Sunday, 14 September 2008

Oh, my 'hear' is 'taching'....

When you see the word "heartache," how do you pronounce it? Probably /hart/ plus /eik/, if your linguistic intuition hasn't gone on holiday.

But, in the case that our intuition has indeed packed its bags, couldn't we also be suffering from hear + tache? Technically, yes, but I couldn't tell you what it feels like.

What is interesting about words like "heartache" is that the consonant /t/ could hypothetically marry itself to either...
  • the /r/ at the end of "hear" or...
  • the dipthong /ei/ at the beginning of "ache"
That's just the way English pronunciation is -- a language thronging with clingy consonants, happy to latch on to either another of its own kind, or a vowel if it is feeling a bit intrepid.

My question to you, reader, is: can you think of any other words that could hypothetically have a variant pronunciation if you cut the syllable boundary in a different place? The funnier the better, but I'll accept any you come up with!

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