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November 03, 2011


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"-gue" as a spelling the unvoiced "g" sound seems to give Americans trouble. I've seen "tounge" (for "tongue") online more times than I can count, though unlike "longue" I haven't heard "tongue" pronounced to rhyme with "lounge."

@rootlesscosmo, I imagine that that's because the -gue spelling is so non-phonetic. There's an interesting post on the DailyWritingTips blog that lists a bunch of words that end in -gue; they're virtually all pronounced just as "g":


Note the amusing aside: "WARNING: These words start to look strange when you look at them in a group." Indeed they do.

The post also notes that many such words (e.g., "analogue," "dialogue") now have variant spellings that reflect their actual pronunciation ("analog," "dialog").

That doesn't explain how "longue" became "lounge," exactly. That might be a case where an existing English word was close enough in meaning that people naturally started using it; a kind of folk-etymological/eggcorn-y kind of transformation.

In any event, in the absence of any formal spelling reform in English, spelling changes will occur spontaneously, and it's not surprising that this would be likeliest with words where the spelling corresponds so little to a pronunciation.

Thank you so much! I never did know what to call that thing.I think we called it a "pool chair" or "lounger".On the box it also explains that Barbie is a ,"Teen-age fashion model". I knew she wasn't just some "doll". And the notice," clothing not included".I love it. I suppose Barbie was toasting her buns by the pool. And why the two drinks?

Interestingly, in the UK, I've never heard anyone say 'shays lounge'. The 'worst' pronunciation I've ever heard is 'shays long'. In fact, if I ever heard anyone in the UK say 'shays lounge' I'd have no hesitation -- for their own enlightenment, you understand -- in correcting them.

I put the tendency of the US to change both the spelling and pronunciation of words down to the historically high proportion of their population who spoke English as their second language. Could this give Americans the tendency to be much more cavalier with words and to make them feel that mangling was totally acceptable?

At one time -- say up to the '70s -- the British were always taught the importance of 'speaking properly'. Since the huge influx of non English-speaking foreigners from our former colonies, starting in the '60s, this has reduced dramatically as teachers became encouraged to 'embrace difference'. This has happened to such an extent now that some indigenous white 'yoof' now say 'aks' instead of 'ask'; and are not corrected by their teachers.

How times change, innit.

"Chaise lounge" was added to the OED in its September 2007 update, with citations back to 1807. See Patricia O'Conner's Grammarphobia blog for more.


Although I'm a Francophile/-phone and usually happy to toss around French phrases at the drop of a ... chapeau, in this case I'm happy to ditch chaise longue in favor of lounge chair or lounger, both of which communicate the item more clearly.

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