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Mischievous, Mischievious

Is There Some Mischief in Being Mischievious?

by Owen Fourie

I like Wuggle Pets! They’re cute. I think I’ll order the mischievious monkey. What’s that? You say that there is no such word as mischievious.

Well, listen to this commercial. This word is used here at 0:47, so it must be right. [English Essay Writing Tips derives no income from this commercial. There is also no guarantee that it will still be available for you to hear.]

The truth is that there is mischief here. Regrettably, it is not as much in the cute monkey as it is in the wrong pronunciation of the word mischievous.

The wrong pronunciation, which is becoming quite common, has an extra syllable that leads to the incorrect spelling of the word.

The following table compares the correct and incorrect pronunciations and spellings:


Mischievous versus Mischievious

Incorrect

Correct

Pronunciation mis – chee’ – vee – uhs

Note:– The emphasis is on the second syllable.– The third syllable is an intrusion.

mis’ – chi – vis

Note:– The emphasis is on the first syllable.– The i’s in the second and third syllables are half-vowel sounds.

Spelling mischievious or mischevious mischievous


Click here to hear the correct pronunciation of mischievous.

The first loudspeaker icon on that web page will give you the British pronunciation; the second icon will give you the American pronunciation. Neither way incorporates the intrusive syllable.

More mischief

One website lists the “real word” as “mischievious” and the “common misspelling as “mischievous.” They go on to state that they are “pretty sure” the word mischievous is misspelled, and then they list links for further research.

Although the links themselves evince the correctness of mischievous, they have embraced the error. [It would have been good to point this out directly to them, but their contact information is missing.]

Mischievious has no legitimate place in the English language, and its use cannot be justified. It is possible that it has arisen by confusion with the sound of words that do have the –vious ending, such as envious, previous, and devious.

Don’t be devious. Don’t indulge in the mischief of giving this word a third eye i. It has only two i’s like my mischievous monkey.

—–

Your comments, observations, and questions are welcome. Are you aware of other words whose pronunciation is questionable? Ask here for clarification.

Here are more articles to help you with English words, grammar, and essay writing.

Copyright © 2011 by English Essay Writing Tips www.englishessaywritingtips.com


6 comments

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  1. Nathalie

    I find the notion that adding or dropping syllables from the spelling being an “aberration” that should be shunned a bit questionable, at least from that criterion alone

    It holds up about as well as the assertion that the pronunciation of “every”,
    \ˈev-rē\ or /ˈɛvri/ (MW and Oxford dictionaries, respectively), is incorrect as there are clearly three syllables, not two. Yet no one goes after this inconsistency. What’s the difference?

    1. English Essay Writing Tips

      Perhaps the difference is that it is more common to contract a word when we speak. It’s an oddity to expand a word giving it an additional syllable in speech that is not evident in its (standard) written form.

  2. Patrick

    The OED lists works with the spelling “mischievious” as early as the 17th century, and since spellings change slower than pronunciations, the four-syllable pronunciation was probably in use much earlier. This is hardly a mispronunciation or misspelling.

    1. English Essay Writing Tips

      Thank you for your informative comment.

      The following quotes throw further light on this matter.

      “The misspelling is not new. The OED lists instances of mischievious going back to the 17th century, and a Google Books search reveals a few thousand instances from before 1920. So while mischievous is certainly the standard spelling and is safer in formal writing and school papers, using mischievious is not a serious error, especially in informal contexts.”
      http://grammarist.com/spelling/mischievous-mischievious/

      “A pronunciation mis-ˈchē-vē-əs and a consequent spelling mischievious are of long standing: evidence for the spelling goes back to the 16th century. Our pronunciation files contain modern attestations ranging from dialect speakers to Herbert Hoover. But both the pronunciation and the spelling are still considered nonstandard.”
      http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/mischievous

      Measured by the standard spelling and pronunciation, mischievious remains a misspelling and a mispronunciation.

  3. andre bothma

    In response to the way in which the word mischievous is pronounced, I would like to ask the following question: What is the rule to pronouncing a word anyway?
    Is it the way people spell it? No, or else we would add the “buh” in “thumb”.
    Is it the way the original people who used the word would have pronounced it? No, or else we would say that some people come from “Haa Kaa” instead of “Hong Kong” (Thats how they say it over there 🙂
    I believe it should be the way that the majority of those around you, living in your area within your country, pronounce it.
    Or is there another rule to pronunciation that I am missing? I would like to hear your opinion on this notion.
    In my case, most people (albeit, not by too much, I must be honest and add) pronounce it as mis – chee’ – vee – uhs.
    Kind Regards,
    Andre Bothma

    1. English Essay Writing Tips

      Andre: Thank you for your good comment.

      The rule for pronouncing any word is simply to note “the Received Pronunciation”—a questionable term. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Received_Pronunciation

      Obviously, the pronunciation in the various regions and dialects of the English-speaking world will vary from this standard without changing the structure of a word. Regional and dialectical variance will have regard to the standard to preserve correct usage, especially in written English.

      In the case of mischievous, a three-syllabled word, if it is pronounced mis – chee’ – vee – uhs, there is an unwarranted change in the structure of the word. An additional syllable is being introduced. This is not a variance of dialect but an aberration, a careless misreading of the word leading to a pronunciation that cannot be justified as a legitimate alternative. It has nothing to do with regional or dialectical variance.

      You have said, “I believe it should be the way that the majority of those around you, living in your area within your country, pronounce it.” Yes, but be sure to observe the correct usage and shun aberrations. We have to distinguish between accepted regional and dialectical variances on the one hand and aberrant usage on the other.

      In a fast-changing world where absolutes and standards are often regarded as old-fashioned, it is not a popular move to point to a standard. Nevertheless, there are standards, and they exist for our sanity. Think of weights and measurements.

      Thank you for raising this point. I trust that you will find benefit in this answer.

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