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April 22, 2012

When I was a child, the word forehead had a silent h, and rhymed with horrid – as evidenced by the nursery rhyme There was a little girl and she had a little curl/ Right in the middle of her forehead/ When she was good she was very very good/ But when she was bad she was horrid. 

It seems that virtually nobody, except me, pronounces it like that any more. It is now pronounced as if it were two words, fore and head – a ‘spelling pronunciation’, as it’s called. It’s funny how some words travel this route – the pronunciation gradually parts company with the spelling, and then, centuries later, the original pronunciation returns, influenced by the spelling, which never changed.

I suppose I’ll have to give up pronouncing forehead as forrid soon – it’s beginning to sound ridiculously fogeyish, like pronouncing waistcoat as weskit. But it’s a pity. I learned the pronunciation before I ever learned the spelling.

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  1. C. Robshaw permalink

    Have you seen the phonetic spelling “forrid”? I used to think “forehead” & “forrid” were different words.

  2. Jams O'Donnell permalink

    What has happened to the pronunciation of schedule? And why do southerners pronounce pastoral (teachers especially, “pastoral care”) ‘past-‘ as in Cornish pasty, ‘- oral’ as in mouth wash? We don’t say it in pastor, castor or the Pastoral Symphony. Annoying.

    Jams O’D

    • I hadn’t noticed the new pronunciation of ‘pastoral’, but thanks for bringing it to my attention – I’ll blog about it.



  3. patricia willis permalink

    Hello Brandon.I’ve been following your blog for a while now and have come to value your opinions. When I was a child (I’m 68 now) l was taught that the plural of roof was rooves but now it appears to be roofs. I know our language is constantly changing but I find both the spelling and pronunciation of roofs rather clumsy. Would I be wildly incorrect using the former? Please note. I do not mind in the least being considered an old foggie. When telling the time I still say ‘five and twenty past’ just as my mother used to!

    • Hi Patricia – nice to hear from you! My instinct on the plural of ‘roof’ is to pronounce it ‘rooves’ but spell it ‘roofs’.

  4. Mike Byrne permalink

    We still use the word forrid as forehead is too long and we use dialect not sure that has anything to do with it but it is quicker to say. Cheers, Mike

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