This tag is for questions about the sounds, intonation, and stress of how words are uttered or produced.

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143
votes
7answers
18k views

How are “i.e.” and “e.g.” pronounced?

How are i.e. and e.g. pronounced?
104
votes
2answers
8k 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 ...
95
votes
123answers
35k views

What words are commonly mispronounced by literate people who read them before they heard them?

Quite a few words are mispronounced by under-educated people, or people learning English as a second language. Some words are often mispronounced by quite educated people who read, and began reading ...
78
votes
26answers
6k views

How to read “E = (mc)²” so as not to mistake for “E = mc²”

According to one of the questions already asked on EL&U, “E = mc²” is read as E equals M C squared. How do we read “E = (mc)²” so that it is not mistaken for “E = mc²”?
56
votes
11answers
23k views

When should I use “a” versus “an” in front of a word beginning with the letter h?

A basic grammar rule is to use an instead of a before a vowel sound. Given that historic is not pronounced with a silent h, I use “a historic”. Is this correct? What about heroic? Should be “It was a ...
35
votes
4answers
3k views

How to pronounce “720p” and “1080p”

How do you pronounce 720p and 1080p? Because I don't live in a country that uses English, I haven't heard it yet. I guess it doesn't have a rule. seven hundred twenty p seven twenty p seventy two ...
34
votes
7answers
33k views

What is the correct way to pronounce 'router'?

Merriam-Webster lists both ˈrüt and ˈrau̇t as possible pronunciations for route but only ˈrau̇-tər for router. Is it really wrong to pronounce router as 'rüter ?
34
votes
6answers
2k views

Pronunciation of the English alphabet

Why are there inconsistencies in the pronunciation of the consonants of the alphabet? For example: 'b' is pronounced like 'bee' but 'm' is pronounced as 'em' rather than 'me'. The pronunciation of 'h' ...
33
votes
9answers
7k views

How are 'marry', 'merry', and 'Mary' pronounced differently?

The way I pronounce these words is the same. Similarly for other words like these: I pronounce ferry and fairy the same, carrot and caret. Yet, dictionaries show different pronunciations for these ...
28
votes
5answers
14k views

Should the number “0” be pronounced “zero” or “oh”?

I have often heard people say 101, as one-zero-one, and also as one-oh-one. Which is correct, and why? Does the difference between British English and American English have to do something with it?
27
votes
3answers
9k views

How to pronounce the programmer's abbreviation “char”

In many programming languages, char is a type name for character values. The word character is pronounced with a [k] sound, but what about char? While trying to find the answer elsewhere, I learnt ...
26
votes
2answers
10k views

Use of “f ” instead of “s” in historic, printed English documents

I was at a museum in London yesterday, and one of the items on exhibit is a document from the eighteenth century. It uses the letter f a lot where s should be used—for example, in Majefty. Did the ...
25
votes
7answers
29k views

Is “forte” pronounced “fort” or “for-tay”?

I've always heard people say something like "Pronunciation is not my [for-tay]" ... but I feel that I've heard that the correct pronunciation is "Confusing people is my [fort]" What is the ...
25
votes
3answers
1k views

Do Americans understand Donald Duck?

I had always assumed that although I understood only about half of what Donald Duck says in his cartoons, Americans understood everything despite his comical pronunciation. However friends have just ...
23
votes
5answers
13k views

Why are Greek letters pronounced incorrectly in scientific English?

In Greek, for example, the letter β is pronounced "veeta", but in science, people use "beta". Some other offenders are η "eeta", ι "yiota", μ "mee", ν "nee", π "pee", τ "taf", χ "hee", ψ "psee". I ...
23
votes
1answer
2k views

Explain this pickup line: “If Bangkok invaded Djibouti, would Greece help?”

I was at an Model UN conference and often notes like the following get passed. As I'm not a native speaker, I assume that this has to do with some pronunciational issue. Can you please explain what's ...
23
votes
4answers
1k views

Words with a leading silent w

My eldest is a beginning reader. Yesterday we read one of my favorite books, The Wreck of the Zephyr. He pointed at wreck and asked me why that one looked like it said "wuh-reck." I explained that ...
23
votes
4answers
2k views

Pronunciation of “have” in “I don't have to” [do something]

Normally when I say "I don't have to do that" (meaning I'm not obliged to), I find that as well as putting heavy stress on the word "have", I pronounce if haff. Is this common? If so, why does the ...
22
votes
7answers
10k views

Why is “primer” pronounced with a short “i” sound?

This word—used to mean an elementary textbook, not a painting material—annoys me to no end. Does anyone know why, exactly, "primer" is pronounced with a short "i" sound? I don't know why, call it ...
22
votes
8answers
2k views

Are “traitor” and “trader” pronounced the same?

Are "traitor" and "trader" distinguishable when spoken with any English accent? My English-speaking friends seem to pronounce them exactly the same way.
22
votes
4answers
15k views

Why does “bass” sound like “base”?

Why is bass pronounced like base? If bass sounds like base, why isn't ass pronounced as (nearly) ace instead?
22
votes
3answers
4k views

Is the “-b” to be pronounced in the word “limb”? What about “thumb”? “Crumb”?

I'm confused about the differing pronunciations of words that end in "-b". For example, I remember being told by some of earliest teachers that the "-b" in limb was meant to be silent, and one ...
22
votes
2answers
6k views

What's the deal with “colonel”?

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)?
21
votes
6answers
4k views

“Tortoise” and “taught us”

I’m reading Alice in Wonderland, and found the following dialogue: “The master was an old Turtle — we used to call him Tortoise—” “Why did you call him Tortoise, if he wasn’t one?” Alice ...
21
votes
4answers
7k 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 ...
21
votes
2answers
715 views

Send, sent; end, *ent?

The past tense of a number of verbs changes from -end to -ent: bend → bent lend → lent rend → rent send → sent spend → spent wend → went However, most do not, notably end. Granted, I say “I ent ...
20
votes
6answers
16k views

Why is the “ph” pronounced like a “v” in “Stephen”? Is this the only word like that?

While I know how my name is pronounced, I've run into many non-native english speakers who have stumbled over this unique exception to English. Even in the female name, "Stephanie", the ph is ...
20
votes
4answers
11k views

Why are there two pronunciations for “either”?

A few weeks ago, I had a conversation with an individual who told me that pronouncing the word "either" is wrong when pronounced like \ˈī-thər\ instead of \ˈē-thər\ , but I didn't argue the point ...
20
votes
11answers
22k views

What is the correct pronunciation of the word “ma’am”?

Back in the day, the word ma’am (when addressing the Queen) was always pronounced “marm”. British TV shows from before the 80s confirm this. In the movie The Queen, we are told that the correct ...
19
votes
4answers
11k 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 ...
19
votes
5answers
12k views

How is SQL pronounced?

When I was learning SQL, I remember reading that it should be pronounced just like the word sequel; however, I worked with a bunch of techs who seemed to prefer S-Q-L. Is there a proper convention for ...
19
votes
3answers
5k views

What does “Do you haz teh codez?” mean?

There is a banner in StackOverflow pointing to the careers website (programmers): Do you haz teh codez? My questions about the sentence/question are: What's the question in plain English? Why ...
19
votes
3answers
2k views

Is there a rule for pronouncing “th” at the beginning of a word?

Consider the th in thistle versus the th in this: the former is unvoiced, while the latter is voiced. Is there a rule or reason for the differences?
19
votes
5answers
8k views

Reason for different pronunciations of “lieutenant”

While Americans (and possibly others) pronounce this as "loo-tenant", folks from the UK pronounce it as "lef-tenant". Why?
18
votes
6answers
3k views

When do I pronounce a non-existing “r” between adjacent vowel sounds?

If I say two words consecutively, with the first ending in a vowel sound and the second starting with one, when is it correct to include a non-existing r between those two words? Examples from ...
18
votes
5answers
3k views

Correct, clear, concise way to use “potato-potato” in writing

"You say tomato, I say tomato" and the song from the beginning. As an informal turn of speech, it can be used to show that two or more parties are talking about basically the same thing but not in ...
18
votes
4answers
14k views

What is the correct pronunciation and spelling of “asterisk”?

Every now and then I get caught out by a spellchecker around the word asterisk. I can accept that this is the correct spelling, however I hear a lot of people pronouncing it as asterix also. Is it ...
18
votes
5answers
12k views

What is the pronunciation of “the”?

I read that the definite article is pronounced differently depending on the word that follows it. Which is the exact pronunciation of the?
17
votes
4answers
2k views

How to explain accent variations to students

I am an ESL teacher working in China. During lessons, I am occasional interrupted by students or parents who point out that my pronunciation of some words is incorrect. They then produce a dictionary ...
17
votes
4answers
2k views

New Zealand pronunciation of “women” vs “woman”

I have read in a number of places that the NZ pronunciation of "women" must be rather peculiar. Quoting from just one such place: For some years I've noted the tendency of Kiwis to pronounce ...
17
votes
3answers
27k 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 ...
16
votes
3answers
17k views

How do you pronounce “Git”?

How do you pronounce Git? Because I don't live in a country that uses English, I haven't heard it yet. In my country, some people use [ɡít] and others use [jít]. Which is the one that most people use? ...
16
votes
4answers
50k views

What is the correct pronunciation of “Caribbean”?

Sometimes I hear the emphasis placed on the second syllable, and other times on the second to last syllable. I myself use both pronunciations depending on context, and it makes me wonder if there is ...
16
votes
4answers
1k views

What's the history of the pronunciation of Delphi?

There appear to be two ways to pronounce the last syllable based on deeply held beliefs and cultural divides and assumptions: Phi fi fo fum Fee phi fo fum? I've heard that (2) is the American ...
16
votes
1answer
13k views

Why is “ask” sometimes pronounced “aks”?

We've recently moved from New Zealand to New York City, and have noticed that many people (most of whom have good English) pronounce "ask" as "aks". For example: Could you please go aks her ...
16
votes
4answers
5k views

How to pronounce “favicon”?

Yesterday my boss called our design person on the phone and asked her about designing a /fave-eye-con/. She asked him to repeat it a couple of times, and then finally (after a convoluted explanation ...
16
votes
9answers
7k views

Pronunciation of “Short-lived”

What is the correct way of pronouncing the i in "short-lived"? Particularly, I'm looking for whether it's a short or long sound for this vowel. I've heard it both ways.
16
votes
4answers
4k views

Dialects where days of the week end with “dee”?

Someone recently posted a question about the pronunciation of Wednesday, which reminded me of a different question about pronouncing the days of the week I've had floating around in my head for a ...
16
votes
4answers
15k views

When did Greenwich begin to be pronounced as “Gren-ich”?

I just read an interesting question here on Greenwich Mean Time. I'm interested to know when Greenwich received its peculiar pronunciation. Has it always been pronounced as "GREN-ich" (/ˈɡrɛnɪtʃ/), ...
16
votes
2answers
610 views

Why is 'worthy' pronounced with a /ði/ unlike 'healthy', 'wealthy' and 'stealthy'?

I don't know how 'worthy' came to be pronounced with a /ði/ whereas 'healthy', 'wealthy', 'stealthy' etc., are pronounced with a /θi/. I am aware that theories of pronunciation in English are far too ...