2

I got 2 excellent answers to my previous question Why is “iron” pronounced “EYE-URN” but not “EYE-RUN”?. Now I wonder about iron and irony (and ironic). The top voted answer by Void suggests that the current pronunciation of "iron" is because of "metathesis". Why didn't metathesis affect irony?

The Etymology dictionary says: "c. 1500, from Latin ironia, from Greek eironeia "dissimulation, assumed ignorance," from eiron "dissembler," perhaps related to eirein "to speak," "

My best guess would be that it entered the English language long after the metathesis had happened to "iron" and also both "iron" and "irony" have different origins but I can't be sure.

I also came across a question on Quora. One of the answers says "In “iron", the accent is on the i, so the ron was corrupted to just rn. In ironic, the accent is on the ron, so it wasn't shortened." But "iron" and "irony" both have accent on the first syllable, so it's of no help.

So what happened exactly? Am I right or wrong?

1
  • I have an American West-Coast accent, and, I say EYE-urn and EYE-urny, not EYE-runy, but I do say eye-RON-ic – BillyNair Nov 3 '20 at 10:28
2

Irony has nothing at all to do with iron. The two words may look similar now, but they have totally different etymology. It is hardly surprising then that they have different pronunciations in modern English.

Irony comes from the Latin ironicus which means "dissembling, putting on a feigned ignorance".

Iron existed in both Middle English and Old English as iren or yron.

That they have different roots is also evidenced by the fact that the chemical symbol for Iron is Fe which is an abbreviation for the Latin ferrum. So the ancient Romans had the word "ironicus" (irony) but it was absolutely nothing to do with iron, because they didn't call Iron "iron".

When it comes to pronunciation, Latin words used in English and words derived from Latin certainly don't retain their Latin pronunciation; still, they normally have an Anglicised pronunciation that owes something to the original language. But English doesn't have a strict pronunciation of letter combinations anyway and is full of heteronyms, the classic example being the noun "wind" (air in natural motion) and the verb "wind" (to have a circular or spiral course or direction), both of which have a different pronunciation.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.