Mike Beversluis

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Nucular

Nucular:

Nucular is an ad hoc spelling of an incorrect pronunciation of the word nuclear, representing the IPA: /ˈnjuːkjələr/ (NEW-cue-lurr) pronunciation of that word instead of the correct /ˈnjuːkliːɚ/ (NEW-klee-urr).

[...]


Steven Pinker has proposed a phonotactic explanation for the conversion of nuclear to nucular: the unusual and disfavored sequence [kli.ər] is gradually transformed to a more acceptable configuration via metathesis. However, Arnold Zwicky notes that [kli.ər] presents no difficulty for English speakers in words such as pricklier. He also regards the proposition of metathesis as unnecessary. Zwicky suggests a morphological origin, combining the slang nuke with the common sequence -cular (molecular, particular, etc.).[9] Supporting Zwicky's hypothesis, Geoffrey Nunberg quotes a government weapons specialist: "Oh, I only say 'nucular' when I'm talking about nukes."[10]

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