Giving Airy Nothings a Local Spelling and a Name

A reader tells me that he frequently hears fellow golfers refers to the greens having been “airiated.” He’s not sure how they would spell the word, but he does hear five distinct syllables instead of the proper four syllables of “aerated.”

He would like to know whether others encounter this mispronunciation.

The Latin root “aer-” could theoretically confuse American speakers since “air-” is so much more common; but in fact few people misspell “aerial,” “aerosol,” “aerobic,” “aerie,” or “aerospace.”

So why the extra syllable in “airiated”? I suspect they’re being influenced by another word likely to be uttered on a golf course: “irrigated.” Aeration allows the irrigation to reach the roots of grass.

There is one case in which “aer-” is definitely dying out: British “aeroplane” has been largely deflated to American “airplane,” even in the UK.

When I was using Google to look for various misspellings like “airate” Google gave me Maman, j’ai raté l’avion” (“Mom, I missed the airplane”), the clumsy French title given the movie Home Alone. Funny.


Anonymous said...

Actually, I hear four syllables in "airiated" and three in aerated. The first "ae" I pronounce as one syllable; it could be considered a diphthong, but that still counts as one syllable.

Paul Brians said...

Good point. I agree.