I now pronounce you

The other day I was listening to a podcast where two guys were talking about how they just realized they had been pronouncing the word “diphtheria” wrong their entire lives, and the first one that realized it only happened upon it when spellcheck corrected their “diptheria” attempt. “It’s pronounced diff-theria, not dip-theria, people. The first h isn’t silent.” And then they laughed that somebody would think that the first h could actually be silent. They were assuming that everybody else was misspelling the word too.

I immediately went, “Wait. What?” because I did think that first h was silent, and I did know that it was there in the word. I was a little skeptical, so I looked it up. And yeah. It’s diff-theria. “But what about those other ‘diph’ words? Like diphthong? You know – dip-thong.” And what do you know? It’s diff-thongHuh.

But you know what? I’m going to continue to continue pronouncing these as dip-theria and dip-thong, because 1) the “dip” form is noted in the dictionary as a secondary pronunciation, and 2) saying “diff” sounds kind of jerky and smug to me right now. Some words are like that. I know how to pronounce them correctly, but there’s something really snooty-seeming about doing so.

Here are some other words I know how to pronounce correctly but will continue to pronounce incorrectly until something big happens to change my mind:

  • karaoke
  • ukulele
  • Chan Marshall
  • Van Gogh
  • masseuse
  • New Orleans
  • lingerie
  • bona fides
  • forte
  • fracas
  • gimcrack
  • tinnitus

How about you? Please don’t say “sherbert.” I beg you.

Published in: on May 24, 2017 at 6:42 pm  Leave a Comment  
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