Welcome to Words and Their Stories, from VOA Learning English.
On this program we explore the origin and history of American expressions and teach you how to use them.
Today we focus more on history than usage. We are going to answer an age-old question that may have been keeping you awake at night. Well, perhaps not. But it's still an interesting word story!
The pronunciation of some words can cause trouble for people learning English. For example, words such as "circle," "sir," "certainly" and "surprise" all sound as if they begin with the same letters. But they don't.
Knowing language of origin for an unknown or new word – its roots – can help you pronounce the word the right way. Just ask any student who has ever competed in a spelling bee. One question that spelling bee contestants can ask the judges during the event is, "What is the language of origin?"
Nyctinasty. Will you please give me the language of origin?
It's made up of Greek elements that were probably first combined in German.
Nyctinasty. N-y-c-t-i-n-a-s-t-y. Nyctinasty.
The development or evolution of a word over time can also play a part in how we say it. In fact, both origin and evolution are involved in the pronunciation of the word "colonel."
First, what does "colonel" mean?
A colonel is a military official. In the United States, it can mean an officer in the Army, Air Force or Marine Corps.
Colonel is spelled c-o-l-o-n-e-l. So, why do Americans say colonel as if it is spelled k-e-r-n-e-l? Adding to the confusion is that "kernel" is a word of its own and one that has several meanings.
But, let's get back to "colonel" ... the c-o-l-o-n-e-l one.
We know that many languages borrow and even steal words from other languages. The English language is probably the biggest thief of them all! It stole "colonel" from at least two countries – maybe even three.
First, let's talk about Italy.
By the 15th century, Italian forces were known for being good at war. So, many Italian war terms spread across Europe, including the word "colonel." It comes from the Italian word 'colonnello.' This is the position given to the officer responsible for a small force or column of soldiers.
Then there's the influence of France on "colonel."
The French also took this word from the Italians. But when they added it to their language, they changed the word "colonnelo" to "coronel." Language experts say this is because the French wanted to have the "r" sound in the word, instead of the two "l" sounds.
Finally, let's not forget Spain.
At the same time, the Spanish were also pronouncing c-o-l-o-n-e-l as k-e-r-n-e-l. It is possible that both the French and the Spanish pronunciation affected the English version of the word.
In addition to country of origin, there is something else at play in the word history of "colonel": written versus spoken language.
From the very beginning, when this word came into English in the 1500s, there were two versions of spelling and two pronunciations.
By around the 17th century, the word began appearing in military treaties across Europe. So, the written form of the word (colonel) and the spoken ("kernel") were both being used.
In English, a combination won out. Colonel was spelled c-o-l-o-n-e-l but pronounced "kernel."
Please let me apologize from the bottom of my heart for our crazy and sometimes confusing English pronunciations!
That's all for this Words and Their Stories. Join us again next week when we talk about more words and expressions in American English.
I'm Anna Matteo.
1.spread across 传遍；席卷；蔓延
The model of an elected parliament to which the executive is accountable has now spread across much of the globe.
2.from the very beginning 从一开始
He was wrong from the very beginning.
3.win out （经过比赛或斗争）获胜，胜出
Sometimes perseverance does win out.
今天的节目相较于表达的用法，我们会更专注于表达的历史渊源。我们要解答一个也许让你夜不能寐的古老问题 。嗯，也许不是那样 。但它仍然是一个有趣的词汇掌故！
一些单词的发音可能会给学英语的人带来困难。例如，如单词“circle（圆圈）”，“sir（先生）”，“certainly（当然）”以及“surprise（惊喜）”，这些单词的开头全都听起来像是一样的字母 。实则不然 。
Nyctinasty（感夜性）。N-y-c-t-i-n-a-s-t-y 。Nyctinasty 。
我们知道许多语言从其他语言里借词甚至窃词。英语也许是这类语言里窃取其他语言最多的那个 。英语从至少两个国家，也许甚至是三个国家窃取来了单词“colonel” 。
15世纪的时候，意大利军队以善战闻名。因此，许多意大利战争词汇传播到了欧洲，包括单词“colonel” 。它出自意大利词“colonnello（上校）” 。这是给负责一小支军队或者一小队士兵的长官的职位 。
法语的这个词也是取自意大利语。但是当法国人把这个词化为己用的时候，他们将“colonnelo”变成了“coronel” 。语言学家说这是因为法国人想把单词里两个“l”的发音用“r”的发音代替 。