The top ten: Transpositions of sounds in words


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The Independent Culture

Metathesis is not a thesis about a thesis, but the transposition of sounds in words, which can happen over time or when a word crosses from one language into another. David Shariatmadari mentioned the first three on this list in a ‘Guardian’ article, which  set me searching for more…

1. ‘Wasp’ Used to be waps.

2. ‘Bird’ Used to be brid.

3. ‘Horse’ Used to be hros. Which is impossible to say, so no wonder it changed.

4. ‘Sashay’ An alteration of chassé, a ballet movement involving gliding steps with  the same foot always leading. From Anu Garg’s “Word a Day” email .

5. ‘Ask’ This has long existed in two forms. Aks was used by Chaucer and is still in use in vernacular of West Indian origin. From James Chapman.

6. ‘Dusk’ Used to be dox.

7. ‘Formaggio’ The Italian for “cheese” inverts fromage in French. Francesca Santoro nominated this “interlingual metathesis”.

8. ‘Algeria’ Argelia in Spanish. How the heck did that happen, asks Simon Edwards.

9. ‘Third’ and ‘thirteen’ The “r” has moved from its place in “three”, points out Stig Abell.

10. ‘Crocodile’ Cocodrilo in Spanish. Katya and Daniel Hannan nominated by favourite cross-language shift. 

Next week: Footnotes.

Coming soon: Plurals that have become singular (such as quince). Send your suggestions, and ideas for future Top 10s, to