The Grammarphobia Blog

February House

Q: Does anyone ever pronounce the first “r” in February?

A: Dictionaries list two proper ways to say “February”: with either one “r” or both of them pronounced.

Most people, however, do not pronounce the first “r,” according to Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary (11th ed.).

In fact, Merriam-Webster’s points out that FEB-yuh-ware-ee is “the most widespread pronunciation of this word among educated speakers.”

This pronunciation is an example of what linguists call “dissimulation.”

M-W explains that dissimilation “may occur when a word contains two identical or closely related sounds, resulting in the change or loss of one of them. This happens regularly in February.”

“The y heard from many speakers is not an intrusion,” the dictionary adds, “but rather a common pronunciation of the vowel ‘u‘ after a consonant, as in January and annual.”

This reminds me of the house in Brooklyn where a bunch of creative types, including W. H. Auden, Carson McCullers, Benjamin Britten, Paul and Jane Bowles, and Gypsy Rose Lee, lived communally in the early 1940s.

Anaïs Nin called it “February House” because so many of the occupants were born in that month.

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