Sunday, October 08, 2006

Eschew, Fly, Eschew.

A few days ago on his phonetic blog John Wells of University College London wrote about eschew:

Sometimes in reading we come across an unfamiliar word, a word that we have never heard pronounced. Native speakers and foreign learners alike, we may be tempted — rather than looking it up in a dictionary — not only to infer its meaning from the context but also to infer its pronunciation. But English spelling, as we all know, is not necessarily a sufficient guide to pronunciation, and we risk making a fool of ourselves.

A few days ago I heard a BBC announcer say that someone /ɪˈʃuːd/ violence. This was not a mishearing or mis-stressing of issued, but meant to be the rather rare word eschewed. Those familiar with the word eschew pronounce it /ɪsˈtʃuː/ (or /es-/). All published dictionaries agree that that’s the way it’s said. The announcer ought to have sought advice. But perhaps she didn’t have the script in advance, and had to make an instantaneous guess. Unfortunately she got it wrong.

I sent an e-mail his way observing that the pronunciation he heard on the air is common in American English -- at least in the midwest.

He did me the scary favour of posting my missive on his web log. He provides a gentle redress to a few of my mistakes. My use of "became/become" is a bad habit that I'm trying to break. My glib suggestion that eschew might have been influenced by association with shoo is cute at best and most likely naive.

My coltish ideas continue to reveal my abecedarianism.


  1. Dear Micheal,
    Thank you for making me a daily visitor of


  2. It's my life-goal to make dictionaries a resource for creativity more than an arbitrator of "correctness."

    As such I usually visit the dictionary for every one of those words that sends a reader to so the same.


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