91.7 Ann Arbor/Detroit 104.1 Grand Rapids 91.3 Port Huron 89.7 Lansing 91.1 Flint
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

TWTS: Two "p" words with nothing in common

This week we looked at two words that have nothing to do with each other, aside from the fact that they both begin with “p.” At least they’ve got one thing in common.

Our first “p” word is “pound.” Our listener Jay Winegarden often hears people use the phrase “pounding beers” or something similar when relaying a drinking story.

“It seems implied this means drinking a lot or drinking quickly (or both), but I have always wondered about the origin of this phrase,” Jay says.

This context is actually quite recent. The Oxford English Dictionary first cites this use of “pound” in the 1970s. It seems to come directly from earlier meanings of “pound.”

“Pound” is familiar to us in the meaning of to break down or reduce to a pulp. It can also mean to hit someone with fists or to pummel.

However, we’ll also talk about pounding out a paper on a keyboard or pounding out a song on a piano. In this context, we get the sense of doing something rapidly or heavily. This is likely where we get the extension of consuming a drink, usually alcoholic, rapidly or in great quantity.

Our other “p” word this week is “process.” Specifically, our listener Christopher Bartlett wanted to know how to pronounce it when “es” is added to the end.

He says, “I'm hearing a growing number of people make it into a long 'e' sound, as in the word seen, rather than the simple short 'e' as in hen.  I think this is due to making a false connection between this pluralization and that of words like vertex, matrix etc…”

Christopher adds, “I suspect you're going to say this is one of those "living language" things, and if you do, I'll try to let go of it.”

Well, prepare to let go, because this is definitely “one of those ‘living language’ things.” To find out more about what happens when we add “es” to “process,” listen to the audio above.

Anne Curzan is the Geneva Smitherman Collegiate Professor of English and an Arthur F. Thurnau Professor at the University of Michigan. She also holds faculty appointments in the Department of Linguistics and the School of Education.
Rebecca Kruth is the host of All Things Considered at Michigan Radio. She also co-hosts Michigan Radio’s weekly language podcast That’s What They Say with English professor Anne Curzan.
Related Content