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Why do Americans say Star Trek like Star Track? Is this correct? Because the dictionary says /trek/. I heard several usual Americans say it this way.

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    To my BrE ear, it often sounds like "stor traek". Unless you're specifically trying to learn several accents, I wouldn't worry too much about it, in the overall scheme of things. – gone fishin' again. Jun 25 '15 at 16:11
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    Surely it depends on the regional accent. Trek and track sound nothing alike to me (California-raised, New York-educated, DC-employed). – choster Jun 25 '15 at 16:19
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    I've never heard this pronunciation, so I have no idea. The others are probably correct that it's simply a matter of an unusual accent. – Nathan Tuggy Jun 25 '15 at 16:22
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    The thing is, that you 'spell' it in your head according to how the native phonetics of your own accent would pronounce it, then compare it to how it sounds when another accent pronounces it. To each of us, in our own heads, we all say 'star trek' - it's only when comparing those 'spelling maps' to a different accent speaking the same words that we hear a different 'spelling'. – gone fishin' again. Jun 25 '15 at 17:57
  • I've literally never heard it pronounced "track" my entire life. I've lived in the Deep South all my life, if that somehow makes a difference. I'm also a giant nerd, so I've heard the name said a fair share of times. – Crazy Eyes Aug 7 '15 at 21:25
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When I was six years old, I talked* about this with some of the neighbor kids down the street. They pronounced it "Star Track". I pronounced it "Star Trek". This was in a small town in Wisconsin.

Here's why they pronounced it "Star Track". The word "track" is very familiar, and the word "trek" is not. Indeed none of the neighbor kids knew the word "trek". Even though I loved the show, I did not even know what the word "trek" meant. I just knew from the titles how it was spelled. Even when people hear the name of the show pronounced "trek", they think it's "Star Track" because that sounds like a reasonable name for a TV show about traveling through outer space, since the primary meanings of the word “track” relate to travel: such as footprints and a path along which one travels.

Something similar happened in nursery school a couple years earlier. A girl there consistently addressed me as Bend. We talked about it a bit. She knew the word "bend" but had never heard of the name Ben, so she went with the familiar word. In fact, I started to think that maybe my name was really Bend!


If you're curious to read more about this, search for "priming" in connection with cognitive science and linguistics. Priming explains why people easily mishear an unexpected word as something semantically relevant. I don't know of a term for mishearing an unfamiliar word as a familiar word, but there's plenty of linguistics research about that, too.


*Argued.

  • I'm going to start this with "But surely…" (which proves I have no evidence whatsoever ;) But surely, these mispronunciations are corrected as we grow up - otherwise we'd all still say heffalump, flease & fank you ;) – gone fishin' again. Jun 26 '15 at 4:46
  • @Tetsujin I was trying to be subtle, but the answer is: many Americans mispronounce "trek" because they don't know the word and they confuse it with "track". Yes, even adults. The situation is probably very different in South Africa. – Ben Kovitz Jun 26 '15 at 5:50
  • I'm now singing 'Voortrekking… across the universe…" (ref:Star Trekking Not a good thing to have in your head first thing in the morning ;) Seriously, I appreciate your answer & comment; I guess I'm never going to get too old to be surprised by what some people will torture out of a language. – gone fishin' again. Jun 26 '15 at 5:57
  • I heard a fair amount of this out of Pittsburghese. But in that case, I am not sure how much it is word substitution and how much it is mutation of e into a, which they do in other cases. – user15474 Aug 7 '15 at 21:21
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American midwest here. I do not pronounce it like "Star Track". In my area we pronounce it like "stahr trehk" where the ah is like "Aha!", the eh is like "Eh.", but this can totally change depending on who you heard say it and where they are from. My grandparents down in Alabama would say it with a southern drawl

"Stahoar Treyk" : try to mash "Stah" and "oar" together into one syllable here.

If you heard someone like my sister from New Jersey say it, they would drop the 'r' sound from star, to get

"Stah Trek"

These are the two accents outside of my own that I'm familiar with.

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I've never heard someone (seriously) pronounce it Star Track. If I heard an average adult say it I would assume they were only passingly familiar with the show and messed up the name. If they were a child or otherwise uneducated, I might assume as above that it's because they are unfamiliar with the word 'trek' as opposed to the much more familiar 'track'. In fact, I have heard a child reason out that a 'trek into the wilderness' must be a long trip where they encountered new things and possibly aliens, because they were only familiar with the word as a part of the name 'Star Trek'.

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I've heard many black people, including Arsenio Hall, refer to the program as "Star TRACK". Might be that aforementioned familiarity theory. "Trek" is not an everyday word and is probably used even more sparingly in the African American community. You won't often hear:
"I'm gonna TREK on down to da naybahood lickka sto'"

  • Is it just black people? I've heard white people do the same thing. Otherwise, I agree with your idea about familiarity theory. – dwilli Mar 21 '19 at 6:23

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