Why do Brits pronounce lieutenant “leftenant”?

Lieutenant

Back in 2013, on The Guardian‘s Notes and Queries page, a man called Jeff Rushton from London asked this very good question:

Why exactly do the British say lieutenant as ‘leftenant’? 

Armchair linguists on both sides of the Atlantic offered up various answers and suggestions: here’s a selection for your interest and entertainment …

“Because it’s the correct pronunciation.” — Nomad, London, England

“The Brits are weird” — jon, cambria, United States

“So we have the profound and highly informative answer from an American, he says: “The Brits are weird’. Well thanks for that gem, Einstein. Haven’t you got a chat show you can go off and ‘whoop woo’ at or something?” — Tel McCormack, Rochdale, UK

“Because that’s what it should be called. Americans changed it to fit their own odd version of a perfect language.” — Sid, Saffron Walden, England

“Well, how def yef say leftenant?” — Mark Dallas, London UK

“Because it’s our language, and we can say it any way we like. And what is it with these Americans, who speak of British English and a British version – hello!! It’s English – our language. You might want to rule the world from Washington – but it’s still English. About time y’all brushed up on your Spanish!!” — Peter Charles, London, England

“My fellow Brit’s cynical intolerance for Americans makes me ashamed to be British. No response from any American on this page has earned such a bitter rebuke. Have some class.” — William Franklin, Brighton, UK

“Thank the British for our language and New York, else we would be speaking Dutch in New Amsterdam (or however the Dutch spell it).” — Mat, Parma U.S.

“I don’t really know but I love the way the British pronounce certain words, such as schedule, it sounds so much more proper.” — Nanette Y. Mitchell, Fredericksburg, US

“P.S. To the man referencing Websters English dictionary, do yourself a favor and pick up an Oxford English Dictionary. :)” — Mike, Washington DC, US

To read the more informative answers (including a hypothesis offered by Sean from Colorado that in British slang, of which he observes there is a great deal, the word loo refers to a toilet, and therefore he assumes that they do not want to give the impression that a leftenant is a resident of a toilet, as in “loo-tenant”), read the full piece at The Guardian‘s website

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One thought on “Why do Brits pronounce lieutenant “leftenant”?

  1. hhhnsmith

    Because that’s the word. The leftenant is left(tenant, English) in tenancy of the platoon, in lieu(tenant, French) of the captain.

    Reply

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