Microcephalous

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Microcephalous

Post by Bobinwales » Mon May 02, 2016 11:13 am

No doubt we have all heard about the horrors that microcephalous is causing in Brazil. An opinion please Wizards, how is it pronounced? MICRO-SEPHALOUS, or MICRO-KEPHALOUS?

Many years ago, when I was a young teenager I had a cousin who suffered dreadfully with a condition that produced the exact opposite effect, Hydrocephalus. We had never heard of it before Wendy, and were told that it was HYDRO-KEPHALOUS.

Wendy died before her third birthday.
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Re: Microcephalous

Post by Phil White » Mon May 02, 2016 1:20 pm

Hi Bob,

Exactly the same thought crossed my mind watching a BBC report about half an hour ago. Two different English native speakers, both virologists, as far as I remember used the word, and they pronounced it differently.

I think both are possible. In the reporting, it seems to me that when it hit the headlines in the UK a few months ago, most reporters and presenters were using the "S" version. After a few months, most were using the "K" version.

All the major US and UK dictionaries I looked at only gave the "S" version, which is the one I would naturally have used. I could not find a single dictionary that even gave the "K" version as an alternative.

There are a few embittered arguments on the web, which strike me as a tasteless waste of time. Some suggest that the "K" pronunciation is British and the "S" pronunciation is American. Others claim the opposite. Several who claim to be doctors argue vehemently for their own pronunciation.

It seems to me that if both are used by the professionals, then both are perfectly acceptable.
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Re: Microcephalous

Post by Erik_Kowal » Mon May 02, 2016 1:57 pm

All the online dictionaries I consulted via OneLook.com used the 'S' pronunciation for the letter C rather than the 'K' pronunciation, e.g. the online Merriam-Webster:
noun hy·dro·ceph·a·lus | \-ˈse-fə-ləs\
That being said, I have also heard the 'K' pronunciation being used even by medical professionals.

The online Merriam-Webster gives the following etymology:
New Latin hydrocephalus, from Late Latin, hydrocephalic, adjective, from Greek hydrokephalos, from hydr- + kephalē head —
Wikipedia's description of the Latin pronunciation system summarizes the pronunciation of the Latin letter C thus:

Code: Select all

Latin grapheme       Latin phone        English approximation
⟨c⟩, ⟨k⟩               [k]                Always hard as k in sky, never soft as in Caesar, cello, or social
The apparent implication from the pronunciation of both the original Greek word and the derived Latin word is that the English word hydrocephalus ought to be pronounced with a K sound. The fact that dictionaries do not record this as being the standard pronunciation probably reflects the overwhelming tendency in English to soften the C to an S where it comes before an E (compare ceiling, cerise, century). Words of all derivations are subjected to this process, and consequently most speakers tend to supplant the K sound in the original Latin hydrocephalus with the S sound.

Incidentally, Merriam-Webster defines the condition thus:
an abnormal increase in the amount of cerebrospinal fluid within the cranial cavity that is accompanied by expansion of the cerebral ventricles and often increased intracranial pressure, skull enlargement, and cognitive decline
The terms hydrocephaly and hydrocephalus are both used for this condition. Hydrocephalous (with an additional O in the final syllable) is the adjectival form, together with hydrocephalic.
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Re: Microcephalous

Post by Phil White » Mon May 02, 2016 2:14 pm

Erik_Kowal wrote:The apparent implication from the pronunciation of both the original Greek word and the derived Latin word is that the English word hydrocephalus ought to be pronounced with a K sound.
But, as you amply demonstrate, the implication is "apparent" and, indeed, fallacious.

Were the implication to be strong or binding, we would refer to leaders of Roman military units as "kenturions", the smallest unit of the American currency as a "kent" and the activity in which we are indulging as "kerebral". My tone in this post may be termed by some "acherbic". English does not care two hoots about maintaining original pronunciation when stealing or deriving words from other languages. Never has done.
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Re: Microcephalous

Post by tony h » Mon May 02, 2016 8:25 pm

Erik_Kowal wrote:Wikipedia's description of the Latin pronunciation system summarizes the pronunciation of the Latin letter C thus:

Code: Select all

Latin grapheme       Latin phone        English approximation
⟨c⟩, ⟨k⟩               [k]                Always hard as k in sky, never soft as in Caesar, cello, or social
It may be an age thing. When I started learning Latin we had the soft s, Then in the early seventies pronunciation changed to k. I always wondered why.

Obviously not much changed in words imported to English with the notable exception of in English history when the Queen of the Iceni changed from bow-de-sea-ah to boo-dick-ah.
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With the right context almost anything can sound appropriate.

Re: Microcephalous

Post by Phil White » Mon May 02, 2016 8:40 pm

tony h wrote:Obviously not much changed in words imported to English with the notable exception of in English history when the Queen of the Iceni changed from bow-de-sea-ah to boo-dick-ah.
I reckon that would have been around the time that Peking changed to Beijing and Bombay changed to Mumbai.

I look forward to tourists getting their tongues round Krung Thep Mahanakhon Amon Rattanakosin Mahinthara Ayuthaya Mahadilok Phop Noppharat Ratchathani Burirom Udomratchaniwet Mahasathan Amon Piman Awatan Sathit Sakkathattiya Witsanukam Prasit.
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Re: Microcephalous

Post by tony h » Mon May 02, 2016 10:49 pm

Phil White wrote: I look forward to tourists getting their tongues round Krung Thep Mahanakhon Amon Rattanakosin Mahinthara Ayuthaya Mahadilok Phop Noppharat Ratchathani Burirom Udomratchaniwet Mahasathan Amon Piman Awatan Sathit Sakkathattiya Witsanukam Prasit.
Maybe the more common name was considered nominatively too indicative of the wrong sort of tourism.
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With the right context almost anything can sound appropriate.

Re: Microcephalous

Post by Phil White » Mon May 02, 2016 10:58 pm

tony h wrote:Maybe the more common name was considered nominatively too indicative of the wrong sort of tourism.
Confucius say: Man go through turnstile sideways going to Bangkok...
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Re: Microcephalous

Post by Wizard of Oz » Tue May 03, 2016 1:44 pm

I think with all the Ladyboys around that Bangkok is a very suitable name for the city.

WoZ wh o prefers Ladygirls
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Re: Microcephalous

Post by trolley » Tue May 03, 2016 8:04 pm

Well then, phuket, if it can't take a joke!
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End of topic.
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