At first glance, this might seem like a very stupid question, and in full honesty, it is. But get this. In Norwegian, spaghetti is the same word, and I don't remember ever hearing any child ever say pasketti, or similar.

However, Norwegian children are not better. I personally mispronounced Støvler (boots) as Stølver, and Klovn (clown) as Knolv.

I am curious if anyone knows why. I'm guessing there must be an explanation.

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    Voted to close because it is opinion based? I disagree with that a lot :) – jumps4fun Aug 15 '19 at 13:46
  • Interesting question. It looks like adjacent metathesis. But after that I'm at a loss to say why Norwegian doesn't act in the same way and could only wildly speculate that their is something about the structure of the Norwegian language in general which makes Pasketti as a possible word relatively unlikely as compared to English. – S Conroy Aug 15 '19 at 13:49
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    Even quite a few adults say pacific instead of specific, presumably because they find that a bit of a tongue-twister. And it's my guess that most Anglophones habitually "mispronounce" words like Wednesday, February. To be honest, I've not noticed any tendency for children in particular to have problems articulating the word spaghetti, but it's nowhere near a "native" English word anyway, so it wouldn't be surprising if they came out with various "Close, but no cigar!" attempts to reproduce it accurately. Any pacific reason for the one you've picked out? I doubt it. – FumbleFingers Aug 15 '19 at 13:50
  • As a none native english speaker (though very fluent) refridgerator is the nightmare! I did pick Spaghetti, because there was a joke about it in Modern Family, that went right over my head the first time. And i happened to read a question here that mentioned it again now. – jumps4fun Aug 15 '19 at 13:53
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    I know it's compulsory for all children in sitcoms to say "pasketti", but is it really that common in real life? I've only ever heard it on TV. – nnnnnn Aug 15 '19 at 13:56

This is due to something called Metathesis.

From Wikipedia on Metathesis

Metathesis...is the transposition of sounds or syllables in a word or of words in a sentence. Most commonly, it refers to the interchange of two or more contiguous sounds, known as adjacent metathesis or local metathesis.

Metathesis may also involve interchanging non-contiguous sounds...

Metathesis is responsible for some common speech errors, such as children acquiring spaghetti as pasketti. The pronunciation /ˈæsk/ for ask, now considered standard, descends from a northern England version of the verb that in most midland and southern texts through the 1500s was spelled with x or cs, showing pronunciation as /ˈæks/. Chaucer, Caxton, and the Coverdale Bible use ax; Shakespeare and the King James Bible have ask. The word "ask" derives from Proto-Germanic *aiskōną.

Some other frequent English pronunciations that display metathesis are:

  • comfortable > comfterble /ˈkʌmftərbəl/
  • nuclear > nucular /ˈnjuːkjʊlər/ (re-analysed as nuke + -cular suffix in molecular, binocular)
  • prescription > perscription /pərˈskrɪpʃən/ introduce >
  • interduce /ɪntərˈd(j)uːs/
  • asterisk > asterix /ˈæstərɪks/
  • cavalry > calvary /ˈkælvəri/
  • foliage > foilage /ˈfɔɪlɪdʒ/
  • pretty > purty /ˈpɜːrti/

It is likely that English-speaking children mix up this word more than Norwegian children because of how first language acquisition affects our ability to pronounce words. In English, here are the words that an English-speaking 2 year old should be able to say. As you can see, the most simple words have consonant-vowel-consonant (CVC), CVCC, or CVVC syllables (dad, mom, ball, door, milk, bad, good). English speaking children, therefore, have an easier time with these syllables than CCV syllables. Common examples of children altering CCV syllables:

  • "spa" > "pas" in spagetti
  • "brain" > "bain"
  • "specific" > "pacific"
  • "library" > "libery"
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    I always thought it was methatesis... ;-) – Jim Aug 15 '19 at 15:24
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    Metathesis is the name of what happened, not why. And not even that, if the other answer alleging a pun popularized through media is correct, though it may be a bit of both if the meaningful semantics after the metathesis ease its acceptance. PS: There's a theory of sonority and a sonorant hierarchy, that may explain some learners difficulties; Howevdr, it is just a theory. – vectory Aug 15 '19 at 18:53
  • The other examples show hapology which is a bit of a different thing. The ascii transcription does not help, because English spelling is not totally phonetic. That is, I'd transcribe libwry and still get it wrong. In fact, the examples don't helö at all, however interesting they are, they rather distract. Just imagine you'd have to source these. – vectory Aug 15 '19 at 19:02
  • And I think metathesis first and foremost describes that two items which changed places have been pronounced literally above each other, that is at nearly the same time, before they diverged. one way or another. Cp e.g. calvlary – vectory Aug 15 '19 at 19:20
  • Good enough :) ! – jumps4fun Aug 16 '19 at 8:26

From Quora:

English reduces a lot of unstressed vowels to schwa, so that "a" in "spaghetti" is very rarely actually pronounced as an "a" anyway. Kids hear it as a weird wobbly not-very-important sound, and reproduce it as a weird wobbly not-very-important sound.

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    I mean, couldn't this answer be on to something? We do pronounce our a's more clearly in norwegian. Why is this downvoted? – jumps4fun Aug 15 '19 at 13:45
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    I didn't DV, but I suspect that Quora, while interesting, is not seen as a reliable and authoritative source. – Mick Aug 15 '19 at 13:47
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    @Mick - I second that. – Justin Aug 15 '19 at 13:48
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    I suspect that it is because this answer does not address the question. – Mr Lister Aug 15 '19 at 13:55
  • You're actually all right. The pronounciation of the a might matter in the answer of this question, but still this answer does not actually include anything as to why the consonants are pronounced in wrong order. – jumps4fun Aug 15 '19 at 13:59

Why do English speaking children mispronounce spaghetti as pasketti?

Ha ha this is great reading. Have not had such a laugh in ages. It is not mispronunciation. It's a play on words or was when the FAD started. Oh by the way, you spelt Pasketti wrong

Spaghetti is made from pasta hence the "new" word pasta/spaghetti pasghetti sometimes kids can teach us a few things LOL.

Don't believe me?? Check out the web address. Also check this pasghetti

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  • I upvoted your answer because these are my thoughts too. – Lucian Sava Aug 15 '19 at 16:01
  • I downvoted because it is an ad for an Italian restaurant. – Mr Lister Aug 17 '19 at 16:44
  • @Mr Lister; Yes correct and the second link is a dictionary which both show the word is in use. It easily search on the net after you switch off the spell checker. Earliest reference I can find is 1984. • * 1984 Romeo Muller, Puff and the Incredible Mr. Nobody, Troll Communications Llc, p14 "I love pasghetti !" Terry and Nobody sat by the large kitchen window [...] Which would be about right my Kids were using this term years ago, and my Grand kids are old enough to say it now. – Brad Aug 17 '19 at 20:57

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