September 15, 2010

Saltines

I was staring at a box of saltines the other day and began contemplating the spelling of “saltine.” Of course, we pronounce this word as \sȯl-ˈtēn\, but, if we were to encounter the word without ever having seen it before, we would likely pronounce it \sȯl-ˈtīn\. After all, we describe the point of a fork as a tine (\ˈtīn\).

“Saltine” is one of those English words whose pronunciation simply does not make sense. The word was apparently trademarked by Nabisco, which, no doubt, decided how the word should be pronounced. We’re now stuck with the spelling and pronunciation.

Saltines

5 comments:

  1. Then again, there's "marine." And don't all those "ine" elements have the long e sound? Chlorine, fluorine? But then there's "serpentine" which will go either way, as befits its twisty nature.

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  2. Hum, good point. I did think about “bovine,” whose second syllable can be pronounced either way.

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  3. Can you say "Bo-veen?" I don't believe I've ever heard that . . . .

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  4. And what about machine? I don't think I've ever heard "mac-hyne"!

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