Thursday, February 6, 2014

The Unpronounceable

Sometimes I hate words. Not writing them—that I kind of like. Saying them. Pronouncing them, to be specific. As someone who has spent the past three years reading different etymologies, I get that spellings are created more by history than common sense (I’m looking at you, silent letters). But sometimes it’s just ridiculous.

An A and a U. Seems like it would be pronounced like it is in applaud or haunt. But no. It’s like the U isn’t even there. It took me until high school to figure out that it was supposed to be pronounced like the end of engage. I still say it the other way in my head, though.

It’s supposed to be Har with a Th at the end, not a Earth with an H up front. Frankly, I blame this one entirely on the ea digraph. It has way too many pronunciations to be reasonable.

I always pronounced this “flassid”. I never even thought about how if you drop the Fl and put ent at the end, you get the word accident, which I always say “aksident”. But pronouncing it “flaksid” sounds weird to me. Thankfully, the pronunciation is acceptable either way, so I’m sticking with flassid.

What does the middle letter look like to you? Because to me, it looks like an l, which means it has an L sound. But nooooo. It’s silent, lah-dee-frickin-dah. The British, showing great common sense, do pronounce it “sahlve”, however Americans say “sahve”. I’m going to have to either get people to start saying it with an L or move to England because this is unacceptable.

Informal poll time: How do you pronounce flaccid? How do you pronounce salve (and what country are you from)? Are there any words that have spellings and pronunciations you can’t reconcile? Answer in the comments.


  1. I'm pretty good with pronunciations. This is what the English language gets for being such a melting pot of words.

  2. Pronunciation I can do. It's the weird spellings that make me pull my hair out.

  3. Actually, "hearth" is like "harth," not like earth with an h.
    And I usually pronounce "salve" the British way, because the other way sounds too hick to me. This is me being from the South saying that. Actually, I pronounce more than a few words in the British way. That's weird, right?

  4. Sometimes I pronounce things wrong too. Its the spelling that sometimes gets me.

  5. And here I've spent years pronouncing hearth like earth with an H at the front... and not the proper way.

  6. Where did I read this? It was something about how some very literate people end up not knowing how to pronounce certain words because they've only seen them in print. Oh, I remember! It was a cartoon I saw someplace. I'll see if I can find it again...

    I do flassid. And the L in salve. I use gauge all the time in knitting, so I say that one correctly.

    Sometimes it's fun to read aloud in classes. Some of the corrections I end up making...

    What about timbre? Or clique? (I still want to give that one a French spin.) Or queue?

  7. I must have some British in me because I pronounce the "L" in salve. ;)


Please validate me.