audacious, visceral, burgeoning


Still watching TV programmes that I’ve previously recorded, I’ve just caught up with two episodes of the BBC series on the Pre-Raphaelites. One of the experts used in the programmes was Alison Smith, Curator at Tate Britain. She had two unusual pronunciations, one remarkable for not being consistent. She used the word audacious four times in the first of the series. On the first three occasions, her pronunciation was as one would expect: /ɔːˈdeɪʃəs/, but then the fourth time it came out as /aʊˈdeɪʃəs/. Can this have been a simple slip of the tongue? Her other unusual pronunciation was visceral, /ˈvɪskərəl/. This I put down to her having learned it as a written word, one she is not used to hearing pronounced.

The narrator of the series, the well-known actor Nigel Planer, had in his script the word burgeoning, and he chose to make the second consonant a fricative: /ˈbɜːʒənɪŋ/, rather than an affricate: /ˈbɜːʤənɪŋ/. I begin to wonder if the affricate /ʤ/ is losing ground in English except in initial position – so that only those few places where /ʤ/ and /ʒ/ make minimal pairs (such as leisure, ledger in British English) will manage to hold on to the /ʤ/.


  1. Graham, you’re missing the length marks in the transcription of “burgeoning”: /ˈbɜː(d)ʒənɪŋ/.

  2. Alex – Thanks for pointing this out. Put it down to how late it was when I wrote it.

  3. Yes, I’ve noticed quite a few /dʒ/ → /ʒ/ substitutions here and there. It’s strange that exactly the opposite appears to be happening with /ʃ/ and /tʃ/, so that one hears prons like /ˈeɪntʃənt/ for “ancient”.

  4. I think that /tʃ/ in “ancient” is a special case caused by the preceding /n/. It’s an excrescence comparable to /prɪnts/ for “prince”, caused by the mechanical difficulty, for some speakers, of executing the /ns/ and /nʃ// sequences smoothly.

    There ought to be comparable examples with /nʒ/ becoming /ndʒ/. “Blancmange”, perhaps?

  5. Examples of ‘audacious’ with /aʊ-/ do crop up from time to time. There was one as long ago as 1948 from that notable actor Francis L. Sullivan as the Beadle (with GB-accent) in David Lean’s film of OliverTwist.
    My Blog 049 on Prime Ministerial Pronunciations mentioned my having just he’rd Tony Blair say ‘visceral’ with a /k/ in November 2007.
    The /ʤ/ versus /ʒ/ distinction seems to’ve become pretty weak word-finally in recent decades and praps the same’s happening to it medially. For a good time now I’ve been wondering if ‘management’ with /ʤ/ even preponderates over its occurrences with only /ʒ/. I notice too that ‘dangerous’ can easily become /`deɪnʒrəs/ and also /`deɪndrəs/. / My article 4,000-word article ‘Changes in British English pronunciation during the twentieth century’ at 3.7 §1.5 on my website ( has some related comments.

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