"Copy editors? Who needs copy editors?" — part 325

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From Mark Swofford in Taiwan:

In sympathy with the poor sign-makers, I would have to say that the spelling of "government" is not exactly transparent, especially if we're going by how it sounds.

But wait a minute!  Some dictionaries put the "n" in the pronunciation key for this word.

Most people I know pronounce "government" with the "r" but not the first "n".

Selected readings


  1. Terry K. said,

    July 28, 2022 @ 12:40 pm

    Looks non-rhotic. Like someone remembered there's a (for them) silent R, but didn't remember where.

  2. Nick Kaldis said,

    July 28, 2022 @ 12:51 pm

    Hi Mark, and thanks for posting this.

    I am interested because, around 5 years or more ago, my relatives in Taipei told me that the government had a new policy of rewarding with a small cash amount anyone who found an English language error in government-issued/sponsored signs or documents –have you heard about this during your current visit?

  3. Philip Taylor said,

    July 28, 2022 @ 1:34 pm

    Regarding « [m]ost people [that] I know pronounce "government" with the "r" but not the first "n"«», the LPD has this to say :

    government ˈɡʌv ən mənt →-əm-, -ə- ǁ -ərn– — There are also casual forms ˈɡʌb m mənt, ˈɡʌm mənt

    For me, the ˈɡʌv ən mənt variant (i.e., non-rhotic, with a clear first /n/) is the one that I would normally use in careful speech (an oral presentation, for example), but I may well drop the first /n/ in more casual speech, tho' I don't think that I would ever sink to the level of the two variants that the LPD classes as "casual forms" …

  4. Andrew Usher said,

    July 28, 2022 @ 5:49 pm

    As the sign put the 'n' in the right place, I don't think that's the confusion. More likely, following the first comment, a non=rhotic pronunciation spelling, with the common foreign confusion of PALM and STRUT – as southern British speakers distinguish these mainly by length, those learning a British model without having phonemic length will be prone to it.

    Note the LPD is careful to include the intermediate pronunciation with /mm/, which I think is my ordinary form. For non-rhotic speakers, this may not be distinctly perceived, as gov-m-ment could be derived by rule from either the geminate or non-geminate form.

    k_over_hbarc at yahoo.com

  5. John Swindle said,

    July 28, 2022 @ 8:32 pm

    I suppose in the US “garvenment” might result from a tendency to confuse the government with varmints.

  6. Mark S. said,

    July 28, 2022 @ 8:44 pm

    @Nick Kaldis
    "Visit" is a tricky word. I probably crossed the line past "visit" to Taiwan more than twenty-five years ago, though I still insist upon using the same word to describe my mother-in-law's current two-and-a-half-year stay at my apartment. (Fortunately, she's very nice.)

    Regardless, if such a program of money for mistakes exists, I'd love to hear details. However small the reward for reporting errors, I could probably quit my day job.

  7. Julian said,

    July 28, 2022 @ 11:45 pm

    How much of 'government' can you elide?
    Here in Canberra, Australia, we live in an ex-govie house. Top that.

  8. Benjamin E. Orsatti said,

    July 29, 2022 @ 5:41 am

    Saw a guy with black hat and sunglasses sitting in a white van outside a reputed mafioso’s house the other day. Worst disguised G-man I ever saw.

  9. unekdoud said,

    July 29, 2022 @ 9:54 am

    In Singlish: gahmen.

  10. Eric P Smith said,

    July 29, 2022 @ 11:42 am

    Here in Scotland it’s mostly [ˈɡʌvəɹˌmənt]. I might say [ˈɡʌvəɹnˌmənt] if I were being deliberately careful.

  11. BillR said,

    July 29, 2022 @ 12:33 pm

    I’ve heard guvmint in rural Michigan since the 1950s.

  12. Robot Therapist said,

    July 29, 2022 @ 4:22 pm

    Thanks guv!

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