Why are some words pronounced as though their letters were reversed?

For example, why is bible pronounced “buy-bel” and not “bib-lee”, or Favre pronounced “far-vuh” and not “fav-rah”?


1 Answer 1


Bible is not pronounced with “reversed letters”: the e is silent. Words like rhythm, acre, centre, bible, bottle, little, button all simply have syllabic consonants. For example:

  • bible [ˈbaɪbɫ̩]
  • little [ˈlɪtɫ̩]
  • Favre [ˈfɑvɹ̩]
  • acre [ˈeɪkɹ̩]
  • centre [sɛntɹ̩]
  • button [ˈbʌtn̩]
  • even [ˈiːvn̩]
  • awful [ˈɔːfɫ̩]
  • rhythm [ˈɹɪðm̩]

Those all have two syllables, and all without a vowel in the second syllable. The consonants are acting as the syllabic center, which makes them fundamentally vowel-behaving, normally called syllabic consonants.

If you are talking about why some people will (“mis‑”)pronounce words like cavalry as calvary, or for that matter croqueta as corqueta, please see metathesis.

  • 5
    I think you're wrong on Favre -- it's always pronounced by sports commentators with the r before the v: Farve. I noted some other examples in my comment on the question. The OP's examples aren't good ones, but there are some words where letters seem to be pronounced out of order.
    – Caleb
    Aug 8, 2012 at 14:49
  • 6
    So there are two pronunciations of "Favre"? One used by a famous athlete in the US, and one used by some random guy that tchrist knows. Interesting Aug 8, 2012 at 14:59
  • 2
    @tchrist Surely the most widely-known Favre is Brett Favre, the "NFL's All-Time Winningest Quarterback." Clearly, though, the pronunciation of his name is an exception.
    – Caleb
    Aug 8, 2012 at 15:04
  • 5
    @Caleb Never heard of such a ho-hum him. I would rather die than submit to spectator sports: give me bread, not circuses. Spectating is not sporting. Plus I’ve had no television for 36 years, so don’t go in for such drivel.
    – tchrist
    Aug 8, 2012 at 15:05
  • 4
    Favre is a Swiss-born painter and her name is pronounced /favr/. Aug 8, 2012 at 15:16

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.