Tuesday, April 29, 2008


Here's a little snippet about spelling I found on this blog. I couldn't agree more.

Many, many people spell "barbecue" in a way that makes me rend my clothes. Here is how they spell it. I can barely bring myself to mash the buttons on my keyboard to make it come up on the screen. Get ready.


This, my friends, can NOT be pronounced "BAR-BE-KYOO". This can be pronounced only one way: "BAR-BEEK". Let me give you a quick test.

How do you pronounce each of the following?

1. unique
2. antique
3. boutique
4. mystique
5. technique
6. oblique
7. cazique
8. physique
9. Dominique
10. Mozambique

I think my point is made. Feel free to give me ONE SINGLE EXAMPLE of another word ending in "que" that ends phonetically with "KYOO."

I don't give one shit that it's listed in the dictionary as an acceptable word. It got in the dictionary just because lots of people spelled it incorrectly like that, and it can come out, in time, if folks will just PLEASE GOD abandon it. I mean, what, you want "alot" to get in the dictionary? How about "wierd?" "Rediculous?" Because if that's the kind of world you want to live in, keep on with this kind of shit.

By Chester with 14 comments


Woah, relax... You sound like some old dude sitting on his porch screaming at the kids messing up his lawn...

So I'm guessing 'queue' doesn't count as "KYOO" even though it's only one syllable?

You do realize you are talking about a language which borrows many words from Latin or Greek and the such... And with some rules with arbitrary exceptions just to make some words sound better or more pronounceable... Let's go burn down the Japs for not being able to say "R"...

For the Jap example, you may want to think again. The Japs can, as a matter of fact, pronounce 'r' quite well, e.g. Akira, Sakura, arigato, sayonara. The phoneme you were looking for is 'l'. Their inability to pronounce it is a linguistic trait. Given that they do not have the 'l' phoneme in their language, they naturally assimilate to the nearest one, which is 'r'. That has nothing to do with ignorance (like with 'barbeque'). It's like a person learning to speak French for the first time; it wouldn't be easy to learn its unique phonetics because you didn't learn it from a young age.

Oh, and if you'll notice, it was pointed out that the que-KYOO discrepancy applies to words ending in 'que', not beginning in it, as with 'queue'.

Yes, as a linguist I realize well that English is a language that borrows from many other languages. But borrowing is not exclusive to English; other languages experience this phenomenon as well. One of the major reasons that English seems to have a larger influx of words than other languages is due to its prolificacy. It's a global language, and a language does not gain that type of exposure without evolving.

Moreover, the arbitrary exceptions you mention are not always as arbitrary as they seem. There are many variables that have determined (and still do!) pronunciation, including the historical background of a language, etymology, exposure and even culture. And this effect on pronunciation also has an effect on spelling.

This post was nothing more than a lament about how wrong spellings and erroneous pronunciations seep into the language simply because of the collective acceptance of ignorance. I guess if everyone is wrong, then we must all be right, right?

It is inevitable that a language changes, and because of that inevitability, the complaint tradition (whereby linguists complain about the change and "deterioration" of a language) will always remain. So yeah, languages change, and there's nothing anyone can do about that fact. But it is not an all-encompassing change. Not all rules will be lost. Some will be slightly modified or adapted, whilst others will remain. Hopefully the ones that make sense will stand the test of time.

There's no use bringing up word borrowings and cultural differences. The fact remains that words have a set spelling NOW. It doesn't matter how they will spelt a century from now.

Basically, at the end of the day, if you're gonna spell something, spell it right. Of course, that brings up the issue of American-British differences, which is a whole 'nother debate in itself.

But as a general rule of thumb, when in Rome...

So the short answer is... Two wrongs don't make a right...

Except with language. Given time, if enough people are wrong, the wrong becomes right.

That's what pisses a lot of linguists off.

That and sociologist... psychiatrists... ok, can't think of anymore... When an action or behavior becomes socially accepted as the norm, whether it's wrong or not, then people will accept it... That argument is on thin ice but I just want to throw it out there...

Yep, people accept wrong things simply because everyone is doing it.

In language, people call it 'change', but what happens when it occurs at the sociological level? Any fool can turn on a TV and see that social morality has deteriorated. When they say the world is 'changing', they don't usually mean for the better.

So yeah, change is one thing. Deterioration is another thing altogether. When English assimilates words, spellings and/or pronunciations from other languages due to culture, current trends or simple proximity, that's change.

When people spell a word wrong so often that it becomes widespread and someone finally decides to 'give in' and add it to the dictionary, that's deterioration.

Do you think that 1 day it will lead to a complete assimilation of cultures? I personally hope that that doesn't happen. No language barrier is nice but the uniqueness of the different languages is what makes it great.

On the deterioration of society, I've personally said it more than once is that we don't really have good role models in society right now. Everything seems so impersonal and those who we interact with we treat as peers even those who are older than us. It's not wrong to treat them as peers but the respect that comes with it isn't there anymore. I don't know if anyone agrees with me but I believe that honesty and respect is lacking in this time of age.

Oh, very true. True respect and honesty are quite rare now. Everyone wants to be friends, so much so that very few people become the leader or role model, simply because the role of either would have to in some way overshadow that of friend.

Assimilation of cultures? Naw, the whole Tower of Babel thing has ensured that that will never happen. Languages will always be separate because languages always change. And even if languages disappear or are assimilated, new ones will form with time, distance and separation.

Never rule out history repeating itself...

Ok, but there isn't just ONE way to pronounce it as "barbeek". A good exception would be communique: kom-yoo-ni-key. Hence barbe-key perhaps?

I share your sentiments though, in fact I was so confident that barbeque was wrong that I laughed at a fellow PhD student who had spelled it wrong. Little did I know then that M-W was on his side. Oh well...

Ooh, "communique", good one.

M-W as in Merriam-Webster?? Doesn't matter. It's just another case of accepting the mistake of the masses.

Thank you :).
Yep, Merriam-Webster. Oh, btw, you should totally download WordWeb -- fantastic.

Well atleast i got it rite... rite?? its Barbeque.... See i did it again.... I got it rite AGAIN!!! ahahahaha lol!!!! ^_^

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