Nucular

From Academic Kids

Nucular is an intentional misspelling of the word nuclear which is usually intended to express contempt or amusement towards the commonplace NOO-kyuh-luhr ( in IPA) pronunciation of that word.

This pronunciation is disapproved of by some who consider it a mispronunciation, although the Merriam-Webster dictionary says: [1] (http://www.m-w.com/cgi-bin/dictionary?book=Dictionary&va=nuclear)

"Though disapproved of by many, pronunciations ending in have been found in widespread use among educated speakers including scientists, lawyers, professors, congressmen, U.S. cabinet members, and at least one U.S. president and one vice president. While most common in the U.S., these pronunciations have also been heard from British and Canadian speakers."

Merriam-Webster receives enough questions about their inclusion of this pronunciation in the dictionary that it is singled out in their FAQ (along with "February"). [2] (http://www.m-w.com/help/faq/pronounce.htm)

Contents

Usage by world leaders

US Presidents Bill Clinton, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, John F. Kennedy, and George W. Bush (but not his father, George H. W. Bush) have all used (and received some derision for) this pronunciation. Jimmy Carter in particular had served as an officer on the United States Navy's first experimental nuclear submarine, and would have been well exposed to both pronunciations.

It has been also used by British Prime Minister Tony Blair.

Culture and origin

This pronunciation is especially common in the U.S. Southern states, and the pronunciation is a revealing cultural shibboleth.

A possible explanation for the pronunciation nucular is the prevalence of other -cule nouns and -cular adjectives in English and science (molecular, particular etc.) and the rarity of -cleus or -clear words. Nuclear weapons (and microwave ovens) are often referred to colloquially as nukes; given the currency of this short form, nucular seems to be the addition of the regular suffix -ular to the colloquial form (which would make it a case of false etymology). The Latin word nuculeus or nucleus means "kernel" and is derived from nucula, "little nut" (from nux + ula). Nucular would apparently be the adjective form of the "little nut" root; nuculear (so far unused) would be the adjective of the alternative spelling of "kernel".

The two other prevalent pronunciations of nuclear are either the word "clear" with a "new" sound at the beginning, or to rhyme with cochlear. The latter pronunciation is easier to mispronounce.

Usage in popular entertainment

"Nucular" is also the pronunciation preferred by Homer Simpson, and his confident use of it in The Simpsons exemplifies a level of cultural information that is largely overheard at some distance, second-hand, rather than read.

References

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