How do you pronouce ribald?
June 9, 2018 3:28 AM   Subscribe

Ribbled or ryebald? Online tends toward the former, so why do I think ryebald is right? Is it because ribbled has so much less oomph?
posted by goofyfoot to Writing & Language (36 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
I would say ryebald. But I actually feeling a bit insecure now, I don't know if I've ever heard anyone say it and if they said 'ribbled' I didn't make the connection.

Also agree on the oomph.

Source: voracious reader with a long history of mispronuncing words I read but never heard. "Segue" is still a bit of a sore point.
posted by kitten magic at 3:32 AM on June 9 [19 favorites]


I totally didn't get "segue" until there was such a thing as a Segway. Then I was like... oh.

+1 for ryebald, with its ooomph
posted by rd45 at 3:38 AM on June 9 [12 favorites]


I thought ryebald when I first encountered the word in print, but every time I've heard it spoken its been ribbled.
posted by under_petticoat_rule at 3:41 AM on June 9 [1 favorite]


I say rih-BALD , but am now doubting myself.
posted by Fig at 3:44 AM on June 9 [18 favorites]


rd45 I just went on assuming that was how you spelled it and "segue", or as it's pronounced in kitten land, "seeg" was another word entirely. Sigh.

Luckily my dad fell in the sword with "paradigm" before I had to say it out loud. Step mother nearly bust a gut laughing.
posted by kitten magic at 3:49 AM on June 9 [3 favorites]




Looks like there's a difference of opinion between the Cambridge Dictionary and the Macmillan Dictionary.
posted by davcoo at 3:52 AM on June 9 [3 favorites]


Youtube is divided, yet a little more heavy on the ribbled which would also have been my preference, if I were using this word very often.
(My guide: I imagine Stephen Fry saying the word. "Rye-balled"? Unthinkable).
posted by Namlit at 4:04 AM on June 9 [1 favorite]


I say "ribbled" to rhyme with riddled. I've definitely heard "ryebald" without it seemingly obviously wrong. The word is from French so, etymologically, "ribbled" makes more sense based on the current French pronunciation of "i", which is consistently as in "rib" not as in "vibe". I think both are acceptable alternatives but if I were giving a speech I'd use "ribbled" as it seems to be more common and less susceptible to pedantry.
posted by howfar at 4:07 AM on June 9


I say rih-BALD , but am now doubting myself.

I would say this too, if i ever said this word out loud, but really I have only ever read it.
posted by chainsofreedom at 5:03 AM on June 9 [3 favorites]


I think the preferred pronunciation has to be "rib-uld." A few dictionaries include "rye-buld" as a secondary pronunciation in the U.S., but this is more like acknowledging that some people say it that way, much in the same way that some dictionaries include "miss-chee-vee-us," "nuke-you-lur" and "bay-nul" as secondary pronunciations in the U.S.
posted by slkinsey at 5:06 AM on June 9 [7 favorites]


It’s ribbled.
posted by holborne at 5:17 AM on June 9 [1 favorite]


Always "ribbled" and always as pronounced by Lovitz on SNL. Thank you for that!
posted by I_Love_Bananas at 5:22 AM on June 9 [1 favorite]


Wait - "miss-chee-vee-us," isn't right?
posted by goofyfoot at 5:32 AM on June 9 [1 favorite]


Sorry, goofyfoot, nope.

Merriam-Webster says: \ ˈmis-chə-vəs , ˈmish- ; nonstandard mis-ˈchē-vē-əs , mish- \

Dictionary.com says: [mis-chuh-vuh s]

and Oxford says: "Mischievous/ˈmɪstʃɪvəs/. Mischievous is a three-syllable word; it should not be pronounced with four syllables, as if it were spelled mischievious /mɪsˈtʃiːvɪəs/"

They're more flexible on ribald:

Merriam-Webster: rib·ald \ ˈri-bəld also ˈri-ˌbȯld , ˈrī-ˌbȯld \
Dictionary.com: [rib-uh ld; spelling pronunciation rahy-buh ld]
Oxford: /ˈrɪb(ə)ld/ OR /ˈrʌɪbɔːld/
posted by Pandora Kouti at 5:42 AM on June 9 [4 favorites]


I would say "rib-uld" or "rih-BALD", emphasis on the second syallable, for sure. I would only say ryebald if it was spelt "riebald" but thats because I'm thinking of piebald ponies as the comparison... not that english spelling makes any sense anyway.
posted by stillnocturnal at 5:52 AM on June 9


To clarify my above response, emphasis on MISS, so MISS-che-vus.
posted by Pandora Kouti at 5:53 AM on June 9


I have never heard ribbled and, if I did, I would think it was something to do with the Northern England river. As it is from French, the original pronunciation would be rih-BALD and not ribbled or ryebald. However, using a source from a foreign language as a guide to pronunciation is not always helpful. I have always used ryebald and I am not changing.
posted by TheRaven at 5:53 AM on June 9 [14 favorites]


While Tom Lehrer rhymed "I've never quibbled / if it was ribald", I don't think that's necessarily a reason to believe he was singing things properly...
posted by the antecedent of that pronoun at 6:07 AM on June 9 [4 favorites]


It is traditionally 100% ribbled. But English spelling conventions want you to say Rye-bald. Pronunciation changes, and this low frequency word is a good candidate to be reanalyzed. However, if you want to use it in spoken English and not sound a little foolish, get used to ribbled.
posted by os tuberoes at 6:40 AM on June 9 [1 favorite]


I knew this because of the Tom Lehrer song Smut, which includes the lines 'I never quibbled/if it was ribald/I would devour where others merely nibbled!'
posted by showbiz_liz at 6:49 AM on June 9 [6 favorites]


I was willing to believe that Lehrer was wrong in this particular instance.
posted by goofyfoot at 7:26 AM on June 9


I've always said RIB-uld. But I may have learned it from Lehrer.
posted by jessamyn at 7:32 AM on June 9


The traditional pronunciation is RIB-uld ("ribbled"); the fact that it is an old loan from Old French is neither here nor there. (It was borrowed as "ribaud," so perhaps those really into historical accuracy might try saying it that way.) Etymology is irrelevant to pronunciation; the only thing that matters is how native speakers actually say it. In this case, the pronunciation is officially RIB-uld because that is how people who actually knew and used the word (largely Brits) have traditionally said it.

However, this is one of a large class of words that many people first encounter in writing and hear only much later, if ever, and those words are of course liable to spelling pronunciations; another example is bedridden, which I, like many other young readers, said to myself as "be-DRIDD-en" before learning differently. Spelling pronunciations are "wrong" from the point of view of traditional language use, and you are liable to be corrected by people who "know better," but of course if they are used frequently enough by enough people they become standard. An example I like to use (semantics rather than pronunciation, but same idea) is that bead originally meant 'prayer' (it's historically the same word as German Gebet 'prayer'), but because people used rosaries to say their prayers, when children were told to "say their beads" they associated the word with the little round things on the rosary, and after enough generations parents gave up saying "No, no, that's not what it means" and adopted the new sense.

> I think the preferred pronunciation has to be "rib-uld." A few dictionaries include "rye-buld" as a secondary pronunciation in the U.S., but this is more like acknowledging that some people say it that way, much in the same way that some dictionaries include "miss-chee-vee-us," "nuke-you-lur" and "bay-nul" as secondary pronunciations in the U.S.

This is exactly right. So say it however you like, but be aware that RIB-uld is the "correct" (traditional) pronunciation, and if you say it a different way some people will judge you for it.
posted by languagehat at 7:52 AM on June 9 [18 favorites]


"be-DRIDD-en"

Reminds me of a young friend's pronunciation of deTERmined as DETermind.
posted by goofyfoot at 8:11 AM on June 9 [2 favorites]


None of the above? I'm with the rih-BALD crowd.

Maybe closer to reh-BALD or ruh-BALD.
posted by Awfki at 8:30 AM on June 9 [1 favorite]


Rye-bald. I was first introduced to the word as child by Homer Simpson and he pronounced it that way.

"Why would he kill Maude? She's such a fox! I mean, what's on Fox tonight? Something rye-bald, no doubt."
posted by King Bee at 8:44 AM on June 9


It's definitely rih-bald.
posted by lovecrafty at 8:50 AM on June 9


But English spelling conventions want you to say Rye-bald it's sort of split really. Because you have ribozome, but you also have words like ribbon and ribbed.
posted by stillnocturnal at 10:04 AM on June 9


Oh I suppose those words do have a double b. I have a terrible cold today and I'm a bit slow.
posted by stillnocturnal at 10:06 AM on June 9


Not that I come across this word in writing very often, but my brain always wants to say "beribboned" as "beh-rih-boned" instead of "buh-rib-und."
posted by slkinsey at 3:17 PM on June 9


What awfki said. Putting rib in there as in rib-tickling is off.
It's also one of those words with that where there's a tiny space as a ghostly syllable. I have idea how to write that. Space and a half between certain letters?
posted by Lesser Shrew at 3:41 PM on June 9


I pronounce it both ways in my head, which is why I never say it out loud.
posted by rhizome at 12:30 AM on June 10 [2 favorites]


> What awfki said. Putting rib in there as in rib-tickling is off.

I really don't understand the point of insisting on pronunciations nobody else uses. Would you also decide to say, e.g., "Wed-NESS-day" because it's "off" to not pronounce the "d"? Words have the pronunciations they have; English spelling is weird. Why add to the confusion?
posted by languagehat at 9:04 AM on June 10


Rye-bald here.
posted by getawaysticks at 6:04 PM on June 10


As it happens, I was watching Mad Men the other day and Pete Campbell pronounced it rye-bald.

Not sure if that's a point for or against.
posted by goofyfoot at 8:48 PM on June 12


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