Anne Curzan has a short but extraordinarily interesting Lingua Franca post on one of the many vexing problems of English: how to think about the “nonstandard” pronunciation of mischievous as “mischievious” (four syllables, mis-CHEEV-i-us) in the context of “standard English.” Some excerpts:

What language is considered standard and nonstandard is, of course, socially constructed and changes over time. But the categorization can become so naturalized that its artificiality can be hard to see when we talk about features like double or multiple negation or the construction needs washed. As a result, it can be hard to genuinely grapple with critical questions such as: How do language features become standard? And who decides?

I wondered whether “mischievious” would ground our discussion of these questions in an effective way. Here was a pronunciation that Merriam-Webster labeled nonstandard, even though my informal polling suggested that it was more widespread among highly educated speakers than I had realized. And while some speakers I polled had strong reactions about the pronunciation’s nonstandardness, that status seemed readily challengeable (i.e., the pronunciation seemed not (yet?) to be ideologically naturalized as nonstandard).

I started the class discussion by polling the class on their pronunciation of mischievous. More than half of the 34 students had the pronunciation “mischievious” — whether as their only pronunciation or as one of two available pronunciations. I then put students in pairs, gave them the blog post to read, and asked them to work through two questions:

1. Let’s imagine that you are consulting with Merriam-Webster about whether to remove the label nonstandard from the pronunciation “mischievious.” What are two things you feel like you need to know to make a recommendation?
2. Given the information you currently have in hand, should Anne have left the “nonstandard” pronunciation “mischievious” in the podcast or had it deleted so as not to distract listeners?

The ensuing discussion is fascinating; here’s her conclusion:

In the end, the students voted 27-7 that I should have left the pronunciation “mischievious” in the podcast rather than subscribe (or at least potentially be seen as subscribing) to the notion that the pronunciation is in some way nonstandard, and I think they are right.

I guess I do too, though I have to struggle against my irrational but longstanding prejudice against “mischievious.”


  1. Lucy Kemnitzer says

    I was an adult before I even found out there was any other way to say it than “mischievious.” To this day I hardly ever hear “mischievous” and it always sounds like someone’s speaking an odd dialect. Is there a regional aspect to this?

  2. David Eddyshaw says

    I (UKanian) have always said “mischievous”; mischievious” is associated in my mind with Americans, but that could easily be pure chance. (I strongly suspect that Loudon Wainwright the Howevermanyeth’s “Make Your Mother Mad” is responsible.)

    The Chambers dictionary, which is peculiarly British, doesn’t mention “mischievious” at all, I see; not even to stigmatise it as non-standard.

    It’s curious that Anne Curzan feels that leaving her natural form in place would necessarily have implied it wasn’t non-standard. What would be so wrong about using a confessedly non-standard form anyway?

  3. I’ve always had it as mischievous.

  4. John Cowan says

    Mine is a house divided: three syllables for me, four for my wife.

  5. Charles Perry says

    I grew up in a farm town in southern California & the four-syllable pronunciation was alien to me. I associated it with a minority of the older rural generation.

  6. I would say MIS-chi-vus, which is even further from the spelling than mischievious is, but luckily I never use the word.

    How do language features become standard? And who decides?
    I just watched a series on BBC TV, Kenneth Branagh’s wonderful portrayal of the Swedish police Inspector Wallander. It’s very sad towards the end when he gets Alzheimer’s (I was crying) and very well photographed in Skåne, in southern Sweden, but someone made the bizarre decision not to even attempt a Swedish pronunciation of any Swedish names. So Håkan von Enke for example gets called (shouted actually, by a group) “Hacken von Enk”, Skåne is “Scain” etc. I mean I don’t expect perfection, but I reckon if it were set in Spain or France there would have been at least a mumbling acknowledgement by all the actors that their characters were talking in Foreign and one or two would even have got it right. This was obviously decided in advance of filming by the showrunner and I regard it as a slight to Sweden.

  7. I vote for a new word then if the I is pronounced it should be present. Mischievious.

  8. I grew up in a suburb of Los Angeles and I only know the four-syllable pronunciation! I guess urban vs. rural makes a big difference in California.

    Or it could be cyclical? I’m in my twenties — how old are you, Charles Perry?

  9. The Chambers dictionary, which is peculiarly British …

    I’m peculiarly British (and have never lived in any part of California), and I’m equally happy hearing/saying either pronunciation.

    My father was something of a peever and stickler, so it’s possible I deliberately used the 4-syllable version just to be mischievious.

    If there’s any logic to it [not!], the 3-syllable pronunciation puts the stress on prefix mis-; whereas if I stress the -chiev-, that more or less demands an extra syllable to balance the rhythm.

  10. Lisa Sutherland-Fraser says

    It’s my absolute bugbear to hear the eeevious!! Je detest!! I see it as a lower class rendering and will never imagine that it could be changed from the original!!

  11. I have always had the traditional standard pronunciation, but the other one is so common that I long ago stopped noticing it (and would not consider it nonstandard).

    @AJP Crown: There are different ways to do a translation convention. While it isn’t the decision I would probably make if I were directing a show like Wallander, I can understand the desire not to mess with the actors’ natural accents. In general, you want the performers to sound natural, so it may be decided not to attempt anything that would sound accented in the language that the actors are using on screen.

    And the ending is very moving. I was particularly affected by the reappearance of David Warner at the very end of the final episode.

  12. I would say MIS-chi-vus, which is even further from the spelling than mischievious is

    @AJP Crown: I’m confused; isn’t “MIS-chi-vus” the standard pronunciation? I don’t see how it’s any further from the spelling “mischievous” than “MIS-chif” is from the the spelling “mischief”.

    “Grievious” also exists alongside standard “grievous”. And “heinious”, although rarer than either “mischievious” or “grievious”, seems to have some use as an alternative to “heinous” (which already has two pronunciations even if we leave out the variation between -ous and -ious).

  13. Brett, thanks. I hadn’t seen David Warner since Morgan, A Suitable Case For Treatment, when he was in his mid-twenties, but he was instantly recognisable. The series had some interesting stuff about ageing, I thought.
    in the French version of Pearl Harbor, the Americans speak French while the Japanese speak Japanese – This must sound extraordinary to any Japanese viewers.

    Eli Nelson, isn’t “MIS-chi-vus” the standard pronunciation? It could be. I think the point is that standard might often simply be what one says oneself. It’s interesting that the “-cheevyous” pronunciation occurs on both sides of the Atlantic. I remember as a priggish child in London being a bit worried by it.

  14. I read about “mischievious” every now and then, but I rarely see any discussions of the pronunciation “Oceana” for Oceania, which struck me as really bizarre the first time I heard it but which I’ve come to realize is quite common.

  15. I’m not sure I’ve heard anyone talk about Oceania at all, so I have no idea how people pronounce it.

  16. So do these “mischievious” people think that mischievy is a word?
    The suffix “ous” turns nouns into adjectives: dangerous, adventurous, thunderous.
    If the noun ends in y, the y converts to an i: envious, mysterious, furious.
    Since there’s no such word as mischievy, there’s no such word as mischievious. It’s a mistake, no matter how many people make it.

  17. That is a very odd way to look at it. I take it you also think there’s no such word as “carious”? Like it or not, a word exists if, and insofar as, people use it. Abstract ideas about whether there should exist such a word are pointless.

  18. Stu Clayton says

    I know of two Oceanias. I’m guessing that the one in 1984 is not discussed *that* much, and so not mispronounced.

  19. David Marjanović says

    Oceana has 14 Mghits. The first is oceana.org, which tries to protect what’s left of the oceans. Then there’s a singer, a ship or two…

    The suffix “ous” turns nouns into adjectives: dangerous, adventurous, thunderous.
    If the noun ends in y, the y converts to an i: envious, mysterious, furious.

    You can expect it to be reanalyzed as part of the suffix sooner or later. My Latin dictionary presented in detail how this happened three times in a row to produce the adjective-forming suffix -ianus.

  20. But how do you pronounce the first syllable – “misch” or “mishch”?

    “shch” in my case

  21. marie-lucie says

    Bloix, David M: If the noun ends in y, the y converts to an i: envious, mysterious, furious. Since there’s no such word as mischievy, there’s no such word as mischievious.

    Therefore, since there’s no such word as obvy, there can be no such word as obvious. Since there’s no such word as anxy, there can be no such word as anxious. And since there are no such words as oblivy and lascivy, there can be no such words as oblivious and lascivious.

    Not all adjectives are derived from nouns, especially when they have been adopted/adapted from other languages, like the ones in my examples. While mischievous is formed on mischief, mischievious is likely to have been influenced by other adjectives with similar phonological structure, such as oblivious.

  22. But there is such a word as oblivion.
    Your other examples are of words which entered English from Latin through French – anxious, from Latin anxius; lascivious, from L. ascivia. In those words we don’t have the original noun. (Hat – caries is the technical word for tooth decay, so carious fits the pattern.)
    But in any event, we do have mischief, and there’s a benefit to having the linkage remain clear by having the adjectival pronunciation reflect the pronunciation of the noun.
    You say that the mischievious pronunciation is likely influenced by adjectives like oblivious – and I agree with you! Also furious, mysterious, etc. That’s how mistakes happen! Mistakes aren’t arbitrary – they result from reasonable but incorrect assumptions.
    And it’s true, sometimes mistakes become so entrenched that they become “standard.” IMHO this one isn’t there yet. I don’t view people who use it as uneducated or benighted, but I hope this pronunciation never becomes “standard” because it doesn’t comport with spelling, etymology, pronunciation, or meaning. It’s a weed, not a flower, and it should be pulled out if that’s still possible.

  23. I think it’s worth noting that nowadays “mischiev(i)ous” is much more common than “mischief,” or so it feels to me, at least in speech. The model isn’t very present to the mind.

  24. That’s how mistakes happen!

    You mean “that’s how language change happens.” There are mistakes in English, but this isn’t one of them. Also, I note that you’ve retreated way back from your original, definitive-sounding “Since there’s no such word as mischievy, there’s no such word as mischievious” to “there’s a benefit to having the linkage remain clear by having the adjectival pronunciation reflect the pronunciation of the noun.”

  25. Well, I think we all agree that there’s no such word as mischievious. What we’re discussing is whether the pronunciation of mischievous as if it were spelled with an extra I is “standard” or not.
    And yes, some language change happens via mistakes. And some change is good! And some is not so good. This is an example of not-so-good change.

  26. David Eddyshaw says

    While we’re on the topic of adjectives in -ious, I would like to remind everyone that “obnoxious” is not a fancy substitute for “noxious” but means “fawning”, and that “ingenuity” is the abstract noun from “ingenuous”, not “ingenious.” The young people of today persist in these glaring solecisms. I blame the internet, for rewiring the plastic circuits in their brains.

  27. Eli Nelson says

    @Bloix: “felon” corresponds to “felonious”, “labor” to “laborious”, and “rebel” to “rebellious”

  28. marie-lucie says

    BLoix: we do have mischief, and there’s a benefit to having the linkage remain clear by having the adjectival pronunciation reflect the pronunciation of the noun.

    I don’t see how mischievious is less linked to mischief than mischievous. Do you mean the stress pattern? But English is full of obviously related words which differ in their stress pattern, such as admire and admirable, and people who encounter some words only in writing often pronounce them with a different stress pattern than the “standard” one. Also, once a word is formed and becomes part of the language by being used by speakers, it is on its own, whether it maintains a semantic relationship or not with the original word, as in hospital and hospitality. This is why there are so many instances of “couplets” of words originally and formally related but which most people do not perceive as related in meaning.

  29. Stu Clayton says

    Somebody here is confusing obnoxious and obsequious. Long before this, ingenuous and ingenious were confused on a daily basis.

  30. David Eddyshaw says


    I refer you to the introduction to Tacitus’ Histories, Book I. It is clear that no mere barbarian is qualified to redefine a perfectly good Latin etymon. Whatever next? Are you one of those descriptivists I hear about?

  31. Stu Clayton says

    Heav’n forfend ! I surmise there was a misprision when Tacitus was rendered from the original English into Latin.

  32. Mischievious

    (Fort Worth, Texas, 1959)

    Between classes, teachers patrol the halls,
    slapping their palms with short, thick leather straps.
    Some tell kids to “assume the position,”
    then whack them with perforated paddles.
    My English teacher uses a ruler
    to smack the palms of kids who mispronounce.
    His bugbear’s mischievous, which every kid
    who reads it pronounces mischievious.
    That added syllable drives the man mad.
    He blew his stack when I corrected him:
    “They’re eu-cal-YP-tus, not eu-CAL-yp-tus, trees.”
    (I guess I was being mischievious.)
    He said “Stand up and hold out your right hand.”
    I’m in the office now. Mama’s coming.

    (Marylin Nelson, How I Discovered Poetry)

  33. Nice, thanks! (And a nice illustration of the essentially authoritarian nature of peevery.)

  34. Eli Nelson – felony, not felon, corresponds to felonious.
    The OED tells us that nouns ending in -ion tend to form adjectives with -ious, e.g., rebellion/ rebellious, caution/cautious. That leaves out mischief.
    Laborious appears to have entered English fully formed from Latin via Old French, so it is perhaps the exception that proves (in the original meaning of “tests”) the rule.

    Hat: is it your position that it’s impossible to have supportable views about language – that everything is permissible and any objection on any ground to anything is peevery? This would make language different from every other human endeavor: politics, art, sports, fashion, cookery. As I noted above, I’m not authoritarian about it – I accept that many educated and enlightened people say “mischievious.” I wish they wouldn’t, for the reasons I’ve explained, but I don’t form judgments about them based on their pronunciations.

    PS- Marylin Nelson was correct, wasn’t she, when she told the teacher that eu-CAL-yp-tus is wrong. Or was she peeving?

  35. Hat: is it your position that it’s impossible to have supportable views about language – that everything is permissible and any objection on any ground to anything is peevery?

    Depends what you mean by “supportable views.” Views supported by facts about language use are not only possible but eminently to be desired. Views supported by prejudices based only on one’s own preferences, backed up by selected ideas about how things should work, may well be peevery.

    PS- Marylin Nelson was correct, wasn’t she, when she told the teacher that eu-CAL-yp-tus is wrong. Or was she peeving?

    She was correct, unless there are pockets of eu-CAL-yp-tus use I’m unaware of (if there are such pockets, then the pronunciation is correct for those speakers, but a single person cannot establish a usage). Pointing out what the dictionary says is not in and of itself peeving; it’s the moral condemnation (backed by threats of force, in the teacher’s case) that constitutes peevery.

  36. marie-lucie says

    David E (commenting about LITTLE BUStTARD): Russian is griev(i)ously handicapped as a language for making comic poems about little bustards

    In my comment above I had intended to quote a word which I thought I knew (from hearing it) as grievious (from grief) only to have it automatically corrected to grievous, which does look better on the page. Next thing I knew, here is the word in its two versions! Here I think the major influence could be from previous , not in terms of morphology but of phonological structure.

    It would seem that after v, -ious may be more likely to be chosen than plain -ous. I wonder if anyone has done a little study of this? At least nervous seems to be holding its own. What do native speakers say?

  37. Pointing out what the dictionary says is not in and of itself peeving;

    Curiously the OED online specifically says “Mischievous is a three-syllable word; it should not be pronounced with four syllables, …”

    So they recognise the allegedly mis- pronunciation is common enough to need calling out. What’s the threshhold of descriptivism where they throw in the towel and allow both versions?

  38. Maybe the subconscious-level problem with mischievious is that it’s one of those words that incarnates its own meaning: it has the impish feel of something that’s probing the boundaries of one’s sense of humour. I can’t get exercised about malapropisms like ingenious for ingenuous or disinterested for uninterested because the “incorrect” forms don’t describe themselves, but mischievious sounds like a flippant-but-not-flippant challenge. It’s like when someone doubles down on a Dad joke: unfunny can briefly be funny, but soon it becomes really unfunny.

  39. David Eddyshaw says


    I’m afraid I was only being mischievious. Myself, I only ever say grievous. I don’t think “grievious” is real (if it were, Star Wars would probably have driven it out of usage by now, too. DO NOT WANT!!!)

  40. While he was at it, why didn’t Webster abolish -ous along with -our? Americans could have been mischievos and devios without being too laborios.

  41. David Eddyshaw says

    Webster evidently had a Fabian rather than Shavian approach to spelling reform.

    Nonne vides, etiam guttas in saxa cadentis
    Umoris longo in spatio pertundere saxa?

    Give it a couple of hundred more years …

  42. Eli Nelson says

    @Bloix: Right, I hadn’t thought about “felony” when I posted that comment. But we also have “uproarious”, which is not from Latin and not from *”uproary” either.

    I’m not fond of the expression “the exception proves the rule”, but my understanding is that the actual original meaning is that if someone says something is true in exceptional cases, it’s implied that it’s false otherwise (or vice versa). See e.g. https://www.phrases.org.uk/meanings/exception-that-proves-the-rule.html (there are various other web pages that give this explanation).

    The idea seems to be like this: suppose that in some source, we found the sentence “‘Laborious’ is exceptionally spelled with ‘-ious’ even though it is not derived from a noun spelled with I or Y.” From this sentence, we could infer that there is a general rule that the spelling “-ious” is only used when the adjective is derived from a noun spelled with I or Y. The fact that the spelling of “laborious” with “-ious” is explicitly described as an exception proves that there is a general rule like this (assuming the source is authoritative–the original context of the maxim seems to have been legal interpretation).

    If you know of some source that backs up the “proves” = “tests” interpretation, I’d be interested in reading it so that I can learn more. My current impression is that this is a kind of reinterpretation of the proverb that became popular partly because it is counterintuitive—as with the supposedly “original” meaning of “blood is thicker than water” that is the opposite of the usual, and apparently actually original, meaning.

    @AJP Crown: As far as I know, by the time of Webster “-or” was already established as a spelling for terminal /ər/ in many words. I don’t think the same is true of “-os” as an alternative spelling for /əs/. Modern British English writers use spellings like “tremor”, “stupor” and “liquor”, as well as using “-or” in many agent nouns.

  43. I would think that -us would be a better shortening than -os. Mischevus. I like it.

    Here’s my take on exceptio probat regulam in email signature form:

    “The exception proves the rule.” Dimbulbs think: “Your counterexample proves my theory.” Latin students think “‘Probat’ means ‘tests’: the exception puts the rule to the proof.” But legal historians know it means “Evidence for an exception is evidence of the existence of a rule in cases not excepted from.”

  44. I (Australian as some of you may know) heard only mischievious as a child. It was only later that I noticed that it was spelt and should (theoretically) be pronounced mischievous. I don’t remember how; it might have been brought to my attention by an adult. I abandoned mischievious at some stage in my youth and now use mischievous exclusively. But I have never felt mischievious to be ‘wrong’ or ‘substandard’.

    In fact, I regard mischievous as a spelling pronunciation that people have adopted because ‘it’s spelt that way’. For me, this is similar to mandarin (oranges) (which I grew up pronouncing as ‘mandarine’ but felt pressured to change because of the dominant spelling ‘mandarin’), dent (which I grew up pronouncing as ‘dint’ but felt pressured to change by the dominant spelling ‘dent’), engine (which I grew up pronouncing ‘injun’ but felt pressured to change by the spelling ‘engine’), and pumpkin (which I grew up pronouncing as ‘punkyin’ but felt pressured to change by the spelling ‘pumpkin’). Such pronunciations are hard to maintain when the entire community is shifting towards the spelling pronunciation.

    Similarly, the pronunciation ‘mischievious’ is being stigmatised due to the spelling ‘mischievous’. My personal view is that the spelling ‘mischievious’ should be legitimised in order to get rid of the stigma. ‘Mandarine’ and ‘dint’ should also be used more widely as they represent a valid pronunciation. At one time they were probably the dominant pronunciations where I come from. But this is a vain hope when the English-speaking community appears to believe that spelling trumps living pronunciations.

  45. Incidentally, I sometimes wonder if ‘mischievious’ might not have come about as a kind of parallel to ‘devious’. (‘Devious little fellow; mischievious little fellow’).

  46. Curiously the OED online specifically says “Mischievous is a three-syllable word; it should not be pronounced with four syllables, …”

    I can’t find that in the OED online entry; what section is it in?

    The Forms section says:

    β. (now regional, colloq. and humorous) 15–17 mischevieous, 15– mischevious, 16– mischeivious, 16– mischievious, 17 mischevyous, 18 mischieveous, 18 mischievieous, 18– mischeevious; Sc. pre-17 17– mischevious, 18– mischievious, 19– mischeevious.

    And in Etymology:

    A pronunciation with stress on the second syllable (for which compare the note s.v. mischief n.) 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 the β. forms 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 -ous suffix by -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.

  47. Eli Nelson says

    @Bathrobe: That “ky” in your pronunciation of pumpkin is interesting to me. Are there any other words where you have “ky” where dictionaries would give /k/? What about cat, card, king, keep, kept, kind?

  48. David Marjanović says

    Phosphorus usually ends up being spelled phosphorous.

  49. There is a page called The Great Punkin Debate that talks about the pronunciation ‘punkin’, which is apparently an American pronunciation that is falling into disuse. I have now idea why we called it ‘punkyin’ in my family (everyone has now shifted to ‘pumpkin’). If it had been pronounced ‘punkin’ the second syllable would have contained a schwa, which would have been wrong. Perhaps ‘punkyin’ came about from an attempt to pronounced the second syllable as /i/.

    At any rate, ‘punkyin’ appears to be an Australian thing. See this Australian site: Words that you just cannot pronounce: “My Mum drives me crazy with her mispronunciations, for example somehow she manages to say punkyin for pumpkin.”

    There is also a post at an American site called Pat’s Polemics which has the following to say:

    “Did you get your pumpkin, punkin?

    “Finishing up The Story of Ain’t, I am reminded of the dumb things people say about language and the many things they do not grasp. They seem to think of proper English as something spoken by three ghosts haunting the hallowed halls of a castle in England and sounding like BBC announcers or the late William F. Buckley. I recall a thread on a listserv where for some reason I was explaining that you could tell the original pronunciation of ‘pumpkin’ by its use as a term of endearment: “punkin’”. Then I explained briefly what a spelling pronunciation is. Santa caca! You never saw such density. Everyone seemed to think that the pronunciation and the spelling matched just fine b/c they pronounced the m and p. Even explaining what a spelling pronunciation is did not help.

    “The OED says punkin is an American pronunciation and there is some variation, although the m is etymologically justified and the p is epenthetic (hard to go from m to k without a p), a punkin pronunciation would seem to descend from that American variant as shown by the usual pronunciation as a term of endearment, like non-th pronunciations of nicknames and short forms of names like Matthew, Catherine, and Anthony (Matt, Kate, Tony) indicate the original t pronunciation (the th sound is a spelling pronunciation). People are so tied up in knots over being correct and always feeling incorrect that they just cannot follow a reasoned argument that may lead to their saying punkin and thus being labeled a hick. Teachers esp are social climbers.”

    I agreed with him so much that I left a comment, which I had entirely forgotten about!

  50. Phosphorus usually ends up being spelled phosphorous.

    That is a peeve I will never give up.

  51. Phosphorus usually ends up being spelled phosphorous.

    Parelleled by mucus – mucous?

    Body fluids include: salvia, sputum, vomit, bile, mucous, blood, blood plasma, menstrual flow, vaginal secretions, semen, cerebrospinal fluid, pus, sweat, tears, urine, and breast milk.


  52. Compromise: call it phosphor instead. Element names in English really have a somewhat superfluous amount of Greco-Roman endings to them, compared to general international usage.

    There would be other good shortening candidates too, e.g. chrome, platin, tellure, urane for chromium, platinum, tellurium, uranium — in none of these cases is the shorter term claimed as any other substance or proper name or whatever, unlike more typical examples like sodium from soda, zirconium from zircon, gallium and germanium from Gallia and Germania.

  53. marie-lucie says

    phosphorous, etc: There is also populous instead of populace. The latter is mostly found in writing, and probably not always recognized in its oral form.

    In French, la populace is a rather derogatory word, sort of like the mob, but apparently not in English, which uses it more rarely and apparently as a near-synonym for population (but I may be wrong here). .

  54. In the other direction, citrus ended up displacing its own adjectival form citrous.

    @m-l: Your impression is correct: it doesn’t have any notable negative connotation in English.

  55. Stu Clayton says

    A populace is always a population of people. “Population” is also used in biology to designate any bunch of animals, such as a population of sheep or sheeple. I don’t know if “population of slime molds” is a usage that would raise eyebrows. DM will know.

  56. I just ran across the spelling mischevious at the A Corner of Tenth Century Europe site. Probably a typo but possibly an attempt to square the circle.

  57. David Marjanović says

    Parelleled by mucus – mucous?

    Yes, very often.

    as a near-synonym for population

    Populace is preferred for the meaning we’re all thinking of by peevers who insist that population must only mean the act of populating a place.

    Funnily enough, there are German peevers who seem to calque all this and insist on restricting the meaning of Bevölkerung… but the German vocabulary doesn’t offer an alternative for the “populace” meaning, so they’re left with an awkward lexical gap, and nobody listens to them.

    I don’t know if “population of slime molds” is a usage that would raise eyebrows.

    It’s perfectly cromulent if there’s enough gene flow between the slime molds.

  58. A “population of slime molds” sounds fine to me too. In fact, here is a paper titled: Genetic structure of a natural population of Dictyostelium discoideum, a cellular slime mould. On the other hand, much of what makes them so fascinating relates to the fact that myxomycetes have multiple features that make identifying “individuals” in a population difficult. There are all the usual problems with amorphous organisms, but the plasmodium form of acellular slime molds is actually made up of large multinucleate cells, which can be formed by fusion of separate smaller bodies. The fused masses do not even need to be genetically identical; single paraphyletic colonies are not uncommon.

  59. The story of populace.

    J. Pystynen: chrome does exist and has several meanings distinct from chromium. Quoth Wiktionary:

    1. Chromium, when used to plate other metals.

    2. (computing, graphical user interface) The basic structural elements used in a graphical user interface, such as window frames and scroll bars, as opposed to the content.

    3. (US, slang) handguns (collectively)

    My further impression is that chrome can be used in non-technical of any shiny plating material, whether chromium or not.

  60. Curiously the OED online specifically says “Mischievous is a three-syllable word; it should not be pronounced with four syllables, …”

    “I can’t find that in the OED online entry; what section is it in?”

    In case Breffni is not being ironic, I presume AntC meant oxforddictionaries rather than OED.

    noun/adjective -us/-ous pairs include calculus, callus, cirrus, citrus, (o)estrus, mucus, phosphorus, susurrus, tumulus, and villus

    I propose replacing “Confucian” with “Confucious”.

  61. In case Breffni is not being ironic, I presume AntC meant oxforddictionaries rather than OED.

    Ah. Thanks. I wasn’t being ironic, OED entries are baroque enough that I don’t trust myself not to miss something.

  62. I am indeed aware of chrome-plated and similar expressions: they work as a good precedent for the metal itself being already known also by this shorter name. (I.e. the shorter name is not claimed by any other substance, in the soda fashion.) The other two uses I’ve not run into, but they’re not really in the way any more than calling virtual currencies or high-quality standards gold would necessitate calling the element instead “goldium”.

    Of course I realize really changing anything about English spelling, much less established technical terminology, would be a snowball’s chance in hell…

  63. For some reason my first association is with William Gibson’s “Burning Chrome.”

  64. All metals take -um, usually -ium, in scientific terminology, presumably because (I just realized) the ancient metals all belong to that declension in Latin: argentum, cuprum, aurum, ferrum, stannum, plumbum.

  65. David Marjanović says

    in scientific terminology

    In English. Juho’s suggestion is fully implemented in German (Chrom, Platin, Tellur, Uran – final stress*), which is probably what gave him the idea.

    * Except for a recent debate about Platin caused by the fact that it’s from Spanish plátina (supposedly a diminutive of plata “silver”).

  66. David Marjanović says

    (Huh, the edit time-window is gone.)

    Actually, it ends with Uran; Neptunium is not shortened, even though it could be distinguished from the planet Neptun by the latter’s somewhat unexpected initial stress. The other planet is Uranus with initial stress.

  67. @DM: Indeed, going by Wikipedia, it seems like there’s a broad consensus in favor of the shortened version (e.g. Spanish cromo) except in English. I say bring on the Chrome Revolution.

  68. Eli Nelson:
    My understanding has long been that “the exception proves the rule” means that it puts the rule to the test (as in “proving ground”) – that is, if you can’t find an explanation for why the rule doesn’t apply to the exception, then the rule has been disproved.
    However, Wikipedia says that the situation is more complicated, and I may have fallen prey to a false meaning.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Exception_that_proves_the_rule (although for evidence that it’s false, Wikipedia cites to Bryan Garner, who while sometimes interesting is IMHO not definitively reliable).

  69. January First-of-May says

    chrome, platin, tellure, urane

    Probably rather platina (or, at least, thus in Russian), and we’re not using urane for the element unless we also start talking about the planet Urane (not quite as ridiculous as it sounds given that we already have Neptune).

    Mind you, the obvious pronunciation would be (nearly) homophonous with urine

  70. Mischievious would make great Lithuanian surname

  71. @DM: I have initial stress on Platin and I don’t even remember having ever heard it with final stress. FWIW, Duden has the initial stress as the first option and the one with final stress as variant option.

  72. mischievous: causing trouble

    mischievious: imp-like

  73. Agree with Bill W.

  74. Probably rather platina

    Right. I’m going off of Finnish in the first place, which readily leads to the proportional analogy tinatinplatinaplatin (though yes, I know they’re unrelated).

    uraani (and Uran, etc.) but neptunium and plutonium is an interesting asymmetry too, but surely due to the latter two being discovered only fairly late by Americans who already were calling the former uranium.

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