The Grammarphobia Blog

Hissy fits

Q: A guest on NPR, a young woman from an upper-middle-class background, recently pronounced “et cetera” as if it were spelled “ek cetera.” I’ve heard this before, but usually from less educated speakers. Is a shift taking place?

A: No shift has taken place – at least not yet. There’s no “k” or “x” sound in “et cetera.” The “ek cetera” and “ex cetera” pronunciations are very common, though.

The word we abbreviate as “etc.” can be pronounced with either three syllables or four, but the first consonant sound is a “t.”

Here’s how I’m putting it in the upcoming third edition of my grammar and usage book Woe Is I (in a section called “Hissy Fits”):

“People often put an ‘s’ sound where an ‘x’ sound belongs. They get all hissy. They say ‘asseptable’ for acceptable, ‘assessories’ for accessories, ‘essentric’ for eccentric, ‘estatic’ for ecstatic, and ‘estraordinary’ for extraordinary. This is definitely unacceptable!

“Sometimes speakers do the reverse, putting an ‘x’ sound where it doesn’t belong. They say ‘excape’ for escape, ‘expecially’ for especially, ‘excetera’ for et cetera, and ‘expresso’ for espresso. This gives me fits.”

If you want to read more, I wrote a blog item a couple of years ago on the pronunciation of “et cetera.”

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