I want my K sound back

Whatever has happened to the K sound that belongs in all those words with two Cs? On TV I hear it all the time: “accessorize” pronounced “assessorize,” “accelerate” pronounced “asselerate,” and many more. What”s next? “Access” pronounced “assess?” Wait, isn”t that a word already?acela

This mindless mispronunciation occurs when two C”s are followed by an E.

To avoid making this mistake yourself, remember this general pronunciation rule in English: C is soft before an E or I, hard (like K) before other letters. Like this: cent, cinema (soft), cat, cot, cut (hard).

Having two Cs doesn’t change this rule. In “accelerate,” the first C is hard because it is not followed by one of the two magic vowels. The second C is followed by E, so it is soft. In fact, that”s why there are two Cs. What a compact, elegant way to generate two sounds from one letter.

OK, so its a bit tricky. But still, if you”re on TV you should try to pronounce things properly.

I don’t know where this came from. My theory is that it was encouraged, if not started, by the launch of the Amtrak Acela service. It co-opted the word “accelerate,” and kicked the K sound right off the tracks. I love Amtrak, but the marketer who came up with that name is not my friend.

Update: On NPR, I heard a guest say “susess,” meaning success. Unbelievable, it’s a plague.
Update, 8-31: On Ask Me Another, a quiz show for supposedly literate people, the host, Ophira Eisenberg, pronounced “eccentricity” “essentricity.” Gah!

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