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Metathesis

Linguistics Jargon!

Metathesis ( /mɪˈtæθɪsɪs/ from Greek μετάθεσις, from μετατίθημι “I put in a different order”) is the transposition of sounds or syllables in a word or of words in a sentence.

Some of my favorite examples of modern English metathesis!

  • iron - eye-urn, not eye-ron
  • prescription - purr-scription, not pre-scription
  • pretty (colloquially) - pur-ty, not prih-tty
  • ask (colloquially) - axe, not ask (interestingly, this is actually a reversal from another move from common-for-Chaucer’s-time ‘ax’ to the modern pronunciation!)

Some pretty dope examples of Old English metathesis that gave us modern words!

  • OE: bridd —> bird
  • OE: þyrl (hole) —> nosþyrl (nose-hole) —> nosþryl —> nostril

WHOA! What’s this? That’s right! It’s PROTO-GERMANIC METATHESIS!

  • PG: *hrussą- —> OE: hors —> horse

Crazy! Other nice ones:

  • Latin: formaticus (formed in a mold) —> French: fromage (cheese)
  • Latin: miraculum —> Spanish: milagro (miracle) Check out the distance on that one!

Related idea: spoonerism (metathesis, but a slip of the tongue rather than linguistic evolution)

2 Likes

nuclear -> nuke-u-lar?

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yes!

Linguistics is so much more fun once you get in the descriptivist mode of thinking. People who use nuke-u-lar aren’t being dumb (re: George W. jokes), they’re on the front of linguistic change!

Wikipedia notes that nuke-u-lar is extra fascinating as a re-analysis of nuclear to make it fall in line with words like molecular and binocular! Nuclear -> Nuke-ular

I think re-analysis and linguistic idiom are some of my favorite topics :slight_smile: