February Seems to Be the Hardest Word

Welcome to February, the shortest yet most misunderstood month of the year.

How often have you heard someone not simply stress both Rs, but tumble over them? How often?

Sometimes it seems the only word more mispronounced than February is often.

Here’s the scoop: The English language loves to make things complicated. For starters, there’s English-English (the Mother Tongue) and there’s American English. We don’t always pronounce things the way they do across the pond. Remember “vitamin,” “laboratory,” “aluminum”? Then, there are consonants and vowels that are supposed to remain silent (when you live five hours or so west of the Greenwich Mean), yet stubbornly those letters take up the most awkward positions in words.

For February, the first R is silent, the second is not. “Feb-u-ary,” never “Feb-RU-ary.” It’s just that simple.

Those of us who grew up with a silent T in “often” often cringe when actors, newscasters and public speakers hit that T. It adds an unexpectedly Sloane-y tone to American ears. I fear we may have crossed the rubicon on this one, though. Too many popular figures choose “off – ten” while the original, “offen,” has been cast off into the Land of Disuse.

Where do you stand on “February” and “often”? Which other mispronunciations sound like fingernails on a blackboard to you?

6 thoughts on “February Seems to Be the Hardest Word

  1. I go back and forth on February (know that I shouldn’t), but I think most people I know do too!
    I’m most definitely in the “offen” and “Wens-day” campsthough.
    Also, to join the conversation, it’s EEEther and nEEEther for me.
    A “fingernails on the blackboard” pronunciation for me is “nucular” instead of “nuclear”. A few former presidents are offenders on that one!

    A fun post, Vickie!

    • Hi Rita,

      Oooh, “nu-cu-lar” drives a lot of folks nuts (me, included) – that’s a good one to bring up!

      Thanks for sharing. :-)

  2. Hi Hannah,

    Happy “Wens-day”! I’m with you on the silent “D” there.

    Now that you bring it up, I think I go back and forth on pronouncing neither and either, depending on which coast I’m on and how many Canadians are nearby!

    Thanks so much for your comment.

    • I think I go back and forth as well, depending on what I feel works with whatever sentence the word is in! I think I mainly say EEther and nEEEther rather than EYEther and nEYEther

  3. I always say Feb – uary, and miss the R. I also say ‘Offen’. Another tricky one in the same vein as February is Wednesday – i pronounce it Wens-day.

    Also, the pronunciation of ‘Neither’ and ‘Either’ is always debated between friends!

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