Economics @ ITT

How to Say Economics

Posted in economics by ittecon on October 14, 2013

When I hear some people say economics out loud in the States, it annoys me, annoys me to such a point that I feel compelled to rant about it here. Economics is pronounced e-kə-ˈnä-miks (ee-kuh…) for a reason similar to that behind pronouncing another word, paedophile, ˈpē-də-ˌfī(-ə)l  (pee-duh…), but not for the reason that the word fetus is pronounced ˈfē-təs (fee-tuhs) and is misspelt in Britain through a mistaken Greek back-formation. As a rule, I tend to favour British spellings over their United Statesian variants—I can’t really say American or even North American, as there is no such consensus.

The work economics derives from either of oikonomikos or oikonomos, both Greek, the former meaning “managing your household” and the latter meaning “law of the house.” In Ancient Greek, oikos means “house” and was likely pronounced similarly to oy-koss (-oy as in boy), but Modern Greek underwent a vowel shift, so the newer pronunciation would be ee-koss (-ee as in bee), thus leaving us with EEconomics or OYconomics, and not giving us a path to ECKonomics, which I hear most often in the States. Evidently, worldwide, the preference for the long E (EE) outweighs the shorter E (ECK) sound by about a 2 to 1 split, which is good enough for me.

But there’s more: economics used to be spelt œconomics, the œ ligature undergoing the same vowel shift from OY to EE in English. In the case of economics, the ensuing oe digraph was lost, and so we are left without an O and the reminder of the EE sound.

Nicely, and about now you may not only be asking yourself so what, but you are further scratching your head why an economics blog would be rambling on about paedophiles and fetuses. So, linguistics was my first academic love, but the pay scales did not appear amenable, so I opted for an economic turn. In the States, paedophile is spelt pedophile, and the pronunciation has dropped the initial PEE- sound in favour of a PED- sound, as replacing the æ ligature, also pronounced EE, with a solo E, has also led to the replacement of the long E with a short one. Britain has opted to retain the ae digraph, which is helpful to the spoken version.

So what about fetus? Why not foetus, as from fœtus? The reason is that this spelling is from a false etymology where some assmonkey confused the Latin fetus with a Greek work, understood how to pronounce it (with a long E) and recast it in what might have been the Greek—if it have been Greek, and hence, foetus. Only, I’m not buying it.
Don’t get me started on my preference for the British –our endings versus the –or endings in the States. Shakespeare did not use the –our ending in his day, but after the English left for the new world, the ones who remainder in Europe went through a Francophile phase and adopted a French variant, though this, too, is curious, as the French, as an example, spell colour, couleur, so go figure.

OK. Right. I hear you. Shouldn’t you be working. Sure, you’re right. Until next time…

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