Why does the word colonel (as in military rank) have such a strange spelling compared to how it's pronounced (or vice versa, although I don't know how you would pronounce that)?
It comes from Italian military manuals, and the English spelling preserves the Italian form, colonnello. Two pronunciations coexisted; the r prevailed in English. Spanish took both the spelling and pronunciation: coronel.
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As reported from the NOAD:
The word is pronounced in a strange way because it kept the old pronunciation, while the word changed spelling.