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Err

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Err

Postby Dr. Goodword » Mon Sep 16, 2013 9:46 pm

• err •


Pronunciation: êr, er (US) • Hear it!

Part of Speech: Verb, intransitive

Meaning: 1. To make an error or mistake. 2. To break a moral standard, to sin, to transgress, to wander off the straight-and-narrow.

Notes: The pronunciation of today's Good Word remains in dispute. The traditional pronunciation is [êr] but, since speakers have long ago made the association with error, most US dictionaries now accept [er]. The only noun for this verb is, in fact, error. The adjective is, oddly, erroneous with its adverb, erroneously.

In Play: The most popular use of err today is the Alexander Pope quotation, "To err is human; to forgive, divine." An alternative is: "To err is human; to cover it up is risky." Otherwise, most Americans, myself included, find today's word—whichever way it is pronounced—a bit weird: "You err, sir, in your claim that your motorcycle is faster than mine!" I'm not sure why this is: the confusion over pronunciation?

Word History: Err is a reduction of French errer "go astray, transgress". from Latin errare "wander, go astray, err". The Latin word comes from the Proto-Indo-European root ers- "to wander around", from which emerged Sanskrit arsati "flows", Old English ierre "angry, straying", Old Frisian ire "angry", Old High German irri "angry". The Germanic words reflect the notion of anger as a straying from normal composure. It is possible that metathesis occurred somewhere along the way in Germanic languages (the R and the vowel traded places), so that the same root could have ultimately emerged in English as race. (Let us not now err by forgetting to thank Norman Holler, of Whitehorse, Yukon, for suggesting today's Good Word.)
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Re: Err

Postby Philip Hudson » Tue Sep 17, 2013 12:47 am

If I am to err let it be on the side of goodness.
If I am to err let it be on the side of love.
If I am to err let it be on the side of grace.
ad infinitum.
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Re: Err

Postby David Myer » Tue Sep 17, 2013 3:35 am

So presumably rage, irate and irritate...

But I have never heard the word pronounced as your alternative pronunciation suggests - something close to 'er' as in error. It has always been 'urr' as in 'Sir' where I come from and where I live - UK and Australia. No wonder it has fallen out of favour - it is almost impossible to say it with appropriate emphasis.

Maybe it is a mistake to pronounce it thus; a mistake based on the presumption that it is merely the first syllable of 'error'.

Tell the world (the USA anyway - no-one else I have heard has any trouble) to say 'urr' and it might regain popularity!
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Re: Err

Postby MTC » Tue Sep 17, 2013 5:57 am

I prefer "urr," if for no reason other than rhyme:

To err is human, to purr feline. (anon.)

"To err is human, to burr divine."

(In Scotland, anyway.)

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Re: Err

Postby Perry Lassiter » Tue Sep 17, 2013 12:05 pm

I have heard it and said it pronounced both ways. As MTC indicates, I go by its sound and rhythm in location.
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Re: Err

Postby Slava » Tue Sep 17, 2013 12:11 pm

I've always gone with "air."

To err is human, to, er, um, ah, forgive is, er, divine.
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Re: Err

Postby LukeJavan8 » Tue Sep 17, 2013 12:19 pm

Mostly "air" around these parts too.
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Re: Err

Postby gailr » Tue Sep 17, 2013 11:50 pm

Always "air" wherever I've lived.
The occasional "ur" gets an odd look from all in earshot.
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Re: Err

Postby David Myer » Wed Sep 18, 2013 12:01 am

Well, thair you go. I love this site - learn something new nearly every day!
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Re: Err

Postby misterdoe » Wed Sep 18, 2013 1:14 am

David Myer's never heard the pronunciation "ehr"? Hmm. I've never heard it pronounced "urr."

And I've always wondered about people pronouncing "error" as one syllable. :?
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Re: Err

Postby Perry Lassiter » Wed Sep 18, 2013 8:56 pm

I don't remembr ever hearing "air." It's always ur or short e as in "get," (not git, Phillip). "Air" is pronounced with the short A as in cat.
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Re: Err

Postby call_copse » Thu Sep 19, 2013 6:50 am

I'd say air is pretty close to my pronunciation, maybe slightly shorter and more 'e' like.
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Re: Err

Postby MTC » Thu Sep 19, 2013 10:52 am

Lots of air over err.
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Re: Err

Postby Philip Hudson » Fri Sep 20, 2013 12:10 am

You who cannot pronounce err had better mend the errors of your ways before it is too late. (smiley face).
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Re: Err

Postby Perry Lassiter » Fri Sep 20, 2013 7:06 pm

'Ear, 'ear!
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