Somehow, Beethoven's FITH symphony doesn't sound as good.

Is it my imagination, or do we hear more and more people say fith instead of fifth these days? And, if it is so, could someone explain why?

Being a Francophone, my main problem - if I had one - would be with the ‘th’ ending rather than with the sound ‘fth’ (nothing compared to the guttural sound you have to make when saying ‘George’ for example in Spanish, but that’s another story).

Which brings me to my corollary question: Do you, Anglophones, systematically respect this pronunciation in everyday usage, or do you sometimes utter a hard ‘t’ sound instead, or a ‘d’ sound (moder instead of ‘mother’, for example). Just curious to know.

People have always occasionally said “fith” for “fifth”. I remember hearing a school chum consistently mispronounce it back in the 1960s. I believe it’s something called an “elision”, a.k.a. “leaving a piece out and sliding the rest together”. It’s similar to the American Midwestern propensity to say “I’m onna” for “I’m gonna”.

Nobody’s intending any insult to Beethoven, or any particular linguistic laziness, it’s just another demonstration of the flexibility of the English language.

“Mudder” for “mother” used to be a movie tough-guy thing to say, but I don’t know whether anybody really says it.

I’ve never heard anyone say “fitt” for “fifth”, ever.

“George” is Spanish is “Jorge” and is pronounced “hor-hay”, with the r rolled. Gutteral? :confused:

Yes you’re of course right about it being ‘Jorge’ instead of ‘George’; but did I err in thinking that those two ‘h’ in there came from the throat? I personally have no problem with the rolling of the 'r’s, but not so with the two 'h’s that close together. I’m assuming that the American ‘Jorge’ would be smoother sounding than mine.

And I’m not sure I’m explaining myself correctly. Any Hispanophone in the house?

Interesting. I had never heard that before.

Didn’t think it was confined to movie tough guys:D and figured it was much more common, although I realized that it might have been perceived as sloppy/lazy.

My Spanish ain’t great, but I think the J in Jorge is in fact a guttural sound. “Guttural” can refer to velar or palatal sounds, and I believe the J is velar. It certainly isn’t the same as the English h (which is glottal), but the English h is the closest approximation we have in American English. If my name were Jorge, I’d might be offended if people called me “whore, hey.” :smiley:

As far as pronouncing fifth as “fif,” or “fith”, it’s laziness, but understandable laziness. When you have too many consonants in a row, the natural tendency is to drop one or more, or to substitute an easier combination. f + th is a hard combination to pronounce if you’re not being careful. Similar problems crop up in other words

twelfth often pronounced “twelf” or “twelth”
sixth often pronounced “six” or “sixt”
didn’t often pronounced “dint” or “dit-n”
February often pronounced “Febuary”
library often pronounced “lie-berry”

But the opposite problem also occurs, where the consonant is supposed to be silent but it pronounced anyway

often pronounced “off-ten” for the more standard “offen”
alms pronounced “allmz” for the more standard “omz”
almond pronounced “all-mund” for the formerly standard “om-ond”

In at least two of my examples, the “wrong” pronunciation appears to be gaining the upper hand. I’m the only person I know who is careful to pronounce the r in “February” and not to pronounce the l in “almond”.

Interesting, bib. How do you pronounce Wednesday?

The same way you do, I expect. My pronunciation of “February”, “almond”, (and all the rest I listed above), is the first pronunciation listed in most of my dictionaries. (One dictionary of three I consulted listed the silent-r pronunciation of “February” first and one of three listed the pronounced-l versions of “almond” and “alms” first). In general, the first pronunciation listed is usually the preferred one, though I wouldnt’ go so far as to call the second and later pronunciations “wrong”.

All my dictionaries list something like “wenz-day” as the pronunciation of Wednesday. And that’s the way I pronounce it.

I grew up in the Bay Area and I’ve spent the last 9 years in eastern Washington. I say fith, twelth, sixth, dit-n, Febuary (actually more like Feb-o-ary), library (often closer to lib’ry), offen, allms, all-mond, and Wenzday.

I can’t stand “off-ten”, or “false” pronounced as “falts”… both of which are far too common around here.


Well, now you can make that two. But it’s probably only because my mother tongue isn’t English and I, consciously or not, make a special effort to pronounce it that way.

Interesting points there.

Mr2001: I assume you meant ‘sixt’, otherwise I may have been saying that word wrong all these years:D.

[amusing aside]

FITH syndrome is a well-known diagnosis for most nurses and paramedics:


A neat description for a small but bothersome number of our clientele. :slight_smile:

Almond without the L just sounds plain bizarre. It’s hard for me to believe that was ever considered standard English.

When I was teaching grade-school math and started on fractions, I discovered the most unpronounceable word in the English language: sixths. Frenchman, don’t feel bad if you can’t articulate this; no native English speakers can either.

Hmm…I don’t pronounce the L when I say almond.

Neither do I, nor do I pronounce the ‘l’ in ‘salmon’ (we have plenty of those up here!:))

Of course, ‘gonna’ is an example of the same thing itself…


Nope, I pronounce both the X and the TH. Am I abnormal? :wink:

O.K.: So you say fifth and twelfth…‘differently’, but sixth…‘normally’. Right?

Of course, I also pronounce library “lie-bry”, so if I was going to the library and wanted to give someone a nut, I’d say "I’m goin t’ the lie-bry. Ya wannan amond?