Freeest or freest

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I wrote this sentence:  "Hong Kong was one of the freeest cities on earth".  My automated spell checker flagged "freeest", so I changed it to "freest", and the spell checker let that stand.  But in my mind I was still saying "freeest", with two syllables, whereas when I see "freest", it's very hard for me to think of that as having two syllables.  So how are we to pronounce the superlative degree of the adjective "free"?

Relevant entries from Wiktionary here:



    1. superlative form of free: most free quotations ▼



    1. (archaic) second-person singular simple present form of free

and here:



    1. Misspelling of freest. quotations ▼

Similar considerations pertain to the comparative degree of the adjective "free", viz., "freeer" vs. "freer".

Everywhere I see "freeer" and "freeest" described as "common misspellings".

Here's a post on the subject by Jakub Marian on his blog, Jakub Marian's Language learning, science & art:

"‘Freeer’ vs. ‘freer’ (triple ‘e’) in English"

This is a common mistake in English. Since the comparative form of an adjective is formed by simply sticking “er” to the end of an adjective (apart from a few irregular adjectives like “good/better”), learners and native speakers alike sometimes think that when something is “more free”, it should be “freeer”. The truth is that there is not a single word in English whose standard spelling would contain “eee”. The simple rule is:

If you think there should be three e’s in a row, write only two.

For example, “most free” would be “freest”, not “freeest”. Note, however, that “freest” is pronounced as if it were written as “freeest”, i.e. /friːɪst/. The same goes for “freer”, pronounced as /ˈfriːə(r)/. “Free” is in fact the only adjective ending in “ee”, apart from compound words formed from it, e.g. “carefree” which are not comparable, so there are no words like “carefreer”….

It seems that, in this case, orthographic estheticism rebels at, and wins over, strict phoneticism.


  1. Philip Taylor said,

    July 3, 2020 @ 8:48 am

    The OED attests to only one recorded instance of 3-e "freeest", all other citations being to the 2-e form. "1797 ‘English Lady’ Resid. in France I. 155 France is now the freeest country in the world". If one were to want to hyphenate the word, however, I think that only the 3-e version could be used.

  2. jin defang said,

    July 3, 2020 @ 8:58 am

    rather than puzzle over this, it's easiest to write "most free."

  3. ycx said,

    July 3, 2020 @ 9:09 am

    Like others have mentioned, I recall being taught in primary school that "free" should not be used in the standard suffix comparative/superlative forms, just like "fun".

    I never thought about that since, but apparently according to English SE the word syllable length matters, with a number of exceptions.

  4. David said,

    July 3, 2020 @ 9:11 am

    The German spelling reform of 1996 addressed a similar problem, so that concatenated words that result in three consecutive letters no longer should have the third letter dropped.

    Schiffahrt became Schifffahrt from Schiff (ship) + Fahrt (journey)

  5. Simon said,

    July 3, 2020 @ 9:12 am

    “Free” is in fact the only adjective ending in “ee”

    What about "wee" (= small)?

  6. Antonio L. Banderas said,

    July 3, 2020 @ 9:14 am

    Longman Pronunciation Dictionary: ˈfriː‿ɪst əst

    E-deletion. A base-final e is generally dropped bf suffixes beginning with a vowel.
    [13] ii. composite vowel symbol (blue dye eye free sortie), where -e is part of a
    composite two- or three-letter vowel symbol at the end of the base.
    Bases ending in [16] freeing freed freer freest: deletion does not apply here, except that with eye (where final e is part of a three-letter
    vowel symbol) it is optional, ey(e)ing.

    We have not indicated themorphological boundaries in the above forms because in a number of cases the morphological analysis is problematic. The problem arises with those verbs such as free which retain e before ·ing : where does the boundary fall in the other forms? Take freed, for example. Fre·ed is implausible precisely because we do not have ∗fre·ing. But free·d has the disadvantage of requiring alternation in the suffix,which otherwise is invariably ·ed in regular verbs. A possible explanation, perhaps, is in terms neither of fre·ed nor of free·d, but rather that one e has to be omitted because the sequences eee, oee, yee, and iee are not permissible in English (∗freeed, ∗hoeed, ∗dyeed, ∗sortieed), so that the situation is quite different from that of ·ing – and it is then immaterial which e it is that is said to be omitted. Similar arguments hold for the adjectives freer and freest, and also with forms like died in [20ii].

    Notice that spelling facts from lexical word-formation reinforce this: while freelance and freewheeling are unhyphenated, in free-enterprise system a hyphen is called for to prevent the impossible ∗freeenterprise.

  7. Fernando said,

    July 3, 2020 @ 9:24 am

    Regardless of what the dictionaries say, this orthographical monstrosity means that I will, if need write "more free" and "most free".

  8. Toby said,

    July 3, 2020 @ 9:28 am

    What about twee?

  9. Chris Button said,

    July 3, 2020 @ 9:57 am

    Since "bluest" is not pronounced "bloost", I think "freest" is fine.

  10. Antonio L. Banderas said,

    July 3, 2020 @ 10:04 am

    According to Longman Pronunciation Dict:

    -est: ɪst əst (superlative ending or archaic and liturgical second person singular ending)

    -er: ə ǁ ər . Dirtier: ˈdɝːt̬ i‿ər.
    —On rare occasions this suffix receives contrastive stress, and is then pronounced ˈɝː, thus not early, but earliER ˌɝːliˈɝː, interviewEE and interviewER ˌɪnt̬ərvjuː ˈɝː

  11. David W said,

    July 3, 2020 @ 10:06 am


  12. KevinM said,

    July 3, 2020 @ 10:23 am

    @AntonioBanderas. The contrastive-stress option is very familiar to lawyers, who, to avoid misunderstanding, often hit the last syllable very hard when pronouncing "payor," "mortgagee," and like terms, because that little suffix has profound financial consequences. (Btw, lawyers around here commonly opt to pronounce -or as "or," not "er." At least in our local (US mid-Atlantic) rhotic pronunciation, it's clear and schwa-free, so that may be the reason.)

  13. Venadikt said,

    July 3, 2020 @ 10:28 am

    I thought "d i a r e s i s" as a joke, but I did a search for "freëst" and there were some results. I also came across this New Yorker article about the desirability of diaresis:

  14. Antonio L. Banderas said,

    July 3, 2020 @ 10:35 am


    -or: ə ǁ ər —also occasionally for emphasis ɔː ǁ ɔːr

    Also interesting:

  15. J.W. Brewer said,

    July 3, 2020 @ 10:43 am

    FWIW, the google books n-gram viewer shows "freest" as more common than "most free" at all times since 1800, although the ratio between the variants has fluctuated. Someone with more time than I have right now should be able to propose an analysis that would let you know how much of the prevalence of the "more free" variant is driven by nervousness about or aversion toward the spelling of the other, by figuring out a good baseline set of other adjectives that are similar in all relevant respects other than that the +est version doesn't "look weird" to anyone.

  16. unekdoud said,

    July 3, 2020 @ 10:59 am

    Can the "interviewee" suffix can be used to force three e's?

    The freer (freeer/freeor) frees the freee (freeee).

  17. Philip Taylor said,

    July 3, 2020 @ 11:00 am

    More n-grammarie : "freer" overtook "more free" in 1842 and never looked back. It is also (today) attested more frequently than the sum of the other three combined ("more free", "most free", "freest"). I was rather surprised to find that "freest of the free", which I had thought might account for a significant fraction of the "freest"s, is barely attested at all.

  18. Antonio L. Banderas said,

    July 3, 2020 @ 11:11 am

    According to Garner's fourth edition,

    "It was once possible to write interestinger and honestest, but no longer". if a word ordinarily takes either the -er or the -est suffix—and that formation sounds more natural— it’s poor style to use the two-word form with more or most.

  19. Bruce Rusk said,

    July 3, 2020 @ 11:15 am

    Is one who urinates a peer or a peeer?

  20. Richard Hershberger said,

    July 3, 2020 @ 11:32 am

    A search in turns up multiple examples of "freeest" and "freeer." The earliest is from 1775, reporting a speech by King George to the House of Peers about the unpleasantness in America: "…to be a subject of Great Britain, with all its consequences, is to be the freeest member of any civil society in the known world." Ipswich Journal October 28, 1775.

  21. KevinM said,

    July 3, 2020 @ 11:41 am

    Hey, I thought I was a good interviewee, but you are the intervieweeest.

  22. Sam said,

    July 3, 2020 @ 11:56 am

    Merriam-Webster has an entry for "see-er", defined simply as "one who sees".

  23. Antonio L. Banderas said,

    July 3, 2020 @ 12:08 pm

    @Sam, @Bruce Rusk

  24. OvV said,

    July 3, 2020 @ 12:16 pm

    @Bruce Rusk:
    I don't know. Correct legalese would probably be: peeor for the one who committed the act of peeing and the peeee (4 e's) for the one who got peed upon.

    @David W and @Venadikt:
    ë? I always thought in American English diacritics are considered burrs, which should be removed with a file.
    There seems to be a webtool available for deburring language.
    StackOverflow has an 11 years long discussion about how to deburr language.
    In short, constructions like freeër or peeër are as far as I have learned not possible in (American) English.

  25. MattF said,

    July 3, 2020 @ 12:20 pm

    Freer is a museum in Washington.

  26. Antonio L. Banderas said,

    July 3, 2020 @ 12:25 pm


  27. Corwin said,

    July 3, 2020 @ 12:39 pm

    On a related note, the book "The Mysterious Rider" by Zane Grey features a character named "Bill Belllounds." Three "l"s. It's spelled that way consistently through the whole book. I was reading this book out loud with my family a few years ago, and every time I read the name, I felt the need to draw out the "l" just to emphasize how weird I thought this spelling was. As, /l::/ or even /ɫ::/.

    Can anyone offer insight into or explanation of this name and its spelling? It's the only example of an English word written with three of the same consonant in a row that I can remember seeing. I feel privileged to be the seeer of it.

  28. John from Cincinnati said,

    July 3, 2020 @ 2:05 pm

    the sequences eee, oee, yee, and iee are not permissible in English

    Well, yee haw.

  29. ktschwarz said,

    July 3, 2020 @ 2:08 pm

    @Simon, good catch on "wee", though it's extremely rare in the comparative or superlative. I was once so struck by John Updike's arch usage:

    My sexual jealousy roused itself only after midnight, in that casket of an hour, the clock's weest, wherein she and I, poppets ever smaller with the passage of time, had copulated.

    that I tried to google "weest" and found only a couple of actual uses among many pages of proper names, misspellings of "west", and pages in Dutch.

    I'm not impressed with Jakub Marian's post. Anyone who thinks the third person singular of "to ski" is "skies" shouldn't be advising beginners on mistakes in English. Google "he skies" and you'll find mainly questions about its spelling, a pile of OCR errors, and uses in sports of "sky" as a verb, meaning to jump or throw very high. Admittedly, there are a few uses referring to skiing, but no dictionary accepts it.

  30. David Marjanović said,

    July 3, 2020 @ 2:19 pm

    It seems that, in this case, orthographic estheticism rebels at, and wins over, strict phoneticism.

    There are other such cases where economy wins out, like the h that is pronounced twice in threshold [-ʃh-] and Southampton, Northampton, Northumbria [-θh-].

    rather than puzzle over this, it's easiest to write "most free."

    But would anybody say that?

    I also came across this New Yorker article about the desirability of diaresis:

    For better or worse (frankly worse), The New Yorker is the only English-language publication that still uses the diaeresis. Everywhere else it was abandoned soon after the 1950s.

    In German, too, it is never used for common words or even place names like the disyllabic Lienz. The last name Groër comes to mind, and that's it.

  31. Antonio L. Banderas said,

    July 3, 2020 @ 2:26 pm

    @John from Cincinnati
    What's meant is probably -yee- or even just -yee.

  32. Gregory Kusnick said,

    July 3, 2020 @ 2:37 pm

    Corwin: Triple-L "bellless" seems to be out there, though hyphenated "bell-less" is far more frequent.

  33. Philip Taylor said,

    July 3, 2020 @ 2:38 pm

    David M — Do you really know anyone who says /nɔːθ ˈhʌm bri‿|ə/ ? With the first three I have no problem, but I really cannot imagine anyone using the last.

  34. TR said,

    July 3, 2020 @ 2:40 pm

    Does anyone really say North[h]umbria? It sounds bizarre to me, but then it's not a word I've often heard spoken.

  35. Philip Taylor said,

    July 3, 2020 @ 2:48 pm

    "The New Yorker is the only English-language publication that still uses the diaeresis. ". Hardly. "even ambitious emission peaks are much nearer 2020–2030 than the naïve estimates of 2010–2016". Found in the Guardian, 2011, without really moving my fingers.

  36. Ellen K. said,

    July 3, 2020 @ 2:53 pm

    I would go with a hyphenated form (free-er, free-est) or else reword it to more/most free.

    Though I can't say if I'd actually use free in comparative form, nor which (free-er/freer/freeer vs. more free) would more likely come to mind if I did.

  37. Alexander Browne said,

    July 3, 2020 @ 3:04 pm

    The indie rock band Matt Pond PA released an EP as a free download called "The Freeep" (

  38. Chris Button said,

    July 3, 2020 @ 3:23 pm

    Personally I like how the New Yorker has its own distinctive style. The typeface and prolific comma usage is part of its brand.

    I've never heard an "h" in Northumbria either.

  39. Chris Button said,

    July 3, 2020 @ 3:28 pm

    @ Philip Taylor

    The New Yorker writes things like "coöperate".

  40. ktschwarz said,

    July 3, 2020 @ 3:32 pm

    @Corwin: check out Wiktionary's Category:English_words_containing_three_consecutive_instances_of_the_same_letter.

    Interesting observation about the Zane Grey novel. According to IMDB, in the 1938 film of The Mysterious Rider, the cast list spells the character's name "Bellounds". Also, neither Bellounds nor Belllounds is the name of any non-fictional person, as far as Google can tell me.

  41. michael richard helsem said,

    July 3, 2020 @ 3:32 pm

    i haven't seen anyone here address the possibility that the word "free" doesn't have a comparative because it's properly a binary (on the analogy of stative verbs) & not a continuum; that if it costs you, it's not 'less free' but 'not free at all'; that if you have any constraint, you're not 'less free' but 'unfree'; finally, if there's a sense that requires a continuum, a different word should be chosen.

  42. Philip Taylor said,

    July 3, 2020 @ 3:35 pm

    Chris, I did not intend to suggest for one second that the New Yorker does not use diareses, only that David M was mistaken in his belief that it was the only English language newspaper so to do. In fact, within a few seconds of posting my previous comment, I also found diareses used in the New York Times within the last decade, at which point I stopped looking. Being British, I write "co-operate" of course, but even I would find "coöperate" a little too prissy.

  43. Robot Therapist said,

    July 3, 2020 @ 3:52 pm

    (In the UK) my tendency nowadays would be to use a hyphen.

  44. Corwin said,

    July 3, 2020 @ 4:35 pm

    @ktschwarz: Good find with the Wiktionary page. I should have checked my recency illusion. I must have seen some + or , or + words out there at some point. Still, Belllounds stands out as a proper (monomorphemic??) name for a human; it doesn't fall under any of the categories of technical terminology, acronyms, initialisms, slang, or sound spellings that prevail in that list.

    Of course, as it doesn't seem to be a real-world name, we might as well speculate that Zane Grey was having fun with language and leave it at that. (But still—wtf?)

  45. Corwin said,

    July 3, 2020 @ 4:37 pm

    That was supposed to read like "ll" + "less" or "like", or "ss" + "ship".

  46. Bob Ladd said,

    July 3, 2020 @ 4:46 pm

    Isn't naïve normally spelled with a diaeresis, even by publications that are not the New Yorker? The New Yorker's peculiarity is about using a diaeresis to separate identical vowel letters, where anyone else would use a hyphen (or simply run the two together). The example of coöperate has already been mentioned, but I think they would also write things like reëvaluate and preëminent.

  47. Jack said,

    July 3, 2020 @ 5:05 pm

    Can I raise a similar puzzle?

    I had recently to describe someone who flees and fleeer seemed the natural way.

    This discussion caused me to look up Google ngrams. Fleeer makes no appearance. I am sad.

  48. Andrew Usher said,

    July 3, 2020 @ 6:27 pm

    The blog post asks 'how are we to pronounce …' but I think the only issue can be spelling, not pronunciation. And there seems to be no real disagreement that if it is written, it's 'freest', although hyphenated the third 'e' would come back. The long-establish 'seer' is an exactly comparable spelling, and I think no vowel-letter digraph can be followed directly by inflectional 'e'.

    Yes, 'naive' is often spelled with the diacritic, even by those that don't otherwise use it, because it's inherited from French, where it is used similarly to the New Yorker rule.

    If 'Northumbria' has no /h/, does the 'th' become voiced as it does in 'Northampton' and "Southampton' when they have no /h/? It doesn't seem so, and perhaps that reflects regional variation.

    k_over_hbarc at

  49. Viseguy said,

    July 3, 2020 @ 6:47 pm

    Freeer and freeest cry out for a leading asterisk to me (native language: 1950s Brooklynese). Is there any English word not a proper name or an onomatopoeia (brrr, hmmm, shhh, etc.), that has three of any letter, vowel or consonant, in a row? I can't think of one. Freer, freest strikes me as the only "English" choice.

  50. Viseguy said,

    July 3, 2020 @ 6:50 pm

    Meant to add: Free-er, free-est are, of course, possible, if visually unappealing.

  51. Bloix said,

    July 3, 2020 @ 7:41 pm

    So a person who pees is a peer?

  52. John Swindle said,

    July 3, 2020 @ 8:30 pm

    Then there's "the land of the fre-e-e-e and the home, of the, brave."

  53. JPL said,

    July 4, 2020 @ 4:44 am

    Check out this old groove (does anybody remember it?):

  54. Tom Dawkes said,

    July 4, 2020 @ 9:47 am

    Dutch saves this problem as explained at
    "Sequences of vowel letters may cause problems as to their proper interpretation. For instance, the sequence ei occurs in both gein /ɣɛin/ fun, where it stands for a diphthong, and in geïnd /ɣǝ.ɪnd/ collected, where it stands for the sequence schwa + /ɪ/. Therefore, Dutch spelling uses diaeresis (also known as trema), two dots above a vowel letter, to indicate the proper interpretation, as in gein versus geïnd. Another example is reëel /re.ˈel/ real versus reeën /ˈre.ə(n)/ deers. A related principle concerns the spelling of /i/ before schwa: when /i/ is spelled as ie in word-final position, and does not bear word stress like in 2b, it is reduced to i when it occurs word-internally due to morphological processes (shown in 2bi)

  55. Christian Weisgerber said,

    July 4, 2020 @ 10:08 am


    The German spelling reform of 1996 addressed a similar problem, so that concatenated words that result in three consecutive letters no longer should have the third letter dropped.

    The pre-1996 situation was a mess since the spelling was also dependent on the letter after the potentially tripled one and even the etymology:

    Schiff + Fahrt > Schiffahrt (vowel follows)
    Sauerstoff + Flasche > Sauerstoffflasche (consonant follows)
    Ballett + Theater > Ballettheater (something about Greek theta)

  56. Coby Lubliner said,

    July 4, 2020 @ 11:04 am

    The best-known example of the Dutch use of diaeresis is that found on Belgian postage stamps: Belgique/België.

  57. Peter Taylor said,

    July 4, 2020 @ 12:00 pm

    “Free” is in fact the only adjective ending in “ee”, apart from compound words formed from it, e.g. “carefree” which are not comparable, so there are no words like “carefreer”….

    I'm not convinced of the accuracy of the claim that "carefree" is not comparable. It's just that the preferred form seems to be "more carefree". Lots of Google hits, two in BNC, 44 in COCA.

  58. Antonio L. Banderas said,

    July 4, 2020 @ 1:22 pm

    Nobody has yet taken into account the usual syllabi(fi)cations.
    According to Encarta,

  59. Philip Taylor said,

    July 4, 2020 @ 2:22 pm

    I would agree with Peter (no relation) Taylor — it is very easy to imagine a story opening with the words "Juliette had never felt more carefree than she did during her first summer in the Vendée …".

  60. Andreas Johansson said,

    July 5, 2020 @ 2:20 am

    Regarding "naïve", I suspect for many writers the diaeresis doesn't so much mark two vowels in hiatus as the writer's knowledge that that's the French spelling.

  61. Ralph Hickok said,

    July 5, 2020 @ 6:03 am

    Is there any word in the English language that contains the same letter three time in succession?

  62. Francois Lang said,

    July 6, 2020 @ 9:12 am

    @Ralph Hickok "Is there any word in the English language that contains the same letter three time in succession?"

    This may be pushing the envelope, but what about

    governessship, duchessship, godessship, etc., and


  63. George said,

    July 6, 2020 @ 2:48 pm

    @ Andreas Johansson

    I would think that if the diaeresis is there to show off the writer's knowledge of French, we might see more use of naïf when the person being written about is masculine.

  64. Andrew Usher said,

    July 6, 2020 @ 10:11 pm

    I've only seen 'naif' used as a noun, and the noun is very rare in English; the adjective is invariably 'naive'.

    What Andreas Johansson meant is basically the same as I did: people are aware 'naive' is foreign, and, you know, foreign words sometimes have those funny symbols above their vowels, so … as you see, I wouldn't use them unless forced by a style guide, and that may be the case as many or most examples you see. English is proudly diacritic-free and should remain that way.

    Francois Lang's last example is particularly good in that the three letters would be three separate syllables! But I supect if it were in actual use you'd see the first deleted; I'd read it /ˌlæpəɹoˌhɪstəɹoˌsælpɪŋ(g)ˌoəfəɹˈɛktəmi/. Surely 'governessship' etc. should be spelled that way, but everyone would avoid the words; I am not sure if the reason has any orthographic component.

    Philip Taylor:
    Yes, 'more carefree' is perfectly legitimate. But no one uses 'carefreer'. As the word is unique, I don't think that can be made part of the rule for comparison; rather, if there's any pattern, it is the stress. 'Unfreer' (second-syllable stress) sounds less impossible.

    Yes, 'peer' from 'pee' is regular. I suspect the occasion to use it just doesn't come up.

  65. Mike Daniels said,

    July 7, 2020 @ 5:39 pm

    Also consider

    "…That punitive war on the disagreeor/Which falls to the disagreeee."

  66. Philip Taylor said,

    July 8, 2020 @ 3:20 am

    "zoöoögenous" — wonderful ! I was convinced that there must be a word commencing "zoo" that would take one extra 'o' but never dared hope that there might be a word that takes two. What a shame it is otherwise unattested. I shall have to see if I can work it into a paper in the hopes that it one day makes it into the OED …

  67. David Marjanović said,

    July 8, 2020 @ 7:07 am

    Sorry about Northumbria; I've probably never heard anyone pronounce that word, in any way, and committed the etymological fallacy.

    Also naïve – yes, pretty much everyone who seems to have access to ï seems to spell that word with it, but that's treated as a special feature of that word and, usually, that word only. Most of the same people don't use the diaeresis systematically, while The New Yorker still does, e.g. coöperate, reëvaluate, preëminent and the like as mentioned above.

    Closer to my field, zoölogy was in common use among zoölogists and in scientific journals into the 1950s or so and then disappeared. Similarly oölite in geology. These are, at least in Britain, often pronounced with three Os: zoo-oll-ogy, oo-oh-lite.

    Also, I should mention the cross-section, which I've never encountered without its hyphen.

    the possibility that the word "free" doesn't have a comparative because it's properly a binary

    That way lies a philosophical discussion about whether we're ever truly free. :-) The fewer constraints you have, the freer you are.

    I had recently to describe someone who flees and fleeer seemed the natural way.


    Ballett + Theater > Ballettheater (something about Greek theta)

    I didn't even know that one. But it's in character for the old spelling to apply the Greek rule.


    The first of the ooo should go.


    I sit in awe.

  68. Rodger C said,

    July 8, 2020 @ 8:36 am

    In the Indiana limestone belt, the town of Oolitic is of course pronounced /uˑlɪtɪk/. And the ooids that give oolitic limestone its name are /u.ɪdz/, at least to quarrymen.

  69. Trogluddite said,

    July 8, 2020 @ 1:23 pm

    Re: 'Northumbria', 'Northampton', 'Southampton'

    I lived most of my childhood in Northampton (county town of Northamptonshire, England, UK) and would pronounce all three of these place names with unvoiced 'th' and without the "etymological h" identified by David Marjanović (e.g. /nɔːˈθæmptən/).

    The pronunciations without /h/ seem by far the most common in the BrE dialects that I'm familiar with. I have heard the 'Hampton' variations in the wild, but they sound a bit ostentatious to my ear (possibly just parochial bias: e.g. I find 'South-hampton" less jarring than 'North-hampton'). However, 'Northumbria' with the /h/ sounds plain wrong to my ears. Of course, h-dropping is common for us Brits, so even spelling out the "etymological h" might not make much difference to our pronunciation (the Domesday Book has a single-word spelling for 'Northampton' which already omits it).

    I don't recall hearing the 'th' voiced by any BrE speaker, even when the /h/ is absent. Sound changes analogous to those in the compounds 'northern'/'southern' certainly can happen in BrE 'north-'/'south-' place names, but would sound very odd to me in these particular cases. However, I see that Wikipedia shows voiced 'th' as an alternative for at least one 'Northampton' in the USA (and, correctly IMHO, not for my childhood home). So, as Andrew Usher suggests, regional variations are almost certainly muddying the water.

  70. Maurice Waite said,

    July 9, 2020 @ 6:56 pm

    Relating to "coöperate", another way of indicating that letters do not represent the most obvious sound occurs in Catalan, where a centred dot or interpunct (or 'turned point' to anyone who remembers metal type) is added between two l's that are a long l rather than the Spanish palatalised one in "calle" or "paella": an example is "paral·lel".

  71. Philip Taylor said,

    July 11, 2020 @ 8:12 am

    I was familiar with the phrase "turned point", in the typographic sense, but finding any mention of it on Google was surprisingly difficult; eventually I found one instance using the Google n-gram viewer, in Typographical Printing-Surfaces by A. Harriette, L.A. Legros, J.C. Grant, dated 1916, ISBN 9785872323303.

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