Monday, February 3, 2014

How do you Pronounce February?

In Feuerel when þou herist thonder
 It betokyneþ riche men liggyng low 
And a gode ʒere after to sowe.* 
                   --Middle English Dictionary

I confess to being a bit of a purist 
when it comes to pronouncing the name of February.
For me, that's Feb-roo-air-ee not Feb-you-air-ee,
and I have often pitied the lack of education of persons who didn't agree.
But after further research,
 I have to concede that both pronunciations have historical precedents.

For example at different times in English history,
 we have februārius from Latin,
subsisting side-by-side with feverier in Old English
and sometimes februarius solmōnða.
Then arrives feverer and februer from Anglo-Norman
and feverel begins in the Middle English period.
You get the idea.

So if you're British, you may favor Feb-you-ree or Feb-ruh-ree.
And depending on where you are from in the U.S.,
you might prefer Feb-ruh-wear-ee or Feb-you-wear-ee
over Feb-roo-air-ee.

What we can all agree on is that the name of February
is derived from Latin februum, literally "purification," 
and Februarius, the name of the Roman purification festival 
held on the Ides of February. Or Feb-you-ary.
Considering how stubbornly some of us cling to our pet pronunciation,
it's probably a good thing February is only 28 days.

* In February when thou hearest thunder
It betokeneth rich men lying low
and a good year after to sow.

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