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Why do we say it -

Old 01-26-20, 08:35 AM
  #26  
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"Don't touch my motor- sickle Ange"
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Old 01-26-20, 08:40 AM
  #27  
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Originally Posted by wphamilton View Post
I dunno, people seem ok with saying "eyesight", with the repeated long i.

I don't think it has anything to do with the phonetic rules (which don't work anyway), nor with etymology especially since both words share origins. Somewhere it changed from sickle to sigh-kal, and it's a puzzle. Keeping me up at night.
A lot of these things are accidents of history, occurring for reasons that are long since forgotten, and then we try to retrofit an explanation.

It would be interesting to know how bicycle was being pronounced at the time motorcycle was coined. Not sure if anyone knows that. There may have even been a conscious effort by the people marketing the new product to pronounce it differently to differentiate between the products.
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Old 01-26-20, 09:19 AM
  #28  
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Originally Posted by livedarklions View Post
A lot of these things are accidents of history, occurring for reasons that are long since forgotten, and then we try to retrofit an explanation.
Variations in pronounciation is a mystery deeper than quantum physics. Having lived in the deep South for 10 years or so, which I very much liked, I never understood how ordinary one syllable words, such as "eye or I" turn into two syllables. Just as mysterious is a heavy duty Scots accent and Caribbean accents which I'm informed are actually English. For example, the phrase "Am Fay Embra" is "I'm from Edinburg", believe it or not.
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Old 01-26-20, 11:52 AM
  #29  
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Originally Posted by delbiker1 View Post
I remember the Steve Allen show with Frank Zappa. He was also on " What's My Line ". I saw Zappa twice, 3 weeks apart, 1973 or '74. First at the Chicago Auditorium and then at NIU Fieldhouse. Great musician and showman. A Lot of props and stage antics.
I think a high school friend of mine had a band which was part of opening for Zappa at NIU.
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Old 01-26-20, 12:41 PM
  #30  
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Originally Posted by berner View Post
Having lived in the deep South for 10 years or so, which I very much liked, I never understood how ordinary one syllable words, such as "eye or I" turn into two syllables.
I was told by a Southern lady that when you live in the Deep South, you must speak slowly so that your mouth does not overheat. (Put that in your best Selma, AL accent!)

That doesn't explain the phenomenon of two words becoming one (e.g. Old Bay becomes Olbay, Spring Hill becomes Springill).

I'm kind of obsessed with variations in pronunciation across the US (having lived in no fewer than seven different regions of the US - with seven different accents - and adding in my mom's East Coast accent to make eight.) The Southern lady might actually be on to something, though. If you want a good Fargo/Minnesota accent, go stand in a freezer until your mouth goes numb. Amazing!
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Old 01-26-20, 01:24 PM
  #31  
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Originally Posted by livedarklions View Post
That's not really a good explanation because one can stress or not stress a long "i" sound. There's definitely a vowel shift in "bicycle" and "tricycle". My guess is that the repeated long "i" sound just sounds awkward to most people.
I'd never thought about this much before, but my guess was going to be that having one versus two consonants before the "y" in "cycle" changes whether the preceding vowel is long or short, and because the "y" in bicycle performs that task, it is kept short in that case.
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Old 01-26-20, 01:27 PM
  #32  
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I suppose while we're at it, should we discuss why "meter" is pronounced differently on its own versus in "thermometer", and often in "kilometer"?
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Old 01-26-20, 01:35 PM
  #33  
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Maybe because of the number of preceding syllables? Bicycle has one (is it. a dactyl?) and motorcycle has two preceding
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Old 01-26-20, 01:38 PM
  #34  
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Maybe because "bi" is a prefix and motor is comprised of two words.
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Old 01-26-20, 01:43 PM
  #35  
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All that needs to be said.
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Old 01-26-20, 02:18 PM
  #36  
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Originally Posted by wphamilton View Post
Why is bicycle pronounced "bi-sickle" but motorcycle is pronounced "motor-sikel"?
Good question. In English the stress is either on the second to last syllable or the third to last, if the second to last is short (actually that's the rule for Latin, English is probably more complicated and irregular than this, but it follows this pattern some of the time). In bicycle the stress is on "bi", third from last. But in "bitonal" for example it's on "ton", second from last, because that's a long "o". The thing with "motorcycle" is we really pronounce it like it was two words "MOtor CYcle". Because that second word only has two syllables we end up with the stress on the "CY", second last. If we treated it like one word we'd say moTORsickle.

Even weirder is tri-sickle but uni-sikel. Why not unIsickle? I think English basically doesn't like words with more than three syllables very much, although there are some, like esTABlishment.

Would suck to not be a native speaker of English and have to learn all this ****.
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Old 01-26-20, 04:46 PM
  #37  
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is the pope catholic?
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Old 01-26-20, 09:46 PM
  #38  
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I say we just call them "One of them there pedal deelys" solve the whole ding and the dang problem
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Old 01-27-20, 02:52 AM
  #39  
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Surely Sean Bean takes the biscuit here. He cant have it both ways. It's either "Shawn Bawn" or "Seen Been"
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Old 01-27-20, 06:19 AM
  #40  
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I'm imbibing all of the discussion on the internet that claims that the long vowel sound in the second syllable violates some sort of English pronunciation rule.

I have had no success in divining how such an argument is surviving in the face of so many counter-examples.

Last edited by livedarklions; 01-27-20 at 08:55 AM.
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Old 01-27-20, 08:14 AM
  #41  
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Originally Posted by berner View Post
Variations in pronounciation is a mystery deeper than quantum physics. Having lived in the deep South for 10 years or so, which I very much liked, I never understood how ordinary one syllable words, such as "eye or I" turn into two syllables. Just as mysterious is a heavy duty Scots accent and Caribbean accents which I'm informed are actually English. For example, the phrase "Am Fay Embra" is "I'm from Edinburg", believe it or not.
Reminds me of sometime early in my first year of grade-school in England.. and reading Leicester out of a book pronouncing it Lye Ses Ter (or maybe I said Lye chester)... got some chuckles out of my classmates.
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Old 01-27-20, 08:16 AM
  #42  
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Have you been speaking English for very long? The Great Aggregator is not here to please you-- there are words in the English language from nearly every language that's ever been spoken, and it's not as if all of those other languages follow perfectly strict sets of rules. Language is dynamic, and English perhaps more than any other. If you think that the natural intonation and vowel stresses of the words motorcycle and bicycle (for a rhotic speaker, or one without any heavy regional inflection) are somehow unpleasant, then say them however you want. If you're non-rhotic, I can't help you.

But looking for examples of how English "contradicts itself" is a fantastic way to waste some time. Bicycle is combined from Latin and Greek roots (by the French,) while motorcycle is simply an instance of someone taking the words motor and cycle (both Latin) and sticking them together. English is the place where inflammable and flammable mean the same thing, while inoperable and operable, or inactive and active, or...

For the abovementioned Sean Bean (Shawn Bawn or Seen Been,) once again, aggregation. Sean is a variant of John, and is therefore pronounced the same-- that one goes back to the "olden times." Bean is pretty old on it's own, and depending on who was saying it-- has seen it's pronunciation bounced through been, boon, bahn, bohn, and at some point, even bawn. So if there was a John Bean like... 900 years ago, he may well have been Jawn Bawn.
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Old 01-27-20, 09:35 AM
  #43  
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Originally Posted by DrIsotope View Post
Have you been speaking English for very long? The Great Aggregator is not here to please you-- there are words in the English language from nearly every language that's ever been spoken, and it's not as if all of those other languages follow perfectly strict sets of rules. Language is dynamic, and English perhaps more than any other. If you think that the natural intonation and vowel stresses of the words motorcycle and bicycle (for a rhotic speaker, or one without any heavy regional inflection) are somehow unpleasant, then say them however you want. If you're non-rhotic, I can't help you.

But looking for examples of how English "contradicts itself" is a fantastic way to waste some time. Bicycle is combined from Latin and Greek roots (by the French,) while motorcycle is simply an instance of someone taking the words motor and cycle (both Latin) and sticking them together. English is the place where inflammable and flammable mean the same thing, while inoperable and operable, or inactive and active, or...

For the abovementioned Sean Bean (Shawn Bawn or Seen Been,) once again, aggregation. Sean is a variant of John, and is therefore pronounced the same-- that one goes back to the "olden times." Bean is pretty old on it's own, and depending on who was saying it-- has seen it's pronunciation bounced through been, boon, bahn, bohn, and at some point, even bawn. So if there was a John Bean like... 900 years ago, he may well have been Jawn Bawn.
I think you've hit on the most likely explanation for why bicycle is pronounced the way it is--it's really a French coinage, and "sickle" is a lot closer to the French pronunciation of "cycle" than "sigh-cull" is.

I also think the quest for logical categorization of English pronunciation rules is even more futile than you make it out in your post because there is so much regional variation with accents. I mentioned above that the word "cyclical" is pronounced quite differently in British English and American English.
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Old 01-27-20, 09:38 AM
  #44  
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Originally Posted by guy153 View Post
Good question. In English the stress is either on the second to last syllable or the third to last, if the second to last is short (actually that's the rule for Latin, English is probably more complicated and irregular than this, but it follows this pattern some of the time). In bicycle the stress is on "bi", third from last. But in "bitonal" for example it's on "ton", second from last, because that's a long "o". The thing with "motorcycle" is we really pronounce it like it was two words "MOtor CYcle". Because that second word only has two syllables we end up with the stress on the "CY", second last. If we treated it like one word we'd say moTORsickle.

Even weirder is tri-sickle but uni-sikel. Why not unIsickle? I think English basically doesn't like words with more than three syllables very much, although there are some, like esTABlishment.

Would suck to not be a native speaker of English and have to learn all this ****.
I acknowledge that in linguistics "rules" are more of a quasi-science, or "generally applicable", rather than actual rules as we'd expect in math, science or computer science. But that said, I think that rule there should be stress the first noun in a compound noun. ie, MOtorcycle is a compound noun, not two words, and follows that general rule. The second syllable is stressed (in your example moTORcycle) if it's a compound *adjective*. Or compound verb. I respectfully submit that you've gotten the rule wrong here.

I've never before heard of altering the vowel to long or short based on the phoneme's position as second or third syllable, although apparently that's the rage now on the internet. I remain skeptical, not just from searching out exceptions but because exceptions to that are so common.

Recycle comes to mind.It's two syllables (to the "i") with a prefix, just like bicycle. It's not easier or more natural to say "bi sickle" than "re sike al". One might stand on noun vs verb there, I'll grant that "long I in third position in a compound noun" would explain it. But that sounds a whole lot like fitting a rule to match a specific word,

Last edited by wphamilton; 01-27-20 at 09:46 AM.
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Old 01-29-20, 04:25 AM
  #45  
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It's not like English is otherwise entirely consistent when it comes to spelling and pronunciation.

Dearest creature in creation
Studying English pronunciation,

I will teach you in my verse
Sounds like corpse, corps, horse and worse

I will keep you, Susy, busy,
Make your head with heat grow dizzy.

Tear in eye your dress you'll tear,
So shall I! Oh, hear my prayer,

Pray, console your loving poet,
Make my coat look new, dear, sew it!

Just compare heart, beard and heard,
Dies and diet, lord and word,

Sword and sward, retain and Britain.
(Mind the latter, how it's written).

Made has not the sound of bade,
Say said, pay-paid, laid, but plaid.

Now I surely will not plague you
With such words as vague and ague,

But be careful how you speak,
Say break, steak, but bleak and streak.

Previous, precious, fuchsia, via,
Pipe, snipe, recipe and choir,

Cloven, oven, how and low,
Script, receipt, shoe, poem, toe.

Hear me say, devoid of trickery:
Daughter, laughter and Terpsichore,

Typhoid, measles, topsails, aisles.
Exiles, similes, reviles.

Wholly, holly, signal, signing.
Thames, examining, combining

Scholar, vicar, and cigar,
Solar, mica, war, and far.

From "desire": desirable--admirable from "admire."
Lumber, plumber, bier, but brier.

Chatham, brougham, renown, but known.
Knowledge, done, but gone and tone,

One, anemone. Balmoral.
Kitchen, lichen, laundry, laurel,

Gertrude, German, wind, and mind.
Scene, Melpomene, mankind,

Tortoise, turquoise, chamois-leather,
Reading, reading, heathen, heather.

This phonetic labyrinth
Gives moss, gross, brook, brooch, ninth, plinth.

Billet does not end like ballet;
Bouquet, wallet, mallet, chalet;

Blood and flood are not like food,
Nor is mould like should and would.

Banquet is not nearly parquet,
Which is said to rime with "darky."

Viscous, Viscount, load, and broad.
Toward, to forward, to reward.

And your pronunciation's O.K.,
When you say correctly: croquet.

Rounded, wounded, grieve, and sieve,
Friend and fiend, alive, and live,

Liberty, library, heave, and heaven,
Rachel, ache, moustache, eleven,

We say hallowed, but allowed,
People, leopard, towed, but vowed.

Mark the difference, moreover,
Between mover, plover, Dover,

Leeches, breeches, wise, precise,
Chalice, but police, and lice.

Camel, constable, unstable,
Principle, disciple, label,

Petal, penal, and canal,
Wait, surmise, plait, promise, pal.

Suit, suite, ruin, circuit, conduit,
Rime with "shirk it" and "beyond it."

But it is not hard to tell,
Why it's pall, mall, but Pall Mall.

Muscle, muscular, gaol, iron,
Timber, climber, bullion, lion,

Worm and storm, chaise, chaos, and chair,
Senator, spectator, mayor,

Ivy, privy, famous, clamour
And enamour rime with hammer.

*****, hussy, and possess,
Desert, but dessert, address.

Golf, wolf, countenance, lieutenants.
Hoist, in lieu of flags, left pennants.

River, rival, tomb, bomb, comb,
Doll and roll and some and home.

Stranger does not rime with anger.
Neither does devour with clangour.

Soul, but foul and gaunt but aunt.
Font, front, won't, want, grand, and grant.

Shoes, goes, does. Now first say: finger.
And then: singer, ginger, linger,

Real, zeal, mauve, gauze, and gauge,
Marriage, foliage, mirage, age.

Query does not rime with very,
Nor does fury sound like bury.

Dost, lost, post; and doth, cloth, loth;
Job, Job; blossom, bosom, oath.

Though the difference seems little,
We say actual, but victual.

Seat, sweat; chaste, caste.; Leigh, eight, height;
Put, nut; granite, and unite.

Reefer does not rime with deafer,
Feoffer does, and zephyr, heifer.

Dull, bull, Geoffrey, George, ate, late,
Hint, pint, Senate, but sedate.

Scenic, Arabic, Pacific,
Science, conscience, scientific,

Tour, but our and succour, four,
Gas, alas, and Arkansas.

Sea, idea, guinea, area,
Psalm, Maria, but malaria,

Youth, south, southern, cleanse and clean,
Doctrine, turpentine, marine.

Compare alien with Italian,
Dandelion with battalion.

Sally with ally, yea, ye,
Eye, I, ay, aye, whey, key, quay.

Say aver, but ever, fever.
Neither, leisure, skein, receiver.

Never guess--it is not safe:
We say calves, valves, half, but Ralph.

Heron, granary, canary,
Crevice and device, and eyrie,

Face but preface, but efface,
Phlegm, phlegmatic, ass, glass, bass.

Large, but target, gin, give, verging,
Ought, out, joust, and scour, but scourging,

Ear but earn, and wear and bear
Do not rime with here, but ere.

Seven is right, but so is even,
Hyphen, roughen, nephew, Stephen,

Monkey, donkey, clerk, and jerk,
Asp, grasp, wasp, and cork and work.

Pronunciation--think of psyche--!
Is a paling, stout and spikey,

Won't it make you lose your wits,
Writing "groats" and saying "grits"?

It's a dark abyss or tunnel,
Strewn with stones, like rowlock, gunwale,

Islington and Isle of Wight,
Housewife, verdict, and indict!

Don't you think so, reader, rather,
Saying lather, bather, father?

Finally: which rimes with "enough"
Though, through, plough, cough, hough, or tough?

Hiccough has the sound of "cup."
My advice is--give it up!

The Chaos (by G. Nolst Trenité, a.k.a. "Charivarius"; 1870 - 1946)
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Old 01-29-20, 04:41 AM
  #46  
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Denial ain't a river in Egypt
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Old 01-31-20, 02:36 PM
  #47  
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Language isn't logical. Or maybe it has a logic nobody was able to understand yet.
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Old 01-31-20, 03:27 PM
  #48  
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Generally speaking, the English language has just as many exceptions as it has rules. I gave up asking "why" decades ago.
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Old 01-31-20, 03:38 PM
  #49  
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Originally Posted by Reynolds View Post
Language isn't logical. Or maybe it has a logic nobody was able to understand yet.
Originally Posted by Cycletography View Post
Generally speaking, the English language has just as many exceptions as it has rules. I gave up asking "why" decades ago.

Basically, it's a hybrid between Germanic and Romance language, with borrowed "rules" getting applied in weird and inconsistent ways. Bicycle is a borrowed French word, and kept a Frenchish pronunciation, motorcycle didn't get into English that way, so kept the English pronunciation of cycle.
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Old 01-31-20, 08:55 PM
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Daniel4
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How about produce and produce?
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