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Welcome to Words and Their Stories, from VOA Learning English.

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On this program we explore the origin and history of American expressions and teach you how to use them.

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Today we focus more on history than usage. We are going to answer an age-old question that may have been keeping you awake at night. Well, perhaps not. But it's still an interesting word story!

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The pronunciation of some words can cause trouble for people learning English. For example, words such as "circle," "sir," "certainly" and "surprise" all sound as if they begin with the same letters. But they don't.

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Knowing language of origin for an unknown or new word 鈥 its roots 鈥 can help you pronounce the word the right way. Just ask any student who has ever competed in a spelling bee. One question that spelling bee contestants can ask the judges during the event is, "What is the language of origin?"

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Nyctinasty

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Nyctinasty. Will you please give me the language of origin?

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It's made up of Greek elements that were probably first combined in German.

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Nyctinasty. N-y-c-t-i-n-a-s-t-y. Nyctinasty.

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Correct.

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The development or evolution of a word over time can also play a part in how we say it. In fact, both origin and evolution are involved in the pronunciation of the word "colonel."

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First, what does "colonel" mean?

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A colonel is a military official. In the United States, it can mean an officer in the Army, Air Force or Marine Corps.

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Colonel is spelled c-o-l-o-n-e-l. So, why do Americans say colonel as if it is spelled k-e-r-n-e-l? Adding to the confusion is that "kernel" is a word of its own and one that has several meanings.

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But, let's get back to "colonel" ... the c-o-l-o-n-e-l one.

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We know that many languages borrow and even steal words from other languages. The English language is probably the biggest thief of them all! It stole "colonel" from at least two countries 鈥 maybe even three.

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First, let's talk about Italy.

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By the 15th century, Italian forces were known for being good at war. So, many Italian war terms spread across Europe, including the word "colonel." It comes from the Italian word 'colonnello.' This is the position given to the officer responsible for a small force or column of soldiers.

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Then there's the influence of France on "colonel."

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The French also took this word from the Italians. But when they added it to their language, they changed the word "colonnelo" to "coronel." Language experts say this is because the French wanted to have the "r" sound in the word, instead of the two "l" sounds.

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Finally, let's not forget Spain.

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At the same time, the Spanish were also pronouncing c-o-l-o-n-e-l as k-e-r-n-e-l. It is possible that both the French and the Spanish pronunciation affected the English version of the word.

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In addition to country of origin, there is something else at play in the word history of "colonel": written versus spoken language.

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From the very beginning, when this word came into English in the 1500s, there were two versions of spelling and two pronunciations.

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By around the 17th century, the word began appearing in military treaties across Europe. So, the written form of the word (colonel) and the spoken ("kernel") were both being used.

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In English, a combination won out. Colonel was spelled c-o-l-o-n-e-l but pronounced "kernel."

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Please let me apologize from the bottom of my heart for our crazy and sometimes confusing English pronunciations!

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That's all for this Words and Their Stories. Join us again next week when we talk about more words and expressions in American English.

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I'm Anna Matteo.

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閲嶇偣鍗曡瘝   鏌ョ湅鍏ㄩ儴瑙i噴    
combination [.kɔmbi'neiʃən]

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n. 缁撳悎锛岃仈鍚堬紝鑱斿悎浣

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explore [iks'plɔ:]

鎯充竴鎯冲啀鐪

v. 鎺㈤櫓锛屾帰娴嬶紝鎺㈢┒

鑱旀兂璁板繂
executive [ig'zekjutiv]

鎯充竴鎯冲啀鐪

adj. 琛屾斂鐨勶紝鍐崇瓥鐨勶紝缁忚惀鐨勶紝[璁$畻鏈篯鎵ц鎸囦护

 
perseverance [.pə:si'viərəns]

鎯充竴鎯冲啀鐪

n. 姣呭姏锛屽繊鑰愶紝涓嶅眻涓嶆尃

鑱旀兂璁板繂
affected [ə'fektid]

鎯充竴鎯冲啀鐪

adj. 鍙楀奖鍝嶇殑锛屽彈鎰熷姩鐨勶紝鍙楃柧鐥呬镜琚殑 adj. 鍋

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column ['kɔləm]

鎯充竴鎯冲啀鐪

n. 鏌憋紝鍦嗘煴锛屾煴褰㈢墿锛屼笓鏍忥紝鏍忥紝鍒

 
apologize [ə'pɔlədʒaiz]

鎯充竴鎯冲啀鐪

vi. 閬撴瓑锛岃阿缃

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pronunciation [prə.nʌnsi'eiʃən]

鎯充竴鎯冲啀鐪

n. 鍙戦煶

鑱旀兂璁板繂
confusing [kən'fju:ziŋ]

鎯充竴鎯冲啀鐪

adj. 浣夸汉鍥版儜鐨勶紝浠や汉璐硅В鐨 鍔ㄨ瘝confuse鐨勭幇

 
spread [spred]

鎯充竴鎯冲啀鐪

v. 浼稿睍锛屽睍寮锛屼紶鎾紝鏁e竷锛岄摵寮锛屾秱鎾
n.

 
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    鑻辫瀛︿範鎺ㄨ崘

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    姣忓ぉ鍚戝ぇ瀹舵帹閫佺煭灏忕簿鎮嶇殑鑻辫瀛︿範璧勬枡.

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