We are all adult people here, and yet, when confronted with the name of the second month of the year, we are left uncertain and sounding out syllables.
For the last time, is it feb-roo-air-ee or feb-yoo-air-ee?
If you’re sitting there humpfh-ing about, wondering what the world is coming to, well, there’s more to the declaration than simple laziness (this time). Because it turns out people have been dropping that extra ‘r’ for at least the last 150 years.
The practice of dropping one sound when a similar sound is very close to it even has a name: dissimilation. And it crops up in more than a few languages.
There are more than a few other examples in English – su(r)prise, gove(r)nor, pa(r)ticular, be(r)serk, paraphe(r)nalia, cate(r)pillar, entrep(r)eneur, p(r)erogative, interp(r)etation – and I’d be shocked if you pronounce those “extra” r’s in all of those words.
I’d be even more surprised if people busted your balls for leaving them out, too.
People get their dander up about lib(r)ary and Feb(r)uary, though, so it’s nice to know you’ve got Merriam-Webster on your side the next time the grammar police come knocking.
Proper pronunciation or not, rest assured that people know what you’re trying to say – and about half of the world has the same problem with this blasted month, too.
February is the worst, longest, farthest-from-Christmas-AND-summer month around, so who really cares if we say its name right, anyway?
Let me know in the comments!