Case of the Missing “i”s: foliage, verbiage, miniature
In the Fall, when television weather persons turn their thoughts to foliage, rhapsodizing about the beautiful orange and red and yellow leaves along the highways and streets, I cringe every time they pronounce the word as if it had only two syllables.
The dictionaries I’ve consulted still list only one pronunciation for foliage: /foh lee ij/.
Three-syllable verbiage /vur bee ij/ and four-syllable miniature /min ee uh cher/, however, are so frequently pronounced without their “i”s that the non-standard mispronunciations are appearing in some dictionaries.
Other than creating spelling problems, the truncated pronunciations of foliage, verbiage, and miniature probably won’t matter in the long run, since they don’t obscure meaning.
One may argue that the word parliament is pronounced with three syllables, but it probably always has been. It came into the language as three-syllable parlement and was spelled that way until about the time Chaucer died in 1400. Then some learned gentlemen changed the spelling from “parlement” to “parliament” to make it conform to M.L. parliamentum.
Verbiage comes from French verbier “to chatter” and miniature, from Italian miniatura, both of which embody “i”s meant to be pronounced.
Conclusion: Although it’s possible to argue for the i-less pronunciations of foliage, verbiage, and miniature as acceptable evolutions of pronunciation, it’s still preferable to preserve the “i”s.
Because by retaining the “i”s we can avoid creating three more English words that are not spelled the way they are pronounced.
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