« Friday iPod Random Ten | Main | iGot iMac »

March 14, 2010



When my students tell me how hard French is, I remind them of some of this--as well as many words that are spelled the same but pronounced differently. (or spelled differently but pronounced the same!)

Cheri Wiles

I pride myself on being a strong speller, but honestly, "despair" and "desperation" will catch me up every time. (Dang. Hope I spelled them correctly there ...)


I'm not convinced on the religious--sacrilegious example. Sacrilegious comes from the word sacrilege, not religion. There must be a similar root to both words though. I wish an etymologist would explain it.


*geeks out*

Ok, so a 'p' is basically a voiceless 'b' (that is, you're making a hum when you say the 'b' but other than that they're the same lip and tongue movements [see also: k/g, t/d, f/v) and letters tend to take on the voicedness of the letter following them, so 'absorb' ends with a voiced 'b' but the voiceless 't' in 'absorption' steals the voicedness from the 'b' and makes it a 'p.' You're probably right about the spelling catching up with the pronunciation.

Linguistics! Nerdily fascinating!!


Sacrilege is from sacri-lege - one who steals sacred things. (OED says verbatim "f. sacri- sacer sacred + -leg-, leg{ebreve}re to gather, after the phrase sacrum or sacra legere to purloin sacred objects, to commit sacrilege".)

Religion is a messier word. OED says "in Anglo-Norman, originally in commune religion, translating post-classical Latin catholica religio". RE- is a known prefix but OED then says "+ a second element of uncertain origin;" (and proceeds to give two possible explanations for the suffix). It seems likely that that suffix is the same as in sacrilege of course.

Anyhow, I didn't really comment to show that I own a dictionary -- but to say that I am one of those strange non-native speakers. Of course your language is hard, but any language is hard. Most of my English developed during my high school years, when I made it a rule that I had to look up every word that I was not certain of, or at least feed it through spell check.

I write and read quite a lot of English, but for many years I rarely spoke English - this means that my main problem with English comes in those situations where pronunciation 'destroys' spelling.

An early failure of mine was when I went to England and had to take the bus to Reading, and assumed that it had the same pronunciation as reading (the verb).

Anyhow, I didn't mean to be long winded; the bottom line is that it is just a matter of applying yourself a little.

The comments to this entry are closed.

My Photo


Search this blog!

Follow me!
Karen Potischman Wise's Facebook Profile