On Saturday, DS and I were buying food for a cookout. Always in the mood for some sort of dessert, but knowing I should restrain my impulse for my favorite ice cream (Dove brand vanilla with brownie chunks, and chocolate ganashe covering on top–yum!), I suggested sherbet. I initially pronounced it “sherbert,” then moved on to (jokingly) pronouncing it “sherbit” because of the spelling on the container. I also tried “sherbay.” DS corrected me back to the “sherbert” pronunciation, but I declared that that could not be the right pronunciation because there was no “r” at the end. It didn’t make any sense. Well, the Wordsmith has explained it in his new column on words at MSN.
So how did we get from sherbet to sherbert? When we borrow a word from another language, we often naturalize its spelling and sound (in Italian sherbet becomes sorbetto, in French sorbet). There are not many everyday words in English that follow the pattern of sherbet, but there’s plenty of company for the -bert ending: Herbert, Robert, Albert, Dilbert, etc.
I think if the word is going to be pronounced “sherbert,” the second “r” should be included in the (American) spelling because the disconnect between the spelling and the pronunciation makes me a little nuts. (I’m not usually bothered by word/pronunciation disconnects, but there is something about adding an “r” to the pronunciation of “sherbet” that seems a little ridiculous…kind of like when people jokingly pronounce “fajitas,” “fagitas.”)
cross-posted at Word Play