Wednesday, 6 July 2011


It’s summertime. Here in Italy most people are getting ready to go to the seaside. And so am I! But just how do you pronounce seaside in English? (Don’t worry, it’s not a silly question!) As far as I know, LPD is the only pronunciation dictionary which acknowledges both ˈsiːsaɪd and ˌsiːˈsaɪd. All other pronouncing dictionaries only have ˈsiːsaɪd. I myself say ˈsiːsaɪd and use the same stress pattern in the phrase seaside resort, ˌsiːsaɪd rəˈzɔːt. Are there NSs out there who have a different stressing?

Taking a look at this page from the Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary online, one also discovers that Americans don’t usually use the expression going to the seaside (the OALD marks it as “especially British English”), preferring seaside as a premodifier instead. (This is also supported by data from both the COCA and BNC.)

On the same page one can find a link to the phrase whelk stall. As you would expect, the word whelk can be pronounced both welk and hwelk. As far as this latter pronunciation goes, LPD (p.897) correctly states that “an initial hw in the sense ‘shellfish’ is not supported by the etymology”.

This statement is backed up by my Oxford Dictionary of English (2nd edition revised, 2005; p.2004), which distinguishes between the mollusc (1) and an archaic term for a pimple (2):

whelk1noun a predatory marine mollusc with a heavy pointed spiral shell, some kinds of which are edible [...].

- ORIGIN Old English wioloc, weoloc, of unknown origin; the spelling with wh- was perhaps influenced by WHELK2.

whelk2noun archaic a pimple.

- ORIGIN Old English hwylca, related to hwelian ‘suppurate’. “


  1. Jack Windsor Lewis has asked me to post this on his behalf (it's about the word "seaside"):

    "This word changed its stressing in the first half of the last century. The OED Online has /ˌsiːˈsaɪd/ /ˈsiːˌsaɪd/ which shows that the only updating so far to have occurred since Bradley's judgment of 1911 has been the 1989 addition of the second and now only usual stressing. In EPD Jones never gave the modern stressing (1917 to 1956) tho Gimson braut it up to date in 1977 with the old one given second place (after he had given it first place in 1967); but Roach & Co dropt the old version completely in 1997; which was what I had done 25 years earlier in my (Oxford) CPD in 1972. LPD3 of 2008 shows the old version dubiously as not extinct. ODP (2001) gave only forestressing."

    Thank you, Jack!

  2. If one compares what Jones did in the 1st edition of EPD with what later editors have done, there are quite a few compounds that have changed in the same way as "seaside". An example that springs to mind is the noun "take off", as in the sentence "The plane is preparing for take off." Jones had /ˌteɪk ˈɒf/, but now of course everyone(?) says /ˈteɪk ɒf/. I counted all these changes once many years ago. I don't remember the exact figures now, but it was, I think, in the hundreds.

  3. Thank you, John! Very useful, indeed!

  4. vp

    You may well be right, but I don't think I have a copy of the 1st edition, and I can't remember now.