And drawer rhymes with door...

I spend most of my creative effort on the written word, but as I write it I hear it in my head.

There is a class of words in English that presents difficulties to foreigners only when spoken; I call them bastard syllables - after the bastard sword, so called because it can be wielded in either one or two hands.

Most of these words are single syllables with a terminal British "r": here and everything that rhymes with here.

What make it special is the way that it is pronounced with two syllables in isolation or when it finishes a sentence, but can be pronounced with one syllable especially when the British "r" is changed into a US "r" when eliding ("hear it"). There's a good deal of variation in the use of the monosyllable form, but it is always obvious (to an anglophone) when it is wrong.

The same distinction is made in US English but you are much less likely to hear the same American use both mono- and di-syllabic forms.

Dora McKinley's song Sunshine contains the lines:

... the truth find your spirit here/for here's where the sun shines ...

The first "here" is a solid two syllables and the second couldn't possibly be more than one.

The bastard syllables aside, there are other words in English that are written as if they should be one syllable but are always pronounced with two:

  • whale, bail, fail, etc
  • smile, mile, etc (rhyme with "trial")
And one or two which are written as two syllables but pronounced as one - "drawer" (of a commode or sideboard). These seem to present the foreigner with less of a problem - especially the Frenchman, whose language is so full of letters that go unpronounced that some of them have become ghosts...

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