This blog is for everyone who uses words.

The ordinary-sized words are for everyone, but the big ones are especially for children.

Sunday, 8 December 2013

Sunday Rest: diphthong. Word Not To Use Today.

Diphthong...well, it's got too many aitches in it, hasn't it?

And they're in such awkward places that no one can say it (yes, all right, dipthong may be an alternative pronunciation, but it's even more annoying than difthong, isn't it).

I could never work out what a diphthong was, anyway. At least I've got that sorted out, now.

It's a tongue thing, is a diphthong: a vowel sound where your tongue moves as you say it.

The a of mate, for instance. If you say the word mate very very slowly you'll be able to notice that between the m and the t your tongue does a bit of a curtsey. You get the same sort of thing happening with the u of music.

That's because the sound changes half way through, so that the u in music, for instance, is actually an ee-oo sound.

Diphthong covers any vowel-changing type sound, even when it's not all written down in, well, vowels. Like the ow of how, that's a diphthong. And so is the ere of there.

As if that's not spreading itself about enough, a diphthong has another meaning, just different enough from its first meaning to confuse everyone, which is two vowels physically joined together, such as œ and æ. 

Ah well. At least now I know why I was never really sure what  

anyone was talking about when they used the word diphthong.

It was because no one else was quite sure, either.

Word Not To Use Today: diphthong. This word comes from the

Greek phthongos, which means sound.


  1. My husband saw this word once, and got all excited.
    A thong with a dip in it! Lemme see!
    (I grew up where a thong was a jandal, a flip-flop, as in footwear.
    In hubbys world, a thong is the brief underwear that costs ten times more than the material that goes into granny's underwear!
    I know, I know, it's nothing at all to do with the actual word, but as much as I know the above is all wrong, I will never see diphthong as it is meant!
    Besides, it's way more fun! :)

    1. Or a thong for swimming in, perhaps?

    2. I thought they were for us females! :) :) :)

  2. I wish more people knew what diphthongs are, because I feel like I'm forever explaining it when discussing pronunciation in language.

    "I thought you said an 'e' in Romanian was always 'eh' as in 'Eddie'."

    "Yes, but this is a diphthong, because it's followed by an 'a', and 'ea' makes a sounds all of its own."

    "It's a what-thong?"

    "Never mind."