Q: I’ve tried many times to call you on the air, but I couldn’t get through. So, here’s a question for the blog. I’ve noticed that almost everyone says fir when he or she really means to say “for” – people of all ages. I’ve even heard it from news broadcasters! Very strange. What’s up with this?
A: The word “for” when it’s unstressed tends to get squeezed into something clipped that sounds like f’r, especially when we speak rapidly. This is a common phenomenon.
In fact, both The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language (4th ed.) and Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary (11th ed.) list the two pronunciations as standard English.
The same thing happens with the word “to,” which gets shortened to t’. When in a hurry, we’re likely to say “time t’ go” instead of pronouncing the full word “to.”
Speakers of other languages also commonly elide (run together) prepositions with the words that follow. In short, not to worry!