Saturday, November 6, 2010

The great pronunciation controversy

Language is constantly changing, but that doesn't stop people having pronunciation pet hates. Which are yours?

Does the way you say "ate" rhyme with "mate" or "met"? How about "says" – does it sound like "sez" or "sayes"? Do you pronounce the eighth letter of the alphabet with an "h" sound at the beginning? Does "often" have a silent "t"?

An exhibition at the British Library is set to reignite debate in an area British people love to argue about – correct pronunciation, and how the way we say words is changing.

The accepted view among linguists is that language change is inevitable, and language has always evolved – with records of complaints about the "debasement" of English going back to the middle ages.

But that doesn't stop people complaining about the changes that really get their goat.

Which pronunciations do you love to hate? Where do you stand on "aitch" vs "haitch"? And to return to the title of this open thread, where does the stress fall on "controversy"?

Guardian. 2010. "The great pronunciation controversy". Guardian. Posted: October 28, 2010. Available online:

1 comment:

Ancient Scripts said...

The North American "can" versus "can't" drive me bonkers. When you say them fast and between words they become indistinguishable and people will ask you to repeat or clarify. I just skip the whole thing and say "cannot". I'd rather we pronounce this pair as /kæn/ and /kɑnt/ like some English dialects.