Dr. Goodword’s Language Blog

Why do Differnt Veterns Talk Diffrent from other Vetrens?


Pardon my English but Susanne Taylor raised an interesting issue in her e-mail to me today, one that catches the attention of most US English speakers at some point in their lives.  She asked that veteran and veterinarian be added to our Most Often Mispronounced Words list.

The problem with taking this step is that it isn’t clear that these words are mispronounced, just syncopated differently in different parts of the English-speaking world.  All English speakers drop unaccented syllables in fast speech but most do so in regular patterns. Throughout most of the US, when either of the sequences [ere] or [era] occurs, and neither vowel is accented, speakers syncopate (drop) the first [e], so that veteran sounds like vetren, different like diffrent, several like sevral.

In Texas and the Southwest, however, the second [e] is regularly dropped in these words so that they sound like vetern, differnt, and severl. 

The point is, wherever you grew up, the fast-speech pronunciation is regular, so it is difficult to call it mispronunciation; rather, we are dealing here with just a variation in the rules for fast speech. It is often difficult to draw a line between correct and incorrect grammar. The sure sign of a grammatical rule at play, however, is consistency like this. 



2 Responses to “Why do Differnt Veterns Talk Diffrent from other Vetrens?”

  1. Gloria Rose Says:

    Native speakers do indeed take a lot of liberties. Many are probably unaware of what they add and omit during quick exchanges between themselves. Language’s complexity is something most civilians do not discuss. As an author and education professional, I do enjoy sharing what I know about reading due to its symbiotic relationship to speaking. Imagine how delighted children are when they see on the page what was said. Native speakers become better readers when they learn to speak carefully and thoughtfully. I am far from a purist. I do find native speaker differences engaging, but we must be careful about codifying regional pronunciations. Reading and writing together form a strong foundation.
    Why wouldn’t a large urban district in Ohio want to use its Ohio Reads funding to ensure that its students experience standard pronunciation complete with all its vowels? Regional speech is of course a great delight. Along the Ohio River, I hear colorful rhythms and expressions. However, I am certain that children would greatly benefit from enrichment reading programs. Countless studies have demonstrated that good readers often make the best students. For some reason, red tape or perhaps their funding has gone missing, the local administrators were relunctant about the children from having a program. The whole language apporach which I espouse allows children to learn about grammar as they read rather than a set of confusing rules and regulations.

  2. Adken Says:

    Hey there! I can’t find your contact information but your web design layout was messed up on opera and internet explorer. Anyways, i just subscribed to your rss.

Leave a Reply