How should I pronounce "February?"
January 8, 2008 10:33 AM   Subscribe

Did you ever receive explicit instruction on how to pronounce "February" from someone who is considered an authority on such things? Is saying FEB-roo-air-y more common than FEB-you-air-y?

I know most American dictionaries say both pronunciations are acceptable. But is one more acceptable to those who use proper English? And is one more common the world over?
posted by DarwinianDan to Grab Bag (51 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
Always go with the way a word is spelled.
posted by wfc123 at 10:37 AM on January 8, 2008


Except in the English language
posted by caddis at 10:39 AM on January 8, 2008 [8 favorites]


ou la langue Fran├žaise.
posted by kcm at 10:40 AM on January 8, 2008


I treat it the same way I treat the 'r' in surprise.
posted by poppo at 10:42 AM on January 8, 2008


Either. February.
posted by desuetude at 10:42 AM on January 8, 2008


There are two Rs; I use them both.
Yes, mispronouncing words is more common than not. Gah.
posted by heyho at 10:42 AM on January 8, 2008


But is one more acceptable to those who use proper English?

There are those who use proper English and there are those who believe that they use proper English and make a big deal of it. The former don't really care what you say, and the latter are of no consequence anyway.
posted by The World Famous at 10:43 AM on January 8, 2008 [10 favorites]


Who would the authority be?

(This came up last week.)
posted by roger ackroyd at 10:44 AM on January 8, 2008


I was taught "feb-you-air-y" by teachers. Since that's how I say it, and my birthday is in February, I consider myself an authority on this subject.
posted by croutonsupafreak at 10:45 AM on January 8, 2008 [1 favorite]


You could of course consult a dictionary, like Merriam-Webster or its February pronunciation blurb which seems to conflict somewhat with the online entry. Hope that clears things up.
posted by caddis at 10:47 AM on January 8, 2008


I remember being taught the spelling, not the pronunciation, and to note that first "r" when spelling because it's not like how we pronounce it! So, implicitly, "feb-you-air-y." I had similar experiences with "Wednesday" and "Connecticut."
posted by Metroid Baby at 10:52 AM on January 8, 2008 [1 favorite]


I treat it the same way I treat the 'r' in surprise.

I hear, and say, both "suh-prize" and "sir-prize" pretty interchangeably. But I've never noticed it to be common to say "feb-rue-ary"; it's always been "feb-you-ary," anywhere I've lived (both US and other).
posted by Forktine at 10:54 AM on January 8, 2008


Spoken English changes much more quickly than written English, so there are not really any "rules" that one can follow and to always speak "correct English". Instead you should know your audience, and try to speak in a way that makes them feel comfortable speaking with you.

In this particular case, 99% of people will not care which of the two pronunciations you use. My advice would be pick whichever one you like more and say it that way.
posted by burnmp3s at 10:55 AM on January 8, 2008 [1 favorite]


I don't think I know anyone that says feb-ROO-rary.
posted by chunking express at 10:57 AM on January 8, 2008


Febyury.
posted by goo at 10:59 AM on January 8, 2008


I have always pronounced it FEB-roo-air-ee.
posted by ten pounds of inedita at 11:06 AM on January 8, 2008


I have noticed many journalists on the BBC World Service say ROO, as well as several NPR journalists, and NY- and DC-based television journalists. Not that journalists are experts.

Elocution isn't taught to young students the way it once was.
posted by HotPatatta at 11:13 AM on January 8, 2008


I was taught feb-roo-air-ee. I can easily imagine my 1st grade teacher slowly going over the pronunciation. Repeat after me, class. feb-roo-air-ee! But it's an awkward thing to say. Most of the time when I speak, it comes out closer to "feb-oo-air-ee", but the "oo" is clipped short so the word almost sounds like three syllables. By the way, born and raised in Ontario, Canada, just in case you're keeping track.
posted by PercussivePaul at 11:14 AM on January 8, 2008


Definitely "Feb-ru-ary". Firstly, because that's how it's spelled, secondly because "Feb-u-ary" and its ilk makes my skin crawl almost as much as "nucular", "expresso", and "liberry".
posted by the luke parker fiasco at 11:15 AM on January 8, 2008 [2 favorites]


I use the roo, but then again, I always notice it when people (incorrectly, or so I'm told) say often with the T. (and what about the New Yorker spelling focussing that way?)

Honestly, The World Famous gets my vote for the Oscar Wilde quote of the day, and the definitive answer.
posted by asavage at 11:19 AM on January 8, 2008


i like to say fe-brewery
posted by BSummers at 11:44 AM on January 8, 2008


I was raised by Yankees in the South, which is a lot like being raised by wolves away from society. So they drilled us hard on pronounciation, stating explicitly that they wanted us to sound like the anchors on the national evening news. If we ever had questions about how to pronounce things, that was the standard by which we determined the answer. We all say "feb-roo-airy."

On a related note, once eldest of my younger sisters fell on the sidewalk and the middle sister ran inside, "Mama, Papa - Maura fell on the 'CEE-ment,' I mean, the 'SUH-ment,' I mean, THE CONCRETE!"
posted by greekphilosophy at 11:48 AM on January 8, 2008 [2 favorites]


As an American expat in England who frequently has business conversations with people from different parts of the world, I am firmly of the opinion that any pronunciation that communicates the intended word to the hearer is correct.
posted by happyturtle at 11:51 AM on January 8, 2008 [8 favorites]


Since when is how something is spelled an adequate and acceptable guide to pronunciation?
posted by spicynuts at 12:01 PM on January 8, 2008 [1 favorite]


FEB-you-air-y is a mispronunciation that has become so common that it's now a correct pronunciation.
posted by rocket88 at 12:11 PM on January 8, 2008 [1 favorite]


I pronounce the R. On a side note, as another American expat in the UK I notice a lot of Brits pronounce January as "Jan you ree" rather than "Jan-you-airy".
posted by gfrobe at 12:19 PM on January 8, 2008 [1 favorite]


I agree with the luke parker fiasco except for the "almost." It marks the speaker as, well, ig'nant. Plenty of words have easier (mis)pronunciations with the same effect.
posted by wtdoor at 12:21 PM on January 8, 2008


Surely Feb-you-airy is not as egregious a mispronunciation as nucular, expresso and liberry?
posted by lyam at 12:23 PM on January 8, 2008


At the posh private English boarding school I was sent to, where accent was a social distinguishing mark, we called the month "Feb you ree". I don't think there's a right or wrong in pronunciation, but the "Feb ru ary" version always seems awkward on my tongue.
posted by anadem at 12:25 PM on January 8, 2008


The OED is unequivocal in its support for feb-roo-uh-ree. I say feb-yoo-ree but am considering reform.
posted by beniamino at 12:38 PM on January 8, 2008


I'm a "you" sayer, but it comes out more like "yuh." I am from Northern California.
posted by rhizome at 12:46 PM on January 8, 2008


It's always been as spelled: February.

I've never heard Feb-you-ary except by third graders and the occasional person who also says li-bary.
posted by cmgonzalez at 12:49 PM on January 8, 2008


When you're from Dublin, it's febrar-ree.
posted by jamesonandwater at 12:58 PM on January 8, 2008


So, does the "February has two r's" logic carry over into "Wednesday has two d's?"
posted by rhizome at 1:02 PM on January 8, 2008 [1 favorite]


happyturtle is right. grammar and pronunciation are fluid and dependent upon a ton of factors. language changes and evolves, so as long as the person to whom you are speaking understands you, you're fine.
posted by malaprohibita at 1:08 PM on January 8, 2008


So, does the "February has two r's" logic carry over into "Wednesday has two d's?"

Probably not, English isn't a logical language. No language is. Wed-nuhz day sounds bizarre.

BTW I always pronounced it feb-roo-ery (ery rhyming with berry) In New York, whether or not it is feb-you or feb roo I've never heard it pronounced with "airy." That's sounds like you're from the movie Fargo to me. You betcha.
posted by xetere at 1:14 PM on January 8, 2008


Feb-yoo-airy belongs with "Artic", libary, nucular and chimbley. Oh, and pointsetta. Take that extra R out of the "sherbert" and put it back in the month, please.
posted by fish tick at 1:28 PM on January 8, 2008


It's Feb-ru-rary ... oh and it's Wed-nes-day too.
posted by terrapin at 1:35 PM on January 8, 2008


BTW I always pronounced it feb-roo-ery (ery rhyming with berry) In New York, whether or not it is feb-you or feb roo I've never heard it pronounced with "airy." That's sounds like you're from the movie Fargo to me. You betcha.

I can't hear the slightest difference between "berry" and "airy" (aside from the initial 'b'). Aren't regional accents great?
posted by Forktine at 1:46 PM on January 8, 2008


I'll put in another vote for "feb-ROO" sounding mannered and newscastery.

Same way all the newscasters randomly decided Moscow was Mosk-OH rather than Mosk-OW (which is no more correct or meaningful given that the city's native name is Mosk-VAH)
posted by sparrows at 1:48 PM on January 8, 2008


croutonsupafreak: I was taught "feb-ru-air-y" by teachers and parents. Since that's how I say it, and my birthday is in February, I consider myself an authority on this subject ;-)

That's a short and softer "ru", though, rather than a longer and more emphatic "roo".

So, does the "February has two r's" logic carry over into "Wednesday has two d's?"

Yup. That first is a very very soft and almost unpronounced "d", so it's more "Wedn's - day" than "Wed-nes-day"
posted by Pinback at 2:32 PM on January 8, 2008


I've only known a handful of people who say "feb-roo-". Very carefully and distinctly. I always thought they were trying too hard.
posted by frobozz at 2:57 PM on January 8, 2008 [1 favorite]


For me there are no silent letters in either February or Wednesday, but I also pronounce "medicine" as "medsn".

And what price "solder"? I've always pronounced it "soul-der", but then I find that in the US everyone says "sodder" (which for the first five years or so made me want to giggle because a sodder sounds like who sods [off]).

(In primary school -- first and second grades, as I remember it -- we did have diction and elocution classes.)
posted by phliar at 3:29 PM on January 8, 2008


As a Brit I say Fe-byoo-ree but then I also say se-cre-tree for secretary, but I suppose that such clipping of syllables is quite normal in a standard southern-English accent. I should say that I haven't heard too many Brits (with my accent) say Feb-roo-ree but I do know people who say We-dens-day.
posted by ob at 3:40 PM on January 8, 2008


I'm English, I say it Feb-you-airy (do you need any more qualifications for an English language speaker?). The only deviation I've heard is ob's Feh-byoo-ree. Pronouncing that first r is odd and weird and strange to me - I also don't understand why people are citing it as a mispronunciation, because the English language has plenty of silent letters.
posted by saturnine at 5:18 PM on January 8, 2008


Hm, I think I generally split the difference, sort of a FEH-bruh-airy. No OO in the middle, sometimes just a hint of YU.

The R is being elided away. I wouldn't worry about it unless I were in a very formal situation, as it's a conventional pronunciation like WENS-day, CUMF-ter-bull, or LAWN-zhu-RAY (instead of LAN-zhay-REE).

Socially, there is a consensus that ATH-uh-lete, NEW-kyuh-ler, EX-presso, and LI-berry carry a class marker. This is apparently why President Bush has adopted them. ;-) And why they are mostly avoided by formal speakers. But other conventional pronunciations do not carry that same baggage.
posted by dhartung at 5:36 PM on January 8, 2008


FEB-yew-erry. But the "yew" is so unaccented, it's really like a sigh, and you can fit in a very quiet "r" at the beginning of it without making any real difference to how it sounds.

Like coutonsupfreak I was taught this by teachers (VERY proper, old-fashioned teachers, not hippy "it's all good let's hold hands" type teachers), and also my birthday is in February so my vote counts double.
posted by LobsterMitten at 7:30 PM on January 8, 2008


Februry (but the first 'r' is nearly missing). Wedensday (and the first 'd' is nearly missing).
British with a lot of time in Southern Ireland.
posted by blue_wardrobe at 9:23 PM on January 8, 2008


Wow, am I the only one who says Feboowary? I must be some kinda weirdo.
posted by exceptinsects at 9:57 PM on January 8, 2008


Febbery. I was born in it.
posted by TochterAusElysium at 10:07 PM on January 8, 2008


Cripes - and here's us English-speaking folks making fun of "Engrish", where we should actually be making fun of ourselves...

FWIW, I'm a Brit (without the "benefit" of an expensive private education) and a lot of the common mispronunciations really bug me. IMO it should be:
Feb-roo-ary (roo as in root, ary as in ferry)
Wednz-day
Sicks-th (not "sikth"; BBC news presenters I'm looking at you!)

However, due to the locale where I was brought up, I pronounce "tooth" as "tu-th" (almost as in "tupperware", but fractionally longer) - so perhaps I'm not the best person to judge...

I'm not going to get into all the other Bush-isms and chav-isms that are prevalent in modern society, as my blood pressure would suffer.
posted by Chunder at 6:52 AM on January 9, 2008


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