- (M-W. (2 only),
- AmDotEL (3 only),
- Collins (2 and 3),
- Century (2 and fokesel)
- and ODO (...unclear to me, both appear).
The Wikipedia article says
[...] but the position of apostrophes is not universally agreed. The positioning of the apostrophes represents deleted letters, thus fo[re]c[a]s[t]le.
How come the 3 apostrophes version wouldn't reflect the sailors' pronunciation ("Spelling fo'c'sle reflects sailors' pronunciation." - Online Etymology Dictionary) or do they simply mean in relation to the full word?
The "t" in castle is not pronounced but it is still part of the word; is it because of this we have the two apostrophes version (all other missing letters must be pronounced)?
Ngram shows 2 is more frequent, but 3 is there too.
Secondly is it true that no native speaker will ever utter "forecastle"1, as in never (to describe the part of the spar-deck of the ship forward of the fore rigging)? What is the state of the language on this?
1. I saw Mutiny on the Bounty (1962) with M. Brando. At some point he says to the sailors "Keep that for the fo'c's'le" but I heard "fox hole", thought that was the name of a pub, leisure time in any case. Then I watched a "remake", Under Siege (Seagal, 1992) and in a scene they're in the control room and they all say fo'c's'le only but there's a diagram of the ship on a screen, and I could read "forecastle", and only then did I get it; so Seagal helped a learner and I'm thankful.