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Fun With Words

Language is fun. And so here goes Commonly Mispronounced Words. (thanks to Jennifer) Much to my amusement, "February," the recent star here in KEC Journal, is on the list. Oh yeah, I know you have some objections. ;)

Also, see Commonly Misspelled Words. One thing I find interesting is that Japanese learners of English wouldn't misspell "sensible" as "sensable." That doesn't mean, of course, Japanese in general have gleat tarent in English sperring. That's simply because most learners tend to learn English words by spelling and pronounce them as they are spelled, so the "i" is most likely to be pronounced dutifully.


According to the site, OFF-en, not OFT-en, is the correct pronunciation of often, but the dictionary says that both are correct, so I'll continue saying OFT-en. Why have the "t" there is nobody's going to say it?

In many Mead or Five Star notebooks there's a panel in the back with a list of measurements, conversions, multiplication tables, and commonly misspelled words. Unfortunately, I doubt they actually improve spelling, but it's a good reference point.

I don't think I know *anyone* that pronounces "often" as "offen" unless they're speaking very sloppily.

And I don't know anyone who pronounces it ofT-en. According to "The Oxford Guide to the English Language", "...the 't' is silent; as in 'soften'." Clive, do you pronounce that sofT-en.

Where did these silent letters come from? Well they weren't always silent. English borrowed huge numbers of words from two diverse sources: Germanic and Romantic. Just as Japanese katakanizes English words to fit Japanese pronunciation--changing both the spelling and the sound of the word into something unrecognizable to native speakers, so English did to German, Latin, and French words.

The invention of the printing press slowed down the changes in spelling and grammar and created a need for standardization and the first dictionaries. People have been arguing about the right way ever since. Good thing, too. The only static language is a dead language. Remember, Shakespeare made up hundreds, perhaps thousands, of words that we still use today.


Hmm, I don't say sofTen, but I do say ofTen. Odd. It might have something to do with different accents or dialectic differences in the English language on a global scale though. Being born in England, and raised by English parents I have different ways of saying some words. However, having said that, living in Australia then makes me say other words differently. Just to confuse things, I've ofTen :) been told I sounds much more English when I'm speaking to other English people, or am on the phone, and very Australian when talking to Australians. I dread to think what my Japanese sounds like :D.

Just as an aside, for those who aren't from England or Australia, there are a wide variety of different accents in both places - particularly England, so it's important not to assume that all English or Australian people speak like Tony Blair or Steve Irwin.

I guess it depends on where you live and what the local English dialect is. My English teacher's from Atlanta and he's got a really heavy accent. "Far" is pronounced "for", "police" is "po-lice," everything he says is so different from what we're used to hearing. Too bad the pronunciation of often is not on the American dialect map. http://hcs.harvard.edu/~golder/dialect/maps.php

I don't know if I'm misunderstanding the website, but I can't find very many words that Shakespeare made up. It looks like he took words altered their meanings.

Clive--My husband, who is from Manchester, UK, says the T in often, but not in soften. (I just asked him, but I'd never noticed it before.)

Coincidentally (because I'm studying the various Japanese words for to put on/to wear: きる、はく、かぶる、つける--they make my head hurt!), I've come across another one that fits this pattern: fast -> fasten.

Jessica--There are a lot of sites on Shakespeare's coined words, just google "Shakespeare coined words" to find them. The one I listed isn't the most extensive, but I thought the in-depth explanations interesting. A coined word isn't made up, necessarily, from scratch. It usually morphs from some other form, or language--like using blog and google as verbs. I think that JK Rowling, for instance, does a brilliant job of coining magical words and phrases from Latin or Latin-sounding roots.

Here's another Shakespeare site.

Thanks for your visit and commnent.
I'm embarrassed as u are an Engrish Tcher married for decades....
For your information, this is one of my favorite sites. You'll also like it.
http://www.engrish.com [JAPANESE ENGRISH]

A great discussion is going on. :)

Hi, Machilin. It's true I've been married for two decades, but why does it embarrass you? Ha ha! I'm joking. I'm very glad you came here. :) I know about the "Engrish" site. It's a fun site.

M: The pronounced "T" may be something that occurs in the Manchester accent as well as Northern English accents, as my father lived most of his life in Stockport - which is just north of Manchester, and my mother pronounces it the same, and her family is from Norfolk. I also pronounce the T in "hasTen". Yeah, I think it's an accent thing.

Mmmm...that North English accent...I think I fell in love with the way he spoke before I even knew him.

If you wondered whether that scene in "Love Actually" about the American girls falling for the English guy just because of his accent is realistic, I'd have to say it's mostly true, though exaggerated. Whenever we go somewhere, sales ladies, store clerks, doctor's secretaries always ask me, "Oh, where is your husband from? He has the most delicious accent." (sigh. swoon.) This, of course, embarrasses him completely.

MSS-I guess I was confused when you said "made up words." I thought you meant he invented new words, not came up with new phrases using existing words.

J.K. Rowling and brilliant in the same sentence? Sounds like a bad case of Harry Potter fever.