10 Common Words We Don't Pronounce Like We Used To

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Vocabulary.com, posted by Arika Okrent

As languages change, so do pronunciations. This list from our friends at Vocabulary.com contains 10 words that have gone through relatively recent shifts in pronunciation or whose spelling is a mystery unless one knows a bit about the history of how they were pronounced.

1. RATION

a fixed portion that is allotted (especially in times of scarcity)

This was at one time pronounced to rhyme with nation, but sometime after World War I, the current pronunciation, which rhymes with fashion, began to predominate.

2. TROUGH

a long narrow shallow receptacle

As you can probably guess by the spelling, trough once was pronounced with a hard "gh" sound, as in Scottish loch. In its modern pronunciation, the "gh" has been softened to an "f" sound, so it rhymes with other words this has happened to, like cough.

3. ATONE

turn away from sin or do penitence

This one is notable because the second syllable of this word, the one that sounds like own, is how the numeral "one" used to be pronounced until the 14th century, when the one we know today, rhyming with done, began to take hold. It wouldn't completely displace the other pronunciation for a few hundred years, until around the 18th century.

4. ANTIQUE

made in or typical of earlier times and valued for its age

Originally this word rhymed with frantic because it was considered parallel to antic, a word of similar origin meaning "old and grotesque." The current pronunciation, rhyming with mystique, is modeled on the French pronunciation and dates from the 18th century.

5. QUANDARY

state of uncertainty or perplexity especially as requiring a choice between equally unfavorable options

Originally the second syllable was stressed, roughly to rhyme with yon fairy. In modern pronunciation, it rhymes with laundry.

6. ALGEBRA

the mathematics of generalized arithmetical operations

The word originally had stress on the second syllable, rhyming with gal Debra before the stress shifted to the first syllable.

7. SCHEDULE

an ordered list of times at which things are planned to occur

Although originally pronounced like said you'll, in modern times there are two pronunciations. One, associated with Britain, is "SHED-yul" while the other, American, pronunciation is "SKED-yul." It is interesting to note that while Americans tend to associate anything British with being proper, it is the American pronunciation of this word that more closely imitates the original Greek root.

8. HUMOR

the quality of being funny

The word dates from the mid-14th century, but a pronunciation including the "h" is very recent, around the early 20th century.

9. BLUSH

become rosy or reddish

The vowel in blush was originally a short "oo" sound, roughly rhyming with koosh, before taking on its modern pronunciation, rhyming with plush.

10. BUSINESS

the principal activity in your life that you do to earn money

Until the 17th century, this word was pronounced with three syllables, so it rhymed with dizzyness, as opposed to the modern two-syllable pronunciation.

To learn about more words whose pronunciations have changed over time and to add them to your vocabulary-learning program, see the full list at Vocabulary.com.

Looking to Downsize? You Can Buy a 5-Room DIY Cabin on Amazon for Less Than $33,000

Five rooms of one's own.
Five rooms of one's own.
Allwood/Amazon

If you’ve already mastered DIY houses for birds and dogs, maybe it’s time you built one for yourself.

As Simplemost reports, there are a number of house kits that you can order on Amazon, and the Allwood Avalon Cabin Kit is one of the quaintest—and, at $32,990, most affordable—options. The 540-square-foot structure has enough space for a kitchen, a bathroom, a bedroom, and a sitting room—and there’s an additional 218-square-foot loft with the potential to be the coziest reading nook of all time.

You can opt for three larger rooms if you're willing to skip the kitchen and bathroom.Allwood/Amazon

The construction process might not be a great idea for someone who’s never picked up a hammer, but you don’t need an architectural degree to tackle it. Step-by-step instructions and all materials are included, so it’s a little like a high-level IKEA project. According to the Amazon listing, it takes two adults about a week to complete. Since the Nordic wood walls are reinforced with steel rods, the house can withstand winds up to 120 mph, and you can pay an extra $1000 to upgrade from double-glass windows and doors to triple-glass for added fortification.

Sadly, the cool ceiling lamp is not included.Allwood/Amazon

Though everything you need for the shell of the house comes in the kit, you will need to purchase whatever goes inside it: toilet, shower, sink, stove, insulation, and all other furnishings. You can also customize the blueprint to fit your own plans for the space; maybe, for example, you’re going to use the house as a small event venue, and you’d rather have two or three large, airy rooms and no kitchen or bedroom.

Intrigued? Find out more here.

[h/t Simplemost]

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Why Do We Say ‘Spill the Beans’?

This is a Greek tragedy.
This is a Greek tragedy.
anthony_taylor/iStock via Getty Images

Though superfans of The Office may claim otherwise, the phrase spill the beans did not originate when Kevin Malone dropped a massive bucket of chili at work during episode 26 of season five. In fact, people supposedly started talking about spilling the beans more than 2000 years ago.

According to Bloomsbury International, one voting method in ancient Greece involved (uncooked) beans. If you were voting yes on a certain matter, you’d place a white bean in the jar; if you were voting no, you’d use your black bean. The jar wasn’t transparent, and since the votes were meant to be kept secret until the final tally, someone who accidentally knocked it over mid-vote was literally spilling the beans—and figuratively spilling the beans about the results.

While we don’t know for sure that the phrase spill the beans really does date all the way back to ancient times, we do know that people have used the word spill to mean “divulge” at least since the 16th century. The Oxford English Dictionary’s earliest known reference of it is from a letter written by Spanish chronicler Antonio de Guevara sometime before his death in 1545 (the word spill appears in Edward Hellowes’s 1577 translation of the letter).

Writers started to pair spill with beans during the 20th century. The first known mention is from Thomas K. Holmes’s 1919 novel The Man From Tall Timber: “‘Mother certainly has spilled the beans!’ thought Stafford in vast amusement.”

In short, it’s still a mystery why people decided that beans were an ideal food to describe spilling secrets. As for whether you’re imagining hard, raw beans like the Greeks used or the tender, seasoned beans from Kevin Malone’s ill-fated chili, we’ll leave that up to you.

[h/t Bloomsbury International]