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Feb-You-Ary?

One of the things that bother me while teaching new students is the pronunciation of "February". How do you pronounce the word? Most Americans would say like, "feb-yoo-ary", I suppose. In fact, in almost all CDs that come with the textbooks I use in class, the word is pronounced that way.

It's not that I always hate the fact that a vast number of English words are not pronounced the way they are spelled. I'm happy with pronouncing "often" without "t". I'm not in any way opposed to saying "bomber" as "bommer". I don't have the nerve to pronounce "thought" as "thor-GH-t". I'm not in a position to criticize the way native speakers use English. I, as a non-native speaker, simply follow the commonly used ways.

But, folks, I don't have the nerve to say "feb-yoo-ary". I just can't. I don't know how the heck the pronunciation gained ground among so many native speakers. How can you ignore the "r" that sits firmly in the middle of the word? Besides, Febuary, oops, February is the month when I was born. It's a very special month for me. So, I cannot help respecting every single letter in the word. I cannot give the lovely r-chan a hard time.

I would continue to pronounce "February" as "feb-roo-ary" even if the rest of the world found it funny. Maybe.

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Comments

Power too you my brother. I too, pronounce r-chan very distinctly. And I also use the T in often. But then again, I too am a teacher and I just can't seem to help myself.

To this day, I have to pause for a moment when writing "February" in order to make sure I include the extra "r", for I have always pronounced it "FEB-yoo-ary". And it's rare that I hear anyone else include the "r" in the pronunciation - and even then, it's subtle enough to go unnoticed.

But I'm also a Texan, so I'm used to soft pronunciations. I by no means speak with a heavy accent, but I have a really difficult time making the transition from the "b" to the "roo" should I try to pronounce February "correctly". It's as if my throat closes off at that instant.

Nice one! I am an Australian I subtly pronounce the r-chan. I'm not down with the whole American pronounciation of the English language funk. I like your writting.

Not sure if it's any consolation: The New Oxford American Dictionary (2001) says that the variant you complain of is "fast becoming a standard pronunciation" while the variant "tradidionally regarded as correct" has both instances of /r/ intact, with a reduced vowel /ə/, aka *schwa*, in the middle.

Hail Unicode!

ə!

... and don't get hung up on details like these.

Here's a good article on stuff that matters:

http://www.eltnews.com/features/teachingideas/010_1jg.shtml

I'm with Jeff on this one, but maybe because I'm a Texan too. (Or rather I've lived in Texas the last 30 years--Texans are like the Japanese; you can't really be a Texan unless you were born here.)

Anyway. I don't think I've ever heard anyone pronounce the first "r" in February--and like Jeff, I always have to double-check my spelling.

But to see whether this is just an affectation of us dumb Americans, I called up my husband, who is from Manchester, UK to hear his pronunciation. Definitely Fe-byou-air-ee. (Most of the time we have a "you say to-may-to, I say to-mah-to" relationship. You should hear our arguments over the pronunciation of the word "caulk".)

In Japanese, why does "ano hito" sound like "a no...shto"? I get the unvoiced vowel in "hi", but where did the s sound come from?

I'm from Kansas, and have always pronounced the first "r". Perhaps it's because my birthday is also in February... ;-)

I've always been of the opinion that common mistakes shouldn't be taught as proper speech (though February is probably too far gone to save, lol). A favorite of mine is "nuclear." It's "noo-clee-er." Not "noo-kyoo-ler." I even hear newscasters say the latter now. This has become increasingly common over the last 20 years, yet it makes me cringe every time I hear it!

This is among the many examples of why I think to myself no less than once a week how horrible of a language modern English is. Even as a native speaker, I think all the exceptions to rules (e.g. verb conjugation) and strange pronunciations are ridiculous. French has some strange pronunciation, but at least they try to keep their language pure.

If you pronounce the first r in February, I believe that almost everyone would understand what you mean, and probably not even notice. You just need to be prepared to hear others say it the lazy way.

The example of "noo-kyoo-ler" is also one of my pet peeves. I was upset to find it in Merriam-Webster (m-w.com)'s sample pronunciations. Another one, at least in this area (lower Michigan), is the word sherbet. Way too many people pronounce it "sherbert" and now m-w and wordnet list it as a valid spelling.

I've never heard anyone say February and pronounce the first r... sometimes people do, but not seriously. I didn't know that some people say the first r when they really say the word February.... and that it is the actual pronunciation?? is it? oh well, I will continue saying it without pronouncing the first r.

A word that really bothers me the way some people here (in the midwest) pronounce is how they say "wash." They will say it like "warsh." Where did they come up with saying an r in the word "wash?" THERE IS NO R!!! When I first moved here in elementary school my teacher was talking about George Washington, but she would say "Warshington"... I was so confused for the longest time as to who the heck she was talking about.

I take it back. I have heard the first r. But only if it's pronounced "fe brew air ee", not "feb ru air ee".

You might want to ask an actual linguist, lexicologist, or an etymologist about why February is pronounced Feb-yoo-ary at all.

I like phonects and I used to visit the speech accent archive a lot (http://classweb.gmu.edu/accent/) because I liked to here the way different people spoke English. You will get tired of hearing the same phrase over again, but it's still fun to listen. The AUE Audio Archive's fun to listen to too (http://alt-usage-english.org/audio_archive.shtml).

M,

Those who pronounce "shi" instead of "hi" are what is called Edokko, or people who are and whose ancesters were from Tokyo.

> You might want to ask an actual linguist, lexicologist, or an etymologist

Myself, I'd ask a phonetician =)

Phoneticians use different methods to describe sounds. The most traditional of these methods is "articulatory", meaning that you try to determine what the "articulators", i.e. various parts of the anatomy such as the tongue, do to create a particular sound.

When looking at consonants, such as /r/ ("round") and /j/ ("you"), it is customary to locate the place where the airstream passing through the oral cavity is subjected to maximum "obstruction", that is to say where the passage is narrowest or blocked altogether. Thus, /r/ is an "alveolar" sound: maximum obstruction occurs at the "alveolar ridge" (or "gum ridge") right behind the frontal teeth. In contrast, /j/ is articulated further back: maximum obstruction of the airsteam occurs in the region of the hard palate, which makes /j/ a palatal sound.

Why the change from /r/ to /j/, though? This is probably a case of "assimilation": /u/ is a "back" vowel (observe what the tongue is doing when you switch back and forth between the front vowel /i/ and the back vowel /u/). The trajectory the tongue has to travel from /r/ to /u/ is longer than the trajectory from /j/ to /u/, so it involves more effort. It might make sense to say that the consonant in front of the /u/ "assimilates" some of the back vowel's "backness", and thus shifts from the alveolar /r/ to the palatal /j/.

Don't quote me on that, however.

Febuary is a good word. Small month, small letters. Forget the "r", except on new years. I like Febuary, February just sounds weird. Those that like technical correctness :) have fun, but me, no thank you.