207 votes
Accepted

Why is Nike pronounced "naikee" and not "naik"?

Because Nike was the Greek goddess of victory (see Wikipedia) and final 'e's are not silent in Greek. Similarly, the final 'e' should be pronounced in the name Irene, as it is in other Greek-derived ...
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  • 17.8k
133 votes
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What's up with the pronunciation of "awry"?

PLEASE NOTE: English is not a tonal language like Cantonese, so I’m going to assume you are simply talking about stress, a phonemic property of English words which speakers of tonal languages may hear ...
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  • 127k
99 votes
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Why is "cupboard" pronounced with a silent "p"?

There are sev­er­al fac­tors in play here. Dif­fi­cult con­so­nant clus­ters are of­ten re­duced in rapid speech or over time; think of friend­ship, spend­thrift, twelfth, months. Much of the dif­...
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  • 127k
99 votes
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What is this famous example of the absurdity of English spelling?

Ghoti (/fɪʃ/) This fallacy arises from the incorrect application of the rules linking orthography to phonology1, resulting in an argument that 'ghoti' should be pronounced similarly to 'fish': gh, ...
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76 votes

Are there any English words pronounced with sounds/syllables that aren't part of the spelling?

Lieutenant in British English is pronounced with an f: /lɛfˈtɛnənt/.
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65 votes
Accepted

Why is Sean pronounced Shawn?

Sean (written "Seán" or "Séan" in Irish) is a Hibernization of the English name "John"; that is, it's a transliteration of "John" into a form which can be pronounced in Irish and written ...
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60 votes

ETcetera pronounced as EXetera ? Correct?

The pronunciation of "et cetera" is an extremely common pet peeve, to the extent that there is a lot written about it on the Internet already. E.g. https://forum.wordreference.com/threads/...
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  • 73.8k
57 votes
Accepted

Are there any words whose spelling was deliberately changed to make them non-offensive?

The seed of Guizotia abyssinica used to be known as niger seed. That combination of letters is pronounced differently from the much more common word with a similar spelling, and the difference ...
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  • 21k
55 votes

Is the mispronunciation of foreign words especially likely in English?

The problem is that there are a number of hidden assumptions behind this question that need to be picked away before the question can even be posed. Let me take them one by one. Are there other ...
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52 votes

What is the proper way to say “Clinton”?

The English language has incredibly many different regional accents, leading to the same words being pronounced differently by different people, sometimes in different places and other times in the ...
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  • 127k
52 votes

Why is Nike pronounced "naikee" and not "naik"?

English spelling does not have a one-to-one relationship with English pronunciation, so it shouldn't be too much of a surprise that "Nike" does not rhyme with "bike" and "...
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  • 73.8k
52 votes

Why does "signature" have a "g" sound but "sign" doesn't?

Short answer: When the <gn> comes word-initially or word-finally, the /g/ often gets removed. However, in word-medial position, the /g/ is sometimes pronounced when it's followed by a vowel (...
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49 votes
Accepted

Are there any English words pronounced with sounds/syllables that aren't part of the spelling?

Probably "yes", but it depends on what you mean. There isn't actually a clear way to identify which sounds in a word correspond to which letters: for example, rough, which you say has ...
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  • 73.8k
47 votes

Why is Sean pronounced Shawn?

Matt's answer here is close but off in a few regards. The semi-Anglicised Sean is formed by removing the fada (accute accent) from the Irish name Seán. It is a Gaelicisation (more specific than ...
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  • 52.1k
47 votes

I'd like to know the spelling of a word, a synonym of unknown

When a person’s identity is unknown (which is often the case when a dead body is found, before the body is identified) or must be anonymised, but the person still needs to be entered into some kind of ...
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37 votes

ETcetera pronounced as EXetera ? Correct?

Pronunciations vary according to the local dialect, as well from person to person. There are many examples of variants according to local dialect, even within the same country. It's not reasonable to ...
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  • 3,230
34 votes

Are there any words whose spelling was deliberately changed to make them non-offensive?

Did you know that the original name for Pac-Man was Puck-Man? You'd think it was because he looks like a hockey puck but it actually comes from the Japanese phrase 'Paku-Paku,' which means to flap ...
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  • 664
33 votes

Are there words that are spelled the same but pronounced differently depending on whether the initial letter is capital or lowercase?

There are more than two actually. Here's a list of twelve heteronym pairs in which one word is capitalized (typically, a proper noun), and the other is not: August /ˈɔːgəst/ (proper noun) and august ...
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  • 42.5k
32 votes

Are there any English words pronounced with sounds/syllables that aren't part of the spelling?

"Colonel", which is pronounced identically to "kernel", as though the "lo" in the middle was somehow an "r".
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31 votes
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Why did the letter “o” disappear in the word “pronunciation”?

The direct answer to your immediate question is because it never had one — and so of course it couldn’t possibly lose something it never had. The problem is that you’ve asked a bit of a backwards ...
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  • 127k
29 votes
Accepted

What's with the 'heigth' pandemic?

Heighth is no error It is a misunderstanding that the spelling or pronunciation of heighth is an illiterate and uneducated error. Although many wrongly consider it such, history is not on their side,...
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  • 127k
29 votes

Why drop the “i” in “explanation”?

The question should be: where did that i come from. If we look at etymonline we find the following: (emphasis mine) explain (v.) early 15c., from Latin explanare "to make level, smooth out;" ...
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  • 35.8k
29 votes
Accepted

Why isn't "connoisseur" spelled "connaisseur"?

Why spell it connoisseur? You’ve basically answered your own question here. The French word has been spelt connaître for close to two centuries. Connoisseur was borrowed into the English language ...
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28 votes

Why did the letter “o” disappear in the word “pronunciation”?

The answer to this question is that the 'O' got squashed out of the root by "rhythmic clipping". First of all, one might think that there has never been an 'O' in the word pronunciation. In fact, ...
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26 votes

What is this famous example of the absurdity of English spelling?

Another is ghoughphtheightteeau, which is pronounced potato. Spacing it out: gh ough phth eigh tte eau gh for P as in Hiccough ough for O as in Dough phth for T as in Phthisis eigh for A as in ...
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25 votes
Accepted

Why are Leicester & co pronounced as they are?

These are all quite old names with many syllables—an ideal place for ellipsis, elision, and contraction. The -cester bit is from the Old English word ceaster, which in itself is borrowed from Latin ...
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23 votes
Accepted

Why doesn't English spelling vary with region that much?

They did in the really old days, even 2 people sat next to each other spelt things differently (think of young kids learning to write). But in the 17 century they invented dictionaries, but It was ...
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  • 2,307
22 votes

Is the mispronunciation of foreign words especially likely in English?

Whether people can pronounce a foreign word depends more on if the sounds are familiar than on if they have a familiar way to write them. Many Japanese speakers are well aware of the difference ...
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  • 73.8k

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