List of words of disputed pronunciation

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The following is a list of words and names which are often pronounced by native speakers of the English language in ways which many others consider to be incorrect. In some cases, speakers disagree on how to pronounce borrowed foreign words; in other cases, the dispute arises from the effect of spelling on a word not pronounced as it is spelled. Many heated arguments are disagreements between the residents of a place and outsiders on how to pronounce the name of a place.

Notes: 'AHD' is the American Heritage Dictionary. 'M-W' is the Merriam-Webster Dictionary (American). 'K&K' is A Pronouncing Dictionary of American English by John S. Kenyon and Thomas A. Knott. 'OED' is the Oxford English Dictionary. 'EEPD' is Everyman's English Pronouncing Dictionary by Daniel Jones (revised by A. C. Gimson, 14th edn., 1977), which focuses on RP. 'LPD' is the Longman Pronunciation Dictionary (1st edn., 1990) by John C. Wells, which provides both RP and General American (GenAm) pronunciations. 'MQD' is the Macquarie Dictionary (Australian). Some data come from the 1998 LPD pronunciation preference poll of British speakers; this is indicated by PPP below.

The pronunciations below are displayed in the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA). See International Phonetic Alphabet for English for information on how to decipher the different phonetic symbols.

Some pronunciations are subdivided into (a) GenAm (rhotic, no trap-bath split, and the father-bother merger) and (b) RP (nonrhotic, with trap-bath split and no father-bother merger). The differences between (a) and (b) forms are generally not the differences under discussion.

GenAm pronunciations are given first in these cases for consistency. This does not imply that GenAm pronunciations are preferred or are the local pronunciation in the case of place names.

The diphthong [oʊ] is to be interpreted as [əʊ] in RP (thus no and know would be transcribed as [noʊ], which means [nəʊ] in RP and [noʊ] in GenAm).

A dot [.] means a syllable boundary: for example, windy ['wɪn.di] (two syllables: ['wɪn-] and [-di]); the dot may be omitted where a stress mark, or ˌ], occurs: thus [æbˈdoʊm.ən] (one pronunciation of abdomen) has three syllables, the first being [æb-]. It should also be noticed that "the question of syllabification in English is controversial: different phoneticians hold very different views about it" (John C. Wells): for instance, some dictionaries, such as The American Heritage Dictionary, give for cousin a syllabification ['kʌz.ɪn], while others, such as Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary, give ['kʌ.zɪn].


Contents: Top - 0–9 A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z


[edit] A

  • abdomen  - (1) [æbˈdoʊm.ən], (2) [ˈæbd.əm.ən].
    The controversy is mainly about the position of the stress: (1) (with the stress on the second syllable) is the etymologically regular pronunciation (for this is a latinism of the medical science, and in Latin abdomen, with a long -o-, is pronounced with the stress on the penultimate syllable, -do-). Though (2) (with the stress on the first syllable) seems to be more common on the whole, and is therefore recorded in the first place by LPD and other authorities, in EEPD we find this interesting note: [-ˈdoʊm-] “is the form generally used by members of the medical profession”. (With both (1) and (2), the word may also end in [-ɪn] or [-en].)
  • analogous  - (1) [əˈnæləgəs], (2) [-dʒəs].
    (1) is the prescriptively “correct” pronunciation, and the one given first (or the only one given) by most dictionaries. (2) (with a soft instead of a hard -g-), a pronunciation influenced by the noun analogy ([əˈnælədʒi]) – thus a good example of an analogical pronunciation itself, is widely heard and often stigmatized as a “mispronunciation”.
  • Ant(h)ony  - (1) [ˈænt.ən.i], (2) [ˈænθ-].
    According to LPD, (1) predominates in British English, (2) in American English. (2) (with [-θ-], as in thick [θɪk]) is a spelling pronunciation, and originated from the spelling Anthony (but also Antony; and compare Mark Antony, e. g. in Shakespeare, Tony, Antonia). As for this spelling with -th-, it comes from a false etymology: the Greek noun ánthos, meaning flower (instead, Ant(h)ony is a Roman name, Antonius).
  • applicable  - (1) [ə.ˈplɪkəbl], (2) [ˈæp.lɪkəbl].
    PPP gives 84% preference for (1) vs. 16% preference for (2); an earlier poll reported in LPD gives 77% for (1) and 23% for (2). American dictionaries (AH, K&K, M-W) give (2) first; OED gives only (2).
  • arctic - (1)(a) [ˈɑɹ.tɪk] (b) [ˈɑː-], (2)(a) [ˈɑɹk.tɪk] (b) [ˈɑːk-]
    The debate is whether or not the <ct> cluster is pronounced [kt] or just [t]. M-W lists both, with (1) first, but OED only lists (2) while noting that the oldest spelling (dating from the 14th century) is Artik, implying that (1) is the older pronunciation. EEPD lists only (2). LPD lists both for both British and American English, but marks (1) as "considered incorrect" for British. K&K list both but mark (1) as "now rare". Generally, the same pronunciation for the <ct> cluster is used for both arctic and antarctic. However, M-W lists (2) first for antarctic.
  • asphalt - [æsfælt].
    Often pronounced as though there were an h before the p as well as after it. M-W lists both pronunciations (and also notes that the vowel in the second syllable may vary).
  • Arkansas  - (1)(a) [ˈɑɹ.kən.ˌsɔ] (b) [ˈɑː-], (2)(a) [ɑɹ.ˈkæn.zəs] (b) [ɑː-]
    Arkansas is the name of a state (Arkansas), a river (Arkansas River), and a city Arkansas City, Kansas. (1) is commonly used for the state and the river, and (2) is usually used only for the river and the city. Some insist (2) is the only correct pronunciation for the river. In the state of Kansas, (2) is often used to refer to the state, as well.
  • ask  - (1)(a) [æsk] (b) [ɑːsk], (2)(a) [æks], (b) [ɑːks]
    (1) - (a) or (b) according to region - is the standard pronunciation. (2)(a) is common in the U.S., especially in AAVE, but is considered nonstandard. Most dictionaries do not list pronunciation (2)(a), but M-W does, although it is labeled dialectal. (2)(b) is listed in LPD, labeled "considered incorrect". The variation between [-sk] and [-ks] in this word dates back to Old English, where both āscian and ācsian are found. According to OED, ax was the regular literary form until nearly 1600.
  • associate  (verb) and association - (1) [ə.ˈsoʊ.si.eɪt] and [ə.ˌsoʊ.si.ˈeɪʃən], (2) [-ʃi-]
    OED gives only (2) for the verb and lists (2) first for the noun. K&K lists only (2) for the verb and lists (1) first for the noun, noting, "It is doubtful which of these two prons. prevails." M-W lists (1) first for both verb and noun. EEPD, AHD, and LPD list (2) first for the verb and (1) first for the noun. PPP indicates a 69-31% preference for (1) in the verb and a 78-22% preference for (1) in the noun.
  • aunt  - (1)(a) [ænt], (b) [ɑːnt], (2) [ɑːnt]
    Speakers with the trap-bath split invariably pronounce the word [ɑːnt]; however, those speakers without the split are not consistent. Pronunciation (2) preponderates in New England and African American Vernacular English. The OED only lists pronunciation (2), although it lists an /æ/ alternative for most other words affected by the trap-bath split. Most American dictionaries list both, with (1) first.

[edit] B

  • banal  - (1) [bə.'næl], (2) ['beɪ.nəl], (3) [bə'nɒl], (4) ['bæn.əl], (5) [bə.'nɑl]
    (1) bə.'næl, rhyming with canal, is preferred by 46 percent of the Usage Panel. Other possibilities are (2) 'beɪ.nəl, rhyming with anal, preferred by 38 percent; (3) bə'nɒl, the last syllable rhyming with doll, preferred by 14 percent (this pronunciation is more common in British English), and (4) 'bæn.əl, rhyming with panel (which is a pronunciation recommended sixty years ago by H.W. Fowler, but now regarded as recondite by most Americans), preferred by only 2 percent of the Usage Panel. There are also other pronunciations listed in various dictionaries, including (5) bə.'nɑl.
  • Boise  - (1) [ˈbɔɪ.zi], (2) [ˈbɔɪ.si]
    (2) is the pronunciation used by locals, but (1) is more common outside of Idaho. Only (2) is listed in K&K.
  • booth  - (1) [buːθ], (2) [buːð]. (1) predominates in America, being the only pronunciation listed in AHD and M-W, the first pronunciation listed in K&K, and the only pronunciation listed for American English by LPD. (2) predominates in Britain, being the only pronunciation listed in OED and EEPD, and the first pronunciation listed for British English by LPD. PPP shows a 62-38% preference for (2), but indicates that (1) is preferred in Scotland.

[edit] C

  • cafe, café  - (1) [kæ.ˈfeɪ], (2) [ˈkæ.feɪ], (3) [kæf], (4) [keɪf]
    (1), with the stress on the second syllable, is most common in the U.S., and American dictionaries list it as the only possible pronunciation. (2), with the stress on the first syllable, is most common outside the U.S., and is listed in both the OED and the MQD. (3) is listed in both OED and MQD for the word caff, which is defined as colloquial or jocular slang for cafe. MQD labels (4) as a humorous pronunciation for cafe. LPD says (3) and (4) are used in RP only facetiously.
  • caramel  - (1)(a) [ˈkɑɹ.ml̩] (b)[ˈkɑː-], (2) [ˈkæɹ.ə.ˌmɛl]
    Most dictionaries list both pronunciations.
  • Caribbean  - (1) [kæɹ.ə.ˈbi.ən] (2) [kə.ˈrɪ.bi.ən]
    Most dictionaries list both pronunciations as acceptable, but PPP shows a 91-9% preference for (1). The Disneyland ride (and related entertainment offerings) "Pirates of the Caribbean" is pronounced with (1). It is sometimes suggested to use (1) for the noun (as in Pirates of the Caribbean) and (2) for the adjective (a Caribbean island), but there is no etymological reason to support such a distinction.
  • cervical  – (1) [sə.ˈvaɪk.l] (2) (a) [ˈsɝːv.ɪk.l] (b) [ˈsɜːv-]
    According to both LPD and EPD, (1) (also with a long schwa, thus [sɜː.ˈvaɪk.l]) is more common in British English (RP), (2) is the only pronunciation in General American.
  • Chinese  - [tʃaɪ.ˈniz]
    Most dictionaries list only the pronunciation with stress on the second syllable. K&K and LPD note that stress may shift to the first syllable when an initially stressed word follows, as in the phrase Chinese cabbage.
  • comfortable  - (1)(a) [kʌɱ.fə.tə.bəl] (b) [kʌɱ.fɚ.tə.bəl], (2) [kʌɱf.tə.bəl], (3) [kʌɱf.tɚ.bəl]
    AHD lists all three pronunciations. (3) with r-metathesis is common in American English.
  • comparable  - (1) ['kɒm.pə.rə.bəl] (2) [kəm.'pæ.rə.bəl].
    (2) is not uncommon in colloquial speech, but not usually found in dictionaries. It is listed in M-W but marked with ÷, meaning usage problem.
  • controversy  - (1)(a) [ˈkɑn.tɹə.ˌvɝ.si] (b) [ˈkɒn.tɹə.ˌvɜː.si], (2) [kən.ˈtɹɒ.və.si]
    (1) is listed in all dictionaries. (2), with stress on the second syllable, is listed as an optional British pronunciation, even in American dictionaries like M-W, although notably, (2) is not listed in OED. EEPD and LPD list (1) first. According to LPD, a poll among British speakers reveals a 56-44% preference for (2); the later PPP gives a 60-40% preference for (2) (probably not a significant difference, as this question had a high abstention rate).
  • coupon  - (1)(a) [ˈkuː.pɑn] (b) [-pɒn], (2)(a) [ˈkjuː.pɑn] (b) [-pɒn].
    (1) is listed first in AHD, K&K, and M-W. (1) is the only listing in EEPD and OED. (2) is marked "considered incorrect" in LPD. PPP shows a 94-6% preference for (1).

[edit] D

  • -day in names of days of the week - (1) [di], (2) [deɪ].
    Traditionally (1) is preferred, but in many areas (2) is preferred, especially when the word carries phrasal stress, so the difference is primarily regional.

[edit] E

  • envelope  - (1) [ˈɛn.və.ˌloʊp], (2)(a) [ˈɑn-] (b) [ˈɒn-]
    Most dictionaries list (1) and then (2). K&K call (2) "pseudo-French", pointing out that the actual French pronunciation is [ɑ̃ˈvlɔ̈p]. A survey of British speakers reported in LPD shows a 78-22% preference for (1).
  • equinox  - (1)(a) [ˈɛk.wɪ.nɑks] (b) [-nɒks], (2) [ˈiː.kwɪ-]
    (2) predominates in dictionaries: K&K lists only (2), and AHD, EEPD, LPD, M-W, and OED list (2) first. But PPP shows a 92-8% preference for (1).
  • err  - (1)(a) [ɝ] (b) [ɜː], (2)(a) [eɹ] (b) [eə].
    (1) rhymes with 'her', (2) is homophonous with 'air'. Most American dictionaries list both (1) and (2) although some list (2) before (1). OED, K&K, EEPD, and MQD only list (1). LPD lists (1) first for BrE, marking (2) "non-RP", but lists (2) first for AmE. At least in the U.S. (2) is heard much more often than (1).
  • evolution  - (1)(a) [ˌɛv.ə.ˈluːʃən] (b) also [-ˈljuː-], (2) [ˌiː.və-].
    (1) predominates in America: K&K and M-W list only (1), LPD lists only (1) for American English, and AHD lists (1) first. (2) predominates in Britain: (2) is listed first in LPD for British English and in EEPD, and PPP indicates an 85-15% preference for (2). But PPP says (1) is on the increase, and (1) is listed first in OED.

[edit] F

  • February  - (1) [ˈfɛb.ju.ˌwɛɹ.i], (2) [ˈfɛb.ɹu.ˌwɛɹ.i]
    (1) and (2) are listed in North American dictionaries and LPD, and (2) alone in other non–North American dictionaries. Strict prescriptivists insist on (2), with both 'r's pronounced. However, (1) is most common and accepted by most. M-W has this comment: "Dissimilation may occur when a word contains two identical or closely related sounds, resulting in the change or loss of one of them. This happens regularly in February, which is more often pronounced (1) than (2), though all of these variants are in frequent use and widely accepted." PPP indicates a 61-39% preference for (2), indicating however that this reflects "a sharp rise in /j/" compared with earlier surveys.
  • forehead  - (1)(a) [ˈfɔɹ.ɪd] (b) [ˈfɒɹ-], (2)(a) [ˈfɔɹ.ˌhɛd] (b) [ˈfɔː-].
    (1) is the older pronunciation, which rhymes with horrid (cf. the nursery rhyme There was a little girl who had a little curl right in the middle of her forehead/And when she was good she was very, very good, but when she was bad she was horrid), (2) is a newer spelling pronunciation. OED, EEPD, K&K, LPD, and M-W list (1) first; AHD lists (2) first. PPP shows a 65-35% preference for (2).
  • forte, forté  - (1)(a) [fɔɹt] (b) [fɔːt], (2)(a) [ˈfɔɹ.ˌteɪ] (b) [ˈfɔː-], (3)(a) [ˌfɔɹ.ˈteɪ] (b) [ˌfɔː-]
    The pronunciation of forte when it means one's strength or strong point, is disputed. M-W has this comment about usage: "In forte we have a word derived from French that in its 'strong point' sense has no entirely satisfactory pronunciation. Usage writers have denigrated (2) and (3) because they reflect the influence of the Italian-derived forte. Their recommended pronunciation (1), however, does not exactly reflect French either: the French would write the word le fort and would rhyme it with English for. So you can take your choice, knowing that someone somewhere will dislike whichever variant you choose. All are standard, however." LPD lists (2) as preferred in BrE and (1) as preferred in AmE. K&K lists only (1).
  • Friday - see -day

[edit] G

  • garage  - (1) [gə.ˈɹɑːʒ], (2) [gə.ˈɹɑːdʒ], (3) [ˈgæɹ.ɑːʒ], (4) [ˈgæɹ.ɑːdʒ], (5)[ˈgæɹ.ɪdʒ].
    (1) and (2) are the only pronunciations used in America; (1) is consistently listed before (2) in dictionaries. OED lists only (3) and (5), in that order. EEPD lists all five, giving (4) first and qualifying (1) and (2) with "occasionally". LPD gives the order (3), (4), (5); (1), (2) for British English. PPP shows a 39% preference for (5), 31% for (4), 25% for (3), and 5% for (1) and (2) together.
  • genealogy  (and related words) - (1) [ˌdʒi.ni.ˈæl.ə.dʒi], (2)(a) [ˌdʒi.ni.ˈɑl.ə.dʒi] (b) [-.ˈɒl.-].
    (1) is the historical pronunciation and reflects the spelling; it is listed by all dictionaries. AHD and M-W list both forms but (2) is listed first by both. In British English, form (2) is regarded as a simple mispronunciation and most British dictionaries list only form (1). LPD lists (2) for British English, but marks it as "considered incorrect". (2) has been influenced by the large number of words in -ology.
  • gigabyte  - (1) [ˈgɪ.gə.baɪt], (2) [ˈdʒɪ.gə.baɪt], (3) [ˈdʒaɪ.gə.baɪt], (4) [ˈgaɪ.gə.baɪt]
    The giga- prefix, derived originally from Greek γιγας (="giant"), has been traditionally pronounced as in (2), but (1) today is much more common at least in the United States. Most dictionaries include both (1) and (2) as acceptable pronunciations, and some dictionaries include (3) and (4) as well.
  • golf - (1)(a) [gɑlf] (b) [gɒlf], (2) [gɔːlf], (3)(a) [gɑf] (b) [gɒf], (4) [gɔːf], (5) [gʌlf], (6) [gəulf]
    (1) Is the preferred pronunciation in all dictionaries. (2)–(6) are less common variants listed in various dictionaries.
"For golf [gɒlf] is generally heard in southern English, but many who play the game say [gɒf] or [gɔːf], modifications of the Scotch forms of the word, [gɔʊf], [gaʊf]; an older spelling is gowf" (W. Ripman, English phonetics and Specimens of English, London, [1933]). LPD gives, for British English (RP), 1(b) as the standard pronunciation, with 3(b) and 4 as variants (furthermore, [gəʊlf] as a British English, but non-RP form); only [gɑːlf] and [gɔːlf] for American English (General American).
  • guillotine  - (1) [ˈgijətin], (2) [ˈgɪlətin]
    (2) is the main pronunciation used when the word was first adopted around the time of the French revolution, and, (1) with no l pronounced, has been labelled a "pseudo-French affectation" by pronunciation commentator Charles Harrington Elster in his Big Book of Beastly Mispronunciations, but is recognized by most dictionaries and is frequently heard. K&K list only (2).

[edit] H

  • H  (letter) - (1) [eɪtʃ], (2) [heɪtʃ].
    (2) is standard in Hiberno-English (LPD) and common though disputed in Australia. Elsewhere (1) is standard and (2) is considered incorrect. See Name of the letter H.
  • Hans - (1) [hɑnz], (2) [hænz], (3) [hɔnz]
    The standard German pronunciation of this name is [hans], and the vowel is short. The English pronunciations (1) and (2) reflect different ways of approximating the German vowel in varieties of English. In some dialects, the phone corresponding to [ɑ] is too high, and so they pronounce the name (3), which is usually with an elongated vowel (rhyming with pawns), similar to a pronunciation found in some southern German dialects.
  • harass  - (1) [hə.ˈɹæs] (2) [ˈhæɹ.əs]
    The debate is whether stress should occur on the first or second syllable. Most dictionaries list both pronunciations. AHD has this usage note: "Educated usage appears to be evenly divided on the pronunciation of harass. In a recent survey 50 percent of the Usage Panel preferred stressing the first syllable, while 50 percent preferred stressing the second. Curiously, the Panelists' comments appear to indicate that each side regards itself as an embattled minority." Even as early as K&K (published 1953) it was noted that the newer pronunciation (1) "appears to be on the increase". According to LPD, (2) is the traditional educated and RP pronunciation, with (1) being introduced to Britain from America in the 1970s (see Some Mothers Do 'Ave 'Em); a poll among British speakers cited in LPD revealed 68% for (2) against 32% for (1).
  • Hawaii or Hawaiʻi - (1) [ha.ʋai.ʔi], (2) [hɑ.ˈwɑ.i], (3) [hɑ.ˈwaɪ.i], (4) [hɑ.ˈvɑ.i], (5) [hɑ.ˈvaɪ.i]
    (1) is the Hawaiian pronunciation and official Hawaiian English pronunciation. The w is a labiodental approximant [ʋ], which may vary to [v] and [w], and is rendered in English as both [w] (2, 3) and [v] (4, 5). The ʻokina ʻ is a glottal stop [ʔ]. Hawaiian [aiʔi] is rendered in English either as (2, 4) or (3, 5). All pronunciations are standard, although the varieties with [w] are probably more common.

[edit] I

  • Illinois  - (1) [ɪləˈnɔɪ], (2) [ɛləˈnɔɪ], (3) [ɪləˈnɔɪz]
    The name of the state is usually pronounced with (1) or (2) by the locals (with either a short i [ɪ] or a schwa [ə] for the second "i"), although many view (2) as incorrect. (3) is often used by people outside the state as a jocular pronunciation.
  • Iran  - (1) [ɪ.ˈɹɑ(ː)n], (2) [ɪ.ˈɹæn], (3) [aɪ.ˈɹæn]
    (1) is the preferred pronunciation in most dictionaries, and the only pronunciation listed in OED. MQD lists (2) first. (3) is considered uneducated or unacceptable to some, but is listed first by K&K, followed by (1). (3) is the pronunciation which is least like the original Persian pronunciation [iːrɑːn].
  • Iraq  - (1) [ɪ.ˈɹɑ(ː)k], (2) [ɪ.ˈɹæk], (3) [aɪ.ˈɹæk]
    (1) is the preferred pronunciation in most dictionaries, and the only pronunciation listed in OED. MQD lists (2) first. (3) is considered uneducated or unacceptable to some. It is the pronunciation which is least like the original Arabic pronunciation [ʕiˈɾɑːq].
  • Islam  - (1) [ɪ.ˈslɑ(ː)m], (2) [ɪz.ˈlɑ(ː)m], (3) [ˈɪz.læm]
    (1) is closest to Arabic. (2), (3), and other variations with [z], [æ], and stress on the first syllable are all common, however.

[edit] K

  • kilometre /kilometer - (1)(a) [kɪ.ˈlɑm.ətɚ] (b) [-ˈlɒmətə], (2)(a) [ˈkɪləˌmiːtɚ] (b) [-tə]
    EEPD, K&K, OED list (2) first. AHD and M-W list (1) first. LPD gives (1) first for American English, (2) first for British English. OED says (1) is "prob. under the influence of such words as speedometer, thermometer, etc." but notes that (1) is the stress given by Webster (1828), Craig, and Cassell. K&K says (1) is "much less frequent". A 1988 poll of British speakers cited in LPD shows a 52-48% preference for (2), but PPP (ten years later) shows a 57-43% preference for (1).
  • Kyoto  - (1) [ˈkjoʊ.toʊ], (2) [ki.ˈoʊ.toʊ]
    The Japanese pronunciation of the name of this city is [kjoː.to]. Thus (1) is the English pronunciation most like the original Japanese. (2), however, is more common, as syllables beginning with [kj] are infrequent in English (unless the following vowel is [uː], for example cute) and are often broken into two syllables.

[edit] L

  • length  and strength - (1) [lɛŋ(k)θ] and [strɛŋ(k)θ], (2) [lɛnθ] and [strɛnθ]
    (1) is the more prestigious pronunciation and is the only pronunciation given in older dictionaries. In newer dictionaries (1) is listed first, with (2) given as a variant. (2) is traditionally stigmatized but may be gaining acceptance: the 1998 PPP shows an overall 84-16% preference for (1), but among speakers born since 1973 the preference for (2) rises to 30%.
  • Library - (1) [laI.brEri], (2) [laI.br@ri], (3) [laI.bri], (4) [laI.bEri]
  • Lima  - (1) [ˈli.mə], (2) [ˈlaɪ.mə]
    The capital of Peru is usually pronounced (1) (similar to the Spanish), although sometimes it is pronounced (2), which is how the bean and the city in Ohio are pronounced.
  • Linux  (1) [ˈlɪn.ʊks] (2) [ˈli.nuks] (3) [ˈlaɪnəks] (4) [ˈlɪnəks]
    A source of much debate on the internet, the "correct" pronunciation of Linux is not something likely to ever be settled. The person for whom the operating system is named, Linus Torvalds, is a Swedish-speaking Finn, and offers his take, both in audio [1] and prose [2]. Neither provides an entirely satisfactory answer, as the language barrier gets in the way. The fundamental problem is that both English and Swedish have both tense and lax variants of the high vowels: [i]/[ɪ] and [u]/[ʊ]. However, the vowels are located somewhat differently in the vowel space, and Swedish [ɪ] and [ʊ] are phonetically more similar to English [i] and [u], respectively. So when Linus Torvalds says (Swedish) [lɪnʊks], it sounds to English speakers like (English) [linuks]. So, depending on whether a phonetically accurate or phonemically accurate borrowing from Swedish is intended, either (1) or (2) is legitimate. However, when Linus Torvalds describes the pronunciation in terms of English words and uses English words with the short (or lax) vowels, one might conclude that his intention is for Linux to be pronounced with those vowels in English, as (1). (4) is simply a result of the standard phonological process in English of reducing unstressed vowels to schwa, and is thus a more English-sounding version of (1). Phonetically the difference between unstressed [ʊ] and schwa is very slight. (3) is based on the English pronunciation of Torvalds's first name Linus and has the added merit that it is the only pronunciation which respects the (admittedly unreliable) phonics rule, "When a syllable ends in any vowel and is the only vowel, that vowel is usually long" (hence pa/per, o/pen, u/nix).
  • loch  - (1)(a) [lɑk] (b) [lɒk]; (2)(a) [lɑx] (b) [lɒx]
    This Scots word for lake is pronounced by most English speakers as (1), with a final [k], as the voiceless velar fricative [x] is not normally in the sound inventory of English. Scots, however, and those English speakers who have acquired [x] for words like 'Chanukah' and 'Bach', will pronounce it as (2).
  • Louisville  - (1) [ˈlu.i.vɪl], (2) [ˈlu.ə.vɪl]
    Local pronunciation among speakers from the greater part of Kentucky is (2), although this may just reflect a local dialectal tendency to reduce unstressed [i]s to schwa. (1) is listed first in most dictionaries. Some native residents of the city (which has a tradition of amalgamation of Northern and Southern culture) do prefer (1).

[edit] M

  • Mama  and Papa - (1) /mɑmə/ and /pɑpə/, (2) /məmɑ/ and /pəpɑ/
  • Margarine***
  • Milngavie

Milngavie is a town to the North of Glasgow, Scotland. Its proper pronunciation is approximately "muhl-guy", however people from the West of Scotland take delight in mocking those from elsewhere, especially foreigners, who speak of "Miln-gavvy".

  • Missouri
  • Monday: see -day.
  • Moray - (1)(a) [ˈmɝi] (b) [ˈmʌ.ɹi], (2) [ˈmɒ.ɹeɪ], (3) [ˈmɔː.ɹeɪ], (4) [mɒ.ˈɹeɪ], (5) [mə.ˈɹeɪ], (6) [ˈmɔ.ˌɹeɪ]
    (1a, b) (like Murray in Britain and America respectively) is how the name of the Scottish region is pronounced. (2)-(6) are all pronunciations given by M-W, K&K, LPD, OED, and MQD for how the name of the eel is pronounced.
  • mores  - (1) [ˈmɔː.ɹeɪz], (2) [ˈmɔː.ɹiːz], (3) [mɔɹz]
    Most dictionaries list either (1) or (2). No major dictionary lists (3) as an acceptable pronunciation, and it is considered uneducated usage.
  • mortgage  - (1) [ˈmɔɹ.gɪdʒ], (2) [ˈmɔɹt.gɪdʒ]
    The "intrusive" [t] in (2) is a spelling pronunciation, and is not listed as an acceptable pronunciation in any dictionary. (1) is standard.

[edit] N

  • Nahuatl - (1) [ˈnɑ wɑ̆tɬ], (2) [ˈnɑː wɑt], (3) [nɑ wɑɾl̩].
    (1) is the native pronunciation. (2) is an English approximation of the native syllable structure. (3) (rhymes with bottle) is an American English approximation of the native sequence of points of articulation. (3) is the pronunciation given by M-W, AHD, OED (for American English), and the Oxford American Dictionary.
  • nephew  - (1) [ˈnev.ju:], (2) [ˈnef.ju:].
    (1) (with [-v-]) is the original, or etymologycal, pronunciation (nephew ultimately from Latin nepos, genitive nepotis, but via French neveu; middle English nevew), and is still used by a minority of speakers, especially of British English (according to LPD, 21% in 1988). Compare Stephen (also Steven) [ˈsti:v.n]). (2) is a spelling pronunciation, and is much more common, nowadays (especially in the United States).
  • nuclear  - (1)(a) [ˈnuː.kli.ɚ] (b) [ˈnjuː.kli.ə], (2)(a)[ˈnuː.kjə.lɚ] (b) [ˈnjuː.kjə.lə].
    (2) is generally considered nonstandard — more at nucular. PPP shows 6% preference for "nucular".

[edit] O

  • och, a Scottish cry of affirmation, should be pronounced [ɔx], with the velar fricative, like in 'loch'.
  • often  - (1)(a) [ˈɔː.fən] (b) [ˈɑː.fən] (c) [ˈɒf.ən], (2)(a) [ˈɔːf.tən] (b) [ˈɑːf.tən] (c) [ˈɒf-]. Some dictionaries list (2) as the preferred British pronunciation, although according to LPD a poll among British speakers revealed 73% preferred (1) and only 27% (2). Most post-1990 American dictionaries list both pronunciations, but some pre-1990 dictionaries list only (1).
  • Oregon  - (1)(a) [ˈɔɹ.ə.gən] (b) [ˈɒɹ-], (2)(a) [ˈɔɹ.ə.ˌgɑn] (b) [ˈɒɹ-]
    Residents of this U.S. state pronounce it as (1), and regard alternatives with secondary stress on the final syllable, such as (2), as incorrect, although that pronunciation is common outside of Oregon, particularly in states far away from Oregon. Locals of American towns or villages with the same name as the state, such as Oregon, Wisconsin, may prefer (2) to distinguish themselves from the state and consider (1) incorrect when referring to the town or village.

[edit] P

  • paella - (1) [pa.ˈe.ʝa], (2) [paɪ.ˈeɪ.jə], (3) [pɑ.ˈɛ.lə]
    (1) is approximately how it is pronounced in Spanish. (2) is the closest English approximation to the Spanish. (3) (with the /l/ pronounced) is the standard Castillian pronounciation.
  • patronize  - (1) [ˈpæt.ɹə.naɪz], (2) [ˈpeɪ.tɹə-]
    (1) predominates in Britain: OED and EEPD list only (1), and LPD lists only (1) for British English. PPP shows a 97-3% preference for (1). (2) predominates in America: AHD, K&K, and M-W list (2) first, and LPD lists only (2) for American English.
  • pianist  - (1) [pi.ˈæ.nɪst], (2) [ˈpi.ə.nɪst]
    American dictionaries generally list both (1) and (2), with (1) first. OED and MQD list only (2). LPD lists (1) first for AmE, (2) first for BrE. Some speakers insist on (1) as a form of taboo avoidance, since (2) may be confused with penis.
  • primer - (1)(a) [ˈpɹaɪ.mɚ] (b) [-mə], (2)(a) [ˈpɹɪm.ɚ], (b) [-ə]
    American English distinguishes the meaning relating to paint or explosives with (1), from the meaning "introductory book" (as in grammar primer) with (2). British English uses (1) for both meanings.

[edit] Q

  • Qatar - (1) [qʌ.tˤʌɾ], (2) [ˈkʌ.tʌɹ], (3) [ˈkɑ.tɚ], (4)(a) [ˈkʌt.ɚ] (b) [-ə], (5)(a) [ˈgʌt.ɚ] (b) [-ə], (6)(a) [kə.ˈtɑɹ] (b) [-ˈtɑː]
    (1) is approximately how it is pronounced in Arabic. (2) is thus the most straighforward approximation using sounds of English, although [ʌɹ] is very uncommon at the end of words. (4)(sounds like cutter) is the next closest approximation, and (3) (sounds like cotter) is similar to (4) except it uses the vowel [ɑ] as the spelling might imply, instead of a vowel normally associated with the letter <u>. (5) (sounds like gutter) is commonly heard because several Arabic dialects pronounce [q] as [g] [3] and to some ears, English [g] sounds closer to Arabic [q] than English [k] does. Finally, (6) (sounds like catarrh), with stress on the second syllable, is often heard. Word stress does not work the same way in Arabic as it does in English, so choosing which syllable to stress in a borrowed word can vary.

[edit] R

  • realtor  - (1)(a) [ˈɹiː(ə)l.tɚ] (b) [-tə], (2)(a) [ˈɹiː.lə.tɚ] (b) [-tə]
    (1) is the pronunciation preferred by the owner of this trademark (2) is listed in M-W, but it is marked as a disputed or substandard pronunciation. American English only, British English uses estate agent.
  • reich  - (1) [ʁaɪç], (2) [ɹaɪx], (3) [ɹaɪk], (4) [ɹaɪtʃ], (5) [ɹaɪʃ]
    The German pronunciation is approximately like (1), and the closest pronunciation using sounds of English is (3), which is the most common pronunciation. Some English speakers have the [x] sound (like in 'loch' and 'Chanukah') and so may produce (2). (4) is uncommon, but is how composer Steve Reich pronounces his name. (5) is uncommon, but is how Robert Reich, U.S. Secretary of Labor under Bill Clinton, pronounces his name.
  • reparable  (1) ['re.pə.rə.bəl], (2) [re.'peə.rə.bəl]
    Likewise 'irreparable'. No known dictionaries list (2), but it remains common in colloquial speech.

[edit] S

  • Saddam  - (1) [sə.ˈdɑm], (2) [sə.ˈdæm], (3) [ˈsɑ.dəm]
    (1) is closest to the Arabic. (2) and (3) are more anglicised pronunciations.
  • Saturday - see -day
  • schedule  - (1) [ˈʃɛd.juːl], (2) [ˈskɛd-], (3) [ˈʃɛdʒ.uːl], (4) [ˈskɛdʒ-]
    OED gives (1) and [ˈʃɛdəl], and gives (2) as a U.S. pronunciation. EEPD gives only (1). LPD lists them in the order (1), (3), (2), (4) for British English but gives only (4) for American English. K&K and M-W give (4) but include (1) as the British pronunciation. AHD gives (4) and [ˈskɛdʒ.əl]. That the word is of Greek rather than German origin suggests that the [sk-] pronunciations are more etymologically "correct".
  • scone  (1) [skəʊn], (2) [skɒn] </br> Largely dialectical: most dictionaries appear to list both.
  • señor  - (1) [se.ˈɲoɾ], (2)(a) [sɛn.ˈjɔɹ] (b) [-ˈjɔː], (3)(a) [sə.ˈnɔɹ] (b) [-.ˈnɔː]
    This Spanish word for mister is pronounced (1) in Spanish. (2) is the English approximation. The letter <ñ> is usually pronounced [nj] in English, and (3), with a plain [n], is not listed as an acceptable pronunciation in any major dictionary.
  • Shrewsbury  - (1) [ˈʃɹuz.bə.ɹi], (2) [ˈʃɹəʊz.bə.ɹi]
    This English town can be pronounced either (1) or (2), though LPD marks (1) as "non-RP". (2) sounds as though the town were spelled Shrowsbury (ow as in show).
  • strength - See length
  • Sunday - see -day

[edit] T

  • temperature  - (1)(a) [ˈtɛm.pə.ɹə.tjʊɹ] (b) [-tjʊə], (2)(a) [ˈtɛm.pə.ɹə.tʃɚ] (b) [-tʃə], (3)(a) [ˈtɛm.pɚ.tʃɚ] (b) [-pə.tʃə], (4)(a) [ˈtɛm.pɹə.tʃɚ] (b) [-tʃə]
    (1) is the pronunciation given by OED. (2) is the pronunciation given by most American dictionaries and by LPD. (3) and (4) represent common processes of schwa-deletion and vowel-r metathesis, respectively. All are common and acceptable, although (1) is probably more common in Britain than in the U.S.
  • Thursday - see -day
  • Tuesday - see -day

[edit] U

  • Uranus  - (1) [ˈjʊ.ɹə.nəs] (2) [jʊ.ˈɹeɪ.nəs] (3) [jʊ.ˈɹæ.nəs]
    Most dictionaries list both (1) and (2). (1) is historically the older pronunciation and reflects the first-syllable stress of the original Latin word. It is the only pronunciation given by K&K, and the first pronunciation given by LPD. It is possible that (2) began as a form of taboo avoidance because (1) sounds like urinous, but if so, the euphemism was hardly successful as (2) can be homophonous with your anus. (3) is a more recently coined third pronunciation that avoids both urinous and your anus.

[edit] V

  • valet  - (1) [væ.ˈleɪ], (2) [ˈvæ.lɪt], (3) [ˈvæ.leɪ]
    (1) is the more common pronunciation in the U.S., while (2) is preferred in Britain. K&K call (1) "pseudo-French", pointing out that the word has been in English with pronunciation (2) since the mid-16th century.(3) is common in Australia, especially in the phrase "valet parking".
  • vase – U.S. pronunciation prefers vase to rhyme with race – thus [veɪs] (with a voiceless -s) – or raise – thus [veɪz] (with a voiced -s). The -a- is normally pronounced as in father, and the -s is voiced, in contemporary British English – thus [vɑːz]; another British pronunciation, rhyming with cause – thus [vɔːz] –, seems to be obsolete (at least in Received Pronunciation): see LPD). The original (British) vowel is preserved in the modern American pronunciations, but shifted in c.1800s.

[edit] W

  • Washington  - (1) [wɔʃ-], (2) [wɔɹʃ-]
    (1) is the most common pronunciation, but there is a tendency in American midlands dialects to insert an "intrusive" [ɹ] between [ɔ] and [ʃ], giving (2) for the first syllable of Washington, and for the word wash.
  • Wednesday  - (1) [wɛnz-], (2) [wɛdn̩z-]
    (1) is the most common pronunciation, but the spelling pronunciation (2) is listed as a British variant in some dictionaries. For the final syllable, see -day.
  • Worcester  - (1)(a) [ˈwʊ.stɚ] (b) [ˈwʊ.stə] , (2) [ˈwɝ.stɚ], (3)(a) [ˈwɔɹ.tʃɛs.tɚ] (b) [ˈwɔː.tʃɛs.tə]
    (1) is the pronunciation insisted upon both by residents of the county town of Worcestershire in England and of Worcester, Massachusetts. (2) is sometimes found among speakers of rhotic dialects of English. (3) is often heard from those who are not familiar with the name, but it is not pronounced that way by locals of any of the places that bear the name. A similar issue occurs with the place names Leicester and Gloucester.

[edit] See also

List of words of disputed pronunciation

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