2019 and 2020 books are in the
Odds and Ends
21 4, 10:36pm
Yeah, how we handle "-ough" is a little bit strange. All those words used to rhyme in Middle English - they all rhymed with "through", with a rough breathing on the end, represented by the -gh. But sometime in the late 1500s, a lot of English pronunciations changed. In this case, the vowels started to vary, and the rough breathing was dropped. But nobody ever bothered to change the spellings, and now we're stuck with them as our standard.
There's a British actor who's well-known to Americans because he appeared in a lot of sci-fi and horror movies in the Sixties and Seventies, named
. I've known his name for my whole life, but never knew until a few years ago how to pronounce it. It's "Goff" - like "golf" without the L.
Of course, English is full of oddities like that. For instance: One mouse, two mice. One louse, two lice. One house... two houses.
It gets worse: Two of those little square things you throw when you play tabletop games are called "dice". But if you have only one, it's not a "douce", it's a "die". One goose, two geese; one mongoose, two mongooses.
And people on the internet argue endlessly with each other about what you have if you own an octopus, and someone gives you another: Do you have two octopuses, two octopi, or two octopodes?
Most dictionaries give "octopuses" as the preferred form, with "octopi" acceptable, and "octopodes" as completely wrong; but some people think they know more than the experts who compile the dictionaries.
French is pretty bad about that sort of thing, too, because of the way they drop consonants (
, pig, and
, posture, are pronounced exactly the same, something like "pour" in English); or how they spell the same sound differently in different words, like
sent, sang, s'en, sans
This is one reason I have trouble understanding something spoken aloud in French that I would have no problem at all to read.
Like English, you can never be 100% sure of how a word is pronounced unless you hear it or look it up in the dictionary.