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Pronouncing asterisk as asterix /æstərɪks/ is called metathesis.

Some common examples of this phenomenon that I have heard are ask -> aks and introduce -> interduce /ɪntərˈdjuːs/.

So this phenomenon has a fancy name. But is it correct to say asterisk as asterix? How does one decide whether it's metathesis or just a mispronounced word?

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    My understanding is that the phenomenon is always referred to as metathesis, whether it's a one-off error or the accepted norm. Thirteen is metathesis, so is aks, so is pasketti. So the question basically boils down to When does a mistake become standard usage? – RegDwigнt Jun 3 '11 at 15:30
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    @RegDwight is right on the money. Words often change over time, and one way they can change is through metathesis. After some time, if enough people (or perhaps more importantly, the right people) pronounce a word a new way, the new pronunciation can eventually be adopted as standard. But there is no guarantee of standardization for a given pronunciation of a given word. – Kosmonaut Jun 3 '11 at 15:32
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    Usage changes over time, but "asterix" and "axe" are both likely to get you funny looks round these parts. See also "religious tenants" - drives me mad, that one. – Christi Jun 3 '11 at 15:36
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    Random fact: in Greek there is also metathesis quantitatis, "change of length". (Quantitas is a Latin word, but we often use Latin words to describe Greek.) With two successive vowels, it is possible that only their lengths are swapped. Polis ("city, city-state"), genitive *pole(y)-os, would regularly be *polē-os. But the long e becomes short, and the short genitive ending -os is lengthened in compensation, to become poleōs. M.q. usually occurs where a PIE semi-vowel has disappeared, either yod (y) or wau (w). – Cerberus_Reinstate_Monica Jun 3 '11 at 16:20
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    1) "Scrimmage" is a metathetic transformation of "skirmish," and "dirt is a metathetic transformation of "drit. " 2) My father taught me,"Mary upon the ice did frisk. How foolish of her, her *. " 3) Here's a verse from the American folk song, Revolutionary Tea," Oh mother, oh mother," the daughter replied, I shan't do this thing that you ax. I'm willing to pay a fair price for the tea, but never no thr' penny tax." – Airymouse Feb 22 '17 at 23:03
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I suggest that as of today, the pronunciation asterix is definitely incorrect.

But given there are plenty of dialectal contexts where it's okay to pronounce ask as ax, things may feasibly change.

  • You have to capitalize the "A" in Asterix; it's a proper name, after all. But it's pronounced correctly ending in /ks/. – John Lawler Feb 22 '17 at 20:40

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