This tag is for questions concerning the written representation of the English language, especially spelling and word breaks (including hyphenation).

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23
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5answers
2k views

How do you spell Muammar Qaddafi?

This name, which is spelled القذافي in Arabic, is spelled in so many different ways in the Latin alphabet: Gadafi, Gadaffi, Gaddafi, Gaddaffi, Gadhafi, Gadhaffi, Ghadafi, Ghadaffi, Ghaddafi, ...
21
votes
3answers
47k views

Why is the word 'bologna' pronounced like 'baloney'?

Why is the word 'bologna' (as in a bologna sandwich) pronounced so differently from the way it's spelled? The word 'lasagna' isn't pronounced 'lasagney'... The American sausage is derived from a ...
18
votes
2answers
52k views
6
votes
2answers
273 views

“Lessen, poisoned gulls, ditcher wander hair annulled furry tell a boarder Slipping Booty?”

This is the prelude to an article published in Sports Illustrated magazine on August 17, 1959: Lessen, poisoned gulls, ditcher wander hair annulled furry tell a boarder Slipping Booty? Hoecake? ...
5
votes
4answers
2k views

Silent letters in English [closed]

With the help of dictionaries, I’ve assembled a list of letters that can be silent in English: For most letters, I found more than one example, what are the other examples of a silent z ...
6
votes
2answers
1k views

Why is “hiccup” spelled with two c's?

Is there a historical or grammatical reason for spelling hiccup with two c's?
5
votes
2answers
744 views

Where do the idiosyncrasies in the spellings of English words come from and why do they survive?

For example: GH in enough is pronounced "F" O in women is pronounced short "I" TI in nation is pronounced "SH" Why aren't the words spelled enouf, wimen, nashon, or why not spell fish "ghoti"? It ...
6
votes
2answers
2k views

“Lambast” or “lambaste”

I looked up both lambast and lambaste in several dictionaries, but came up with no conclusions about which one is AE and which BE (if this distinction can ever be made). Moreover, the different ...
0
votes
1answer
3k views

Why does a silent “-e” at the end of a word lengthen vowels?

There's a common pattern in English spelling where "short" vowels are pronounced as "long" vowels with the addition of a silent "e" at the end of the word. E.g. bit → bite mat → mate pet → pete ...
1
vote
2answers
398 views

pronunciation rule for grapheme “a” in words like “nefarious,” “variation” and “temporary”

English pronunciation / spelling guides appear to state that the letter/grapheme "a" is pronounced either as the "short a" with IPA symbol /æ/, as in "mat" or the "long a" with IPA symbol /eɪ/, as in ...
1
vote
1answer
799 views

How to guess the pronunciation of some inconsistencies in English?

I’m not a native English speaker, and I have a lot of problems when is comes to pronouncing words like archive, archon, zealot, heal, health. Why is the ch sometime pronounced like a k? Why is the ...
3
votes
2answers
2k views

American English Pronunciation of “o” sound long or short?

I'm always confused about how to pronounce words with letter o in spelling. For example, in the word boss, I always pronounce the o as short o, when in fact it is long o. Collar is short, but I always ...
0
votes
1answer
1k views

/u/ and /uː/ in pronunciation

What is the regularity of appearance of /uː/ and /u/ (or /ʊ/ in RP)? How can I be most sure deducing from spelling alone, that, say, "ooze" is pronounced /uːz/ and "wool" as /wul/? I know that English ...
1
vote
0answers
1k views

Why do certain words have the same type of spelling but different pronunciation? [duplicate]

There are words like 'but' , 'cut' etc pronounced in the same way, but 'put' is pronounced differently. Put has the same structure as but and cut (One 'u' between two consonants). So why is it ...
5
votes
1answer
412 views

Relaxed Pronunciation

As a court reporter & supervisor for 34 years our rule of thumb in the transcription of evidence, many people relax their pronunciation whilst on the stand, such as "gotta, kinda" but we've always ...
2
votes
1answer
913 views

Words with pronunciations more complex than spelling

The word mischievous is sometimes pronounced with a long e sound between the v and the last vowel (mis-chee-vee-us), although this is controversial. Is there a name for this type of word, where the ...
110
votes
2answers
10k views

Why is “bicycle” pronounced differently from other obviously related words?

The word bicycle is pronounced /'baɪsɪkəl/ (bahy-si-kuhl), like sickle. However, the words unicycle and motorcycle both have the -cycle pronounced as /-'saɪkəl/ (sahy-kuhl). Is there some sort of ...
0
votes
1answer
1k views

Should the English word for noodles be ''lamen'' or ''ramen''? [closed]

The Chinese word for noodles is lamen, or la-mien, and the Japanese also call it lamen, using their hiragana/katana syllaby. So the word is spoken with the L sound in both China and Japan (Taiwan, ...
5
votes
1answer
687 views

Why was Tokyo sometimes called “Tokio”?

The city Tokyo was sometimes called Tokio, as can be seen in ngrams, and as one example, the WWII anti-Japanese movie Tokio Jokio. Why was Tokyo sometimes called "Tokiyo"? The Japanese hiragana for ...
3
votes
1answer
216 views

Why the word “Circle” doesn't start with “s”?

Today my daughter (goes to kindergarten) asked me this question which made me post here? I felt that was a good question. Can anyone help me with an answer?
1
vote
2answers
313 views

Why does U sound like W in words like “penguin”?

A semivowel is a vowel that acts like a consonant (including only W and Y and yet U sounds like W sound in words such as penguin, sanguine, but not in guide. Can anyone tell me why?
25
votes
6answers
3k views

Why was the “th” combination chosen for the “th” sound?

Given that the two "th" sounds don't actually sound like a combination of "t" and "h" why was that particular combination selected or become adopted by the majority ?
11
votes
3answers
9k views

Why doesn't “ninth” have an “e”, like “ninety”?

Is it just because "ninth" has only one syllable? That wouldn't make sense, though, because saying "NINE-ith" wouldn't be worse than saying "NINE-e-tee". If we were used to "nineth", we would have ...
6
votes
5answers
410 views

Is spelling still drifting?

If you look at texts from a few hundred years ago, they’re almost illegible, what with all the superfluous e’s and y’s running about, the long-S’s (  ſ  ), and so on. Texts from 100 and 120 years ago ...
12
votes
6answers
3k views

How would you spell “Tehran” in English for it to be pronounced “correctly” (i.e. as in Persian)?

Native English speakers do not pronounce the h in Tehran so it is pronounced like "Teran". But in the original pronunciation in Persian the h is pronounced, resulting in /tehˈɾɒːn/. Is there any ...
0
votes
3answers
698 views

When we will use soft and hard sound in 'c'? [closed]

Sometimes we use the soft sound, and sometimes the hard – but why? Is there any rule?
2
votes
2answers
536 views

Why does the pronunciation of “U” vary in English?

The letter U is pronounced differently in different words such as Umbrella and Utensils, as well as when it is Used inside of words such as stUdent and stUdy. Can I please have a grammatical ...
3
votes
2answers
2k views
21
votes
4answers
18k views

Why are there 3 different ways to pronounce “oo”?

My German colleagues were laughing at the way I pronounce google, and it led to a discussion. With words like google, yahoo, poodle and loose, the oo has a sound similar to the German ü sound. With ...
16
votes
4answers
2k views

Why does the name 'John' have an 'h' in it?

I have always wondered this since I was little, and nobody seems to have asked or answered this before anywhere on the internet. What is the origin of the 'h', and why is it still with us?
39
votes
5answers
2k views

Does the quirky spelling in English actually make it easier to read?

I just finished reading the question asked by Bobnix, in which RegDwight referred to another question with an interesting answer by Kosmonaut. Kosmonaut refers to the great number of pictograms (Kanji ...
23
votes
4answers
11k views

Why are “sugar” and “sure” pronounced with an SH?

As far as I know, those are the only two. They should be pronounced Soogher and Soor, shouldn't they? I looked them up on Dictionary.com, and their etymologies reveal no trace of an SH, except where ...
2
votes
1answer
333 views

In a combination of two vowels (such as “ae”), what rule determines if the first (“a”) or second (“e”) is silent?

In a combination of two vowels (such as "ae"), what English rule determines if the first ("a") or second ("e") is silent? For example, in the word "praetor", the vowel "a" is silent but in the word ...
20
votes
3answers
2k views

Why don't Americans write “devor” instead of “devour”?

Why don't Americans write devor instead of devour to be consistent with the pervasiveness of using variations such as color and armor?
11
votes
3answers
12k views

Is the proper spelling “judgment” or “judgement”?

I always thought the proper spelling was  judgment, but I see  judgement all the time, even in articles, news, etc. Merriam-Webster lists  judgement as a variant spelling for judgment. But is the ...
6
votes
1answer
3k views

Variations in the pronunciation of “ea”

Perhaps this is more of a Linguistics question, so I apologize if this is not posted in the right place. Why is it that these words in English sound so different? earth   = /ɜrθ/     “urth” hearth ...
5
votes
4answers
1k views

Why is “oh” spelled “oh” and not “o”?

Oh my! In the above example, to me, "oh" seems to suggest one should pronounce "o" as a short vowel, whereas "o", seems to suggest one should pronounce "o" as a long vowel. In other words, I ...
19
votes
3answers
3k views

Where did the “ue” in “tongue” come from?

How I remember being told over and over how to spell tongue! I didn't understand it then; I don't understand it now. What evolution might put a silent "ue" at the end of a word?
14
votes
2answers
4k views

“Oestrogen” and “oesophagus” — why are they spelled differently in British English?

Within Biology, there are some biological terms that differ in spelling between the British English and American English dictionaries. For example, oestrogen and oesophagus, as well as the word ...
7
votes
3answers
4k views

Why is “busy” pronounced “bizzy”?

Of all the ways I could come up with to pronounce the word "busy", "bizzy" would be very low on my list. At least "bussy" or "boosy". Why "bizzy"?
0
votes
3answers
498 views

Why are “some” letters silent in English? [closed]

There are many such words that we all know about, but please explain why the makers of the English language made up words with silent letters?
12
votes
7answers
12k views

How do I spell the truncation 'Cas', as in 'Sports Casual/Sports Cas'?

How do I spell the truncation 'Cas', as in 'Sports Casual/Sports Cas'? It may be UK only, and may have been spawned by Alan Partridge. Cash/Cas are not right. *As in a slang term, "he was acting all ...
1
vote
4answers
171 views

Present, present, and present?

Please present your next idea. Did you buy her a present? No vacancies at present. Do all the bold words have the same spelling, yet all of them have different meanings based on the ...
5
votes
6answers
50k views

“Zoe” or “Zoë”: which is the correct spelling?

I have a relation who has named their child Zoe, on the grounds that “in English we don’t use the dots”, but they pronounce it like the second version. Of course I don’t want to argue that’s not the ...
8
votes
2answers
980 views

Why is “eye” pronounced so strangely?

This is either a spelling or a pronunciation anomaly; I'm not sure which. Why is "eye" pronounced as the letter "I"?
4
votes
2answers
469 views

Why drop the “i” in “explanation”?

I often catch myself trying to write ?explaination, phonetically spelling the word in my head. To my chagrin I get part way through and have to stop myself. So I’m wondering why is the i dropped? I ...
3
votes
4answers
22k views

Why is “hyperbole” pronounced so differently from its spelling?

I've often heard people say "hyperbole" exactly as it is written, "hi-per-bole", instead of how it is actually pronounced: "hi-pear-bow-lee". How did it get such an unusually different pronunciation ...
15
votes
3answers
16k views

Why is the spelling of “pronounce” and “pronunciation” different?

Why is the spelling of pronounce and pronunciation different? If one originally did not know the spelling of pronunciation, one would when hearing it verbally deduce its spelling to be pronounciation, ...
49
votes
4answers
7k views

Why are there so few English words that begin with the letter X?

If one reads a lot of children's books, it is obvious that X is a real thorn in the side for those authors looking to have each letter of the alphabet represented in their books. Most of them either ...
10
votes
2answers
4k views

Why is “gauge” spelled with a 'u'?

I was rather old before I realized "gauge" is pronounced (and sometimes spelt) "gage". The etymology doesn't reveal too much: mid-15c., from Anglo-Fr. gauge (mid-14c.), from O.N.Fr. gauger, from ...