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211 votes
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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 ...
Kate Bunting's user avatar
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142 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, ...
marcellothearcane's user avatar
133 votes
Accepted

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 ...
tchrist's user avatar
  • 136k
77 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/.
curiousdannii's user avatar
66 votes

Is the D in words like Fridge and Bridge silent?

First, we must distinguish spelling from pronunciation. As we all know, there are words that have excess letters (e.g., "though") or inconsistent letters ("jump" but "ginger&...
siride's user avatar
  • 1,052
62 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/...
herisson's user avatar
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57 votes
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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 ...
Chris H's user avatar
  • 21.8k
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 ...
John Lawler's user avatar
54 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 "...
herisson's user avatar
  • 83.4k
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 ...
tchrist's user avatar
  • 136k
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 (...
Decapitated Soul's user avatar
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 ...
herisson's user avatar
  • 83.4k
45 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 ...
Aerom Xundes's user avatar
43 votes

Is the D in words like Fridge and Bridge silent?

Yes, there is a slight d sound in fridge and vestige just as there is a slight d sound in legion but not in lesion. In the same way, there is a slight t sound in which but not in wish. This has ...
tchrist's user avatar
  • 136k
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 ...
March Ho's user avatar
  • 3,260
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 ...
xDaizu's user avatar
  • 664
33 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".
David Rice's user avatar
31 votes

Is the ‘t’ in ‘witch’ considered a silent t?

There's no rigorous or official definition of what a "silent letter" is. The sound represented by the letters "tch" in "witch" is what linguists call an affricate. These ...
herisson's user avatar
  • 83.4k
23 votes
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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 ...
WendyG's user avatar
  • 2,438
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 ...
herisson's user avatar
  • 83.4k
22 votes

When someone spells out letters in dialogue, should they be capitalized? "P-L-E-A-S-E" vs. "p-l-e-a-s-e"

Whether in dialogue or not, proper naming of a single letter of the alphabet varies by style guide. Options include uppercase, lowercase, in quotes, bold, or italics: Chicago Manual of Style (CMOS) ...
Ellie Kesselman's user avatar
21 votes

Is the mispronunciation of foreign words especially likely in English?

Are there other languages out there, more phonetic than English, in which the sound of foreign words can be specified adequately? (I think you may have meant to say 'with a more robust writing system'...
Jeutnarg's user avatar
  • 1,021
21 votes

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

It is not quite what you're looking for as the spelling wasn't changed just a little, but rapeseed has been changed to canola, to protect people's sensibilities about rape.
Dan White's user avatar
  • 372
20 votes

What is this word for a person more knowledgable than an aficionado?

Could it be cognoscenti? co·gno·scen·ti ˌkänyəˈSHentē,ˌkäɡnəˈSHentē noun people who are considered to be especially well informed about a particular subject.
Jim MacKenzie's user avatar
20 votes

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

"Ghoti" is typically attributed to George Bernard Shaw, the 'relatively well known author' (I am sure he would have objected to the "relatively"!). Wikipedia says: The first confirmed use of the ...
user243356's user avatar
20 votes

Actor, motor, tutor, ... mentor?

Most likely, Mentor is pronounced differently from actor etc because it was derived from a name. "wise adviser," 1750, from Greek Mentor, friend of Odysseus and adviser of Telemachus (but often ...
Lawrence's user avatar
  • 38.8k
19 votes

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

It is important to remember that English spelling, traditionally, has no intention of describing pronunciation - its intent is rather to describe etymology (ie word origin). Only incidentally, through ...
Pieter Geerkens's user avatar
19 votes

Why do we pronounce pretty like /ˈprɪtɪ/?

Nobody knows! The OED says “The form history and pronunciation history are complex, and present a number of difficulties which have not been adequately explained.” So nobody really knows exactly why ...
tchrist's user avatar
  • 136k
18 votes

Should "ate" and "eight" be pronounced exactly alike?

Not necessarily. In BrE, ate is sometimes pronounced /et/, and the Cambridge Dictionary gives this pronunciation. Even if ate is pronounced like eight, there may well be subtle differences. In AmE, ...
Mick's user avatar
  • 9,420

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