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.

What’s the Difference Between Crocheting and Knitting?

djedzura/iStock via Getty Images
djedzura/iStock via Getty Images

With blustery days officially upon us, the most pressing question about your sweaters, scarves, hats, and mittens is probably: “Are these keeping me warm?” If you’re a DIY enthusiast, or just a detail-oriented person in general, your next question might be: “Were these knitted or crocheted?”

Knitting and crocheting are both calming crafts that involve yarn, produce cozy garments and other items, and can even boost your mental well-being. Having said that, they do have a few specific differences.

To knit, you need needles. The size, material, and number of those needles depends on the project; though most traditional garments are made using two needles, it’s also possible to knit with just one needle, or as many as five. But regardless of the other variables, one or both ends of your knitting needles will always be pointed.

While crocheting calls for a similar long, thin tool that varies in size and material, it has a hooked end—and you only ever need one. According to The Spruce Crafts, even if you hear people refer to the tool as a crochet needle, they’re really talking about a crochet hook.

crotchet hook and garment
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Part of the reason you only use one hook brings us to the next difference between crocheting and knitting: When crocheting, there’s only one “active loop” on your hook at any given time, whereas knitting entails lining up loops down the length of your needles and passing them between needles. The blog Darn Good Yarn explains that since each loop is attached to a long row of stitches, accidentally “dropping” one off the end of your needle might unravel the entire row.

Of course, you have a better chance of avoiding that type of manual error if you’re using a knitting machine or loom, which both exist. Crocheting, on the other hand, has to be done by hand. Since machines can create garments with extremely small stitches, some knit clothes can be much more lightweight or close-fitting than anything you’d be able to crochet—and knitted clothes can also be mass-produced.

When it comes to what the items actually look like, crochet stitches characteristically look more like knots, while knit stitches seem flatter and less bulky. However, materials and techniques have come a long way over the years, and now there’s more crossover between what you’re able to knit and crochet. According to The Spruce Crafts, socks and T-shirts—traditionally both garments that would be knitted—can now technically be crocheted.

knitting needles and garment
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And, believe it or not, knitting and crocheting can even be used to depict complicated mathematical concepts: see what a crocheted hyperbolic plane, Lorenz manifold, and more look like here.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

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