I've always thought that "victual" was a funny word because its spelling and pronunciation are so alien to anything else I know of in the English language. The free dictionary explains the origin of the spelling and pronunciation here:

Usage Note: The modern pronunciation of victual, (vtl), represents an Anglicized pronunciation of the Old French form vitaille, which was borrowed into English in the early 14th century. The modern English spelling reflects the fact that in both French and English the word was sometimes spelled with a c, and later also with a u, under the influence of its Late Latin ancestor victulia, meaning "provisions." The word is now occasionally spelled vittle rather than victual, but in either case the pronunciation is (vtl).

I was curious if there are any other words that have similar "ct", "ctu", or "tu" letter combinations that are pronounced like "tt"?

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    @simchona: You just robbed me of the chance to say that wierd was another example of weird spelling! – FumbleFingers Jul 16 '11 at 20:27
  • @FumbleFingers: You can roll it back and then say it – simchona Jul 16 '11 at 20:32
  • @And then we all delete these comments here or the joke won't be funny... :) – Daniel Jul 16 '11 at 20:35
  • @Brandon: Do you have any opinions about the little controversies we colleagues are cooking up down here? – Daniel Jul 16 '11 at 20:43
  • Actually, I was only peeved because I'd tried to correct it myself, but the system wouldn't let me because @simchona was already busy making what turned out to be the same edit. I've never experienced that kind of 'lockout' before. – FumbleFingers Jul 16 '11 at 20:44

Did you think of indict? That is pronounced "in-DITE".

There's a good "bt" one: subtle, pronounced "SUT-tl". The only other "bt" words in which the "bt" is pronounced "t" are: debt and doubt.

  • If we are allowing "bt" then what about "debt"? – alexg Jul 16 '11 at 20:28
  • That fits, but its not as counter-intuitive; you can't really say "debbt". I only included "subtle" because it is so counter-intuitive. – Daniel Jul 16 '11 at 20:36
  • Of course you could say "deBt". It's not unpronounceable, just not what we say. The fact that we enunciate another vowel in "deBIt" is again just because that's what we say. – FumbleFingers Jul 16 '11 at 20:49
  • @Bogdan: True. I should probably drop the "bt" thing. – Daniel Jul 16 '11 at 21:55
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    Looking at the etymology of the word interdict, it should be pronounced -dite, just like indict. But the dictionaries I've checked don't even give that as an alternate pronunciation. – Peter Shor Jul 18 '11 at 0:45

With ct at the start of the word, the c is silent in the ctenoid.

  • Ctene, ctenidium, ctenizidae, ctenocephalides, ctenoid, ctenophora, ctenophore, ctenostomata, and ctesiphon. There! – Daniel Jul 16 '11 at 20:52
  • That's a great word! If only I had more occasion to use it in a sentence. – alexg Jul 16 '11 at 20:54
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    Just make sure not to say ctenoid when you mean cycloid :) Also: ctenii -- the tiny teeth on the end of ctenoid scales. – Hugo Jul 16 '11 at 21:09
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    The complete list is ctene, ctenidial, ctenidium, ctenobranch, ctenobranchia, ctenobranchiate, ctenocyst, ctenodont, ctenoid, ctenoidean, Ctenophora, ctenophoral, ctenophoran, ctenophore, and ctenophoric. – tchrist Feb 21 '12 at 2:33

"Indict" is pronounced "in-dite". Oddly enough, it used to be spelled without a "c" (endite, endight, endyte, indite, ...), as in Old French enditer. The "c" was inserted to make it more like Latin (indictare), just like in your victual example.

Words from drm65's answer follow the same pattern.

  • "subtle" was "sutel" (Old French soutil) but the Latin is subtilis and so we put the "b" back that the French had dropped.

  • "debt" was "det", from Old French dete, and the Latin is debitum

  • "doubt" was "dout", from Old French doter, and the Latin is dubium

  • I am now struggling to think of a third example... – alexg Jul 16 '11 at 20:28
  • Third example: ctenoid :) – Hugo Jul 16 '11 at 20:53

"Blackguard" is pronounced like "blaggard," with the latter even being an alternative spelling, similar to "victual"'s alternative spelling, "vittle."


Only marginally related: there's a Wikipedia article about English names with counterintuitive pronunciations

It links from Featherstonehaugh (='fanshaw'), one of the most well-known (if uncommon) surnames.

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