Friday, 30 November 2012


Thanks to Sally for her comment about the Ofsted inspector who mistakenly corrected the spelling pronunciation on a poster during a school inspection.  By claiming that the correct spelling and pronunciation of this word should be pronounciation the inspector made a common slip, although it is unfortunate that this word appears on the Government’s list of spellings which should be correctly spelled by all children in year 6.

This word entered English in the fifteenth century from the French pronunciacione, itself derived from the Latin pronuntiation.  The earliest recorded English spelling is pronunciation, although the variant spelling pronounciation, prompted by the related verb pronounce, is recorded from the fifteenth century, and continued to appear in print until the eighteenth century.  This misspelling, and corresponding mispronunciation, remains widespread today, despite being condemned by guides to correct usage.

The unfortunate Ofsted inspector is not alone in unwittingly revealing his own ignorance by condemning the correct spelling of this word.  A website which lists ‘50 incorrect pronunciations that you should avoid’ includes the following appeal to standards of correct pronounciation : ‘Could you imagine trying to learn a language, or understand someone speaking it, when each person pronounces the word how they feel it should be pronounced. For this reason, some standard is absolutely necessary; I can’t fathom how a language could evolve gracefully without upholding some semblance of proper pronounciation.’

Both of which are useful reminders that, before criticizing someone's spelling, check you know how to spell it yourself!

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