The English language can be a very confusing thing … even for people who have grown up both speaking and writing it for decades of their lives. Entire books can be devoted to either the topic of why certain rules have been created for how words are spelled … and then have words that break them … all … the… time.
That is just the written part of English. The whole pronunciation part is even worse. When you see a word and pronounce it like you think it does and then have someone correct you … it can feel very embarrassing. But there are times when words just don’t seem to sound like what they are written as.
So what are some of those words? To start off, let us ask, “Why is steak pronounced ‘steak?'” It’s as good a place as any to start.
That’s how it sounds, right? When you go to a restaurant, you tell the server that you want your “stake” cooked medium – we are not going to get into an argument regarding the proper internal temperature for cooking steak in this piece … that can be another whole discussion for another day – they will understand that you really want a steak.
But would you pronounce the word streak as “strake?” No. You will pronounce it “streek.” What? The same goes for bleak, leak, peak, and weak. That is quite a headscratcher, isn’t it?
Getting Medieval About It
People often wonder about what would happen if we were able to go back in time and talk to people from centuries ago.
Imagine if we could go to medieval times … without having to worry about things like horrible diseases that could kill us without modern medicine … and talk to them. Would we be able to understand it?
Well, part of that thought exercise could be used for how we came to get our current method of spelling. There was a time during those medieval ages where vowels were moved around. Actually, the word “steak” itself was coined around the 15th century, from a Scandinavian word, steika. Chances are good that they didn’t worry about how well that steika was cooked.
So we get our pronunciations from the more evolved language, moving from Old English to our current way of speaking. But that doesn’t mean that it always sounds like that. If we talked to William Shakespeare, you might think you were talking to Jack Sparrow from Pirates of the Carribean rather than the smooth-talking that we imagine from his plays.
What About Dialects?
OK, here is another thing that can drive people crazy. We’re going to use the United States as the prime example here, although this is true in other countries, like England.
People in different parts of that particular country can pronounce things in completely bewildering ways. It could be enough to explode the heads of visiting outer space aliens.
This is just a small primer on why we like to drive ourselves crazy by pronouncing words that look like they should be said a different way based on the way that they were written.
All we can do is just throw up our hands and just do the best we can. Now just go enjoy a steak … however you want it.