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How come in English there are so many common words that

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raccoon Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Oct-25-06 10:14 AM
Original message
How come in English there are so many common words that
are spelled similarly but pronounced totally differently?

Such as: tough, bough, through, cough.

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TheBaldyMan Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Oct-28-06 12:11 PM
Response to Original message
1. I read somewhere it was because the first print workers in England were
Dutch immigrants, they could set type and ink and everything but had a bit of difficulty with the english spelling and pronounciation. The print workers apparently used a mix of Dutch/English phonetic spelling and grammatical conventions adopted from the Dutch language to come up with some very strange spellings indeed.
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pink-o Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Oct-06-07 05:37 PM
Response to Reply #1
2. Also, the regional accents in England were very different every few miles you traveled.
When I lived there in the 70s, it was still that way! Brits felt like it was the journey of a lifetime to get on a train and go 15 miles to the next town.


When English spelling was standardised, many of the words were still pronounced the way they were spelt. But some regional pronunciations dominated, and the sound of the word changed, whereas the spelling didn't.

I just accept that this confounding/awesome language of ours can only be learned by rote and by reading.
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Basileus Basileon Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Nov-19-07 11:09 AM
Response to Reply #1
6. They were, but the business with them influencing spelling and grammar is a myth.
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shenmue Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Jan-13-08 06:23 PM
Response to Reply #1
7. Doesn't sound like it would be that way.
There are too few printers and too many of everyone else for one small group to just take over the entire language. English comes from many different sources. There are also pronunciation shifts over time as people move from place to place. Sometimes people drop old pronunciations and take up new ones; English is such a vast language that it doesn't always get rid of two different versions at the same time. Also, you're forgetting that letters which are now silent were said out loud in the past.
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Why Syzygy Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Oct-09-07 10:15 AM
Response to Original message
3. I know what you mean
but in your example, only through is really pronounced differently than the rest. Unless as someone posted below, you live in a region that has adopted alternate pronounciations.

Since I lived in the western US as a young teen, my accents on many words are different than the local area where I learned to speak.
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NoodleBoy Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Oct-15-07 11:25 AM
Response to Original message
4. alot of those were at one time actually pronounced to some degree
Edited on Mon Oct-15-07 11:25 AM by NoodleBoy
and whoever posted about the Dutch printers thing I think was right.

But if you ever get a chance to listen to someone speaking old or middle english, it's pretty confusing, but you start to recognize words once you realize they're pronouncing every letter. like the word "Knight" is actually said "k-nick-ht" and night is said "nick-ht."

Also, alot of other European languages have some sort of central authority, or at least an institution that people respect, which holds some degree over language, such as in Spain and Germany. These places would actually once in a while announce some thing, like changing the spelling of a word to reflect its modern sound, or the dropping of extraneous letters, etc. English for some reason didn't have that, and it didn't help that even if there was one there were millions of people in North America, Australia and New Zealand who probably wouldn't notice or care.

Edited to add: wow this post is old.
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Basileus Basileon Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Nov-19-07 11:08 AM
Response to Original message
5. Blame Mr. Caxton for those ones.
He brought the printing press to England. He also spoke a somewhat-archaic dialect that preserved the old "gh" sound (something like the Celtic ch). In modern English, that sound was lost after labials, and replaced with "f" after simple vowels.

Most examples are words that were pronounced similarly in the 1500s, but whose pronunciations diverged afterwards.
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ailsagirl Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Jun-02-08 12:21 PM
Response to Original message
8. Because they have different origins
English is certainly an inconsistent language. I feel sorry
for anyone trying to learn it!!


cough - Etymology: Middle English, from Old English *cohhian; akin to
Middle High German kūchen to breathe heavily

bough - Etymology: Middle English, shoulder, bough, from Old English bōg;
akin to Old High German buog shoulder, Greek pēchys forearm

through - Etymology: Middle English thurh, thruh, through, from Old English
thurh; akin to Old High German durh through, Latin trans across, beyond,
Sanskrit tarati he crosses over

tough - Etymology: Middle English, from Old English tōh; akin to Old High
German zāhi tough
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