Monday, December 5, 2016

How to Pronounce "Nuclear"

I admit that this is perhaps a biased or elitist view on my part, and that is probably the most pointless post in a blog filled almost exclusively with pointless posts, but I shall, nonetheless,  share this bit of information about myself.

I divide this planet's English-speaking population into two distinct groups: those who pronounce the word nuclear as NU/klee/ur  and those who pronounce it NU/kyuh /lur. (I cannot get blogspot to allow me to do the upside-down e schwa symbol or any other International Phonetic Alphabet characters or other diacritical markings; I apologize for any inconvenience this insufficiency may inadvertently cause.) END OF POST.


  1. I once had an English teacher who pronounced nuclear nucular. It was very annoying.

    1. Presidents Eisenhower and Bush #2 both pronounced it "nucular." It would have more or less been expected of Bush #2 (who said DUD/unt in place of doesn't, which is not really excusable when considering the level of education of his parents; I suppose he thought the folksy Texas dialect made him more relatable) but I would have expected more from President Eisenhower.

      One of my high school biology teachers pronounced it nucular.

  2. Replies
    1. How do people mangle that one, Heather? I think it's usually pronounced correctly where I live, though maybe I haven't paid close enough attention. Also, is there any ethnic variation in how "jewelry" is pronounced where you live? Do people say "JEW/luh/ree" or something similar?

      About 50% of Californians, on the other hand, cannot for the lives of themselves correctly say say "realtor." My mom has a friend whose parents were realtors for their entire working lives, yet my mom's friend pronounces her deceased parents' former occupation as REE/ luh / ter. They presumably pronounced it that way as well. ("Realtor" is actually one of those words that has been mispronounced so pervasively that some dictionary sources now cite REE/ luh / tur as a alternate pronunciation of the word. I hate when dictionary editors cede to widespread ignorance by declaring that an incorrectly pronounced word is now acceptably pronounced in the incorrect manner just because enough people insisted upon mispronouncing it, but that's how language is created and evolves. Still, I don't have to like it.

      I'm not a huge fan of pet peeves as in general I think clinging to them is a bit anally retentive, but there are a few basic words that are actually spelled pretty much the way they sound, yet people mangle them anyway.

      The regional dialect variations, such as people in some parts of the U.S. saying /wursh/ instead of /WAHsh/ or "holler" instead of "hollow" are an entirely different matter. If it's a dialect issue, I can take a "whatever" attitude even if I think the regional pronunciation of the word in question sounds a bit silly and wouldn't be all that difficult to pronounce phonetically. Dialectical variation is one thing and complete mispronunciation is quite another.