbus Julius Agricola de Hammo.

    spitting/spitten image

    A folk-etymological deformation of spit and image.

  116. So [ˈḛː.ɛð̯̠ː] and [ˈʤaɪᵊɫz] are two reflexes of the same name.

    I personally know two Danes (identical twin brothers) whose middle name is Ægidius (‘names are’?)– but egede is firstly an internal Danish formation meaning ‘small stand of oaks,’ secondly a village name with several occurrences on Zealand and thirdly a family name for people coming from one of those villages.

  117. David Marjanović says

    So the root cognate isn’t Giles, it’s Eichendorff

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