Thanks for Clarifying: Problems Pronouncing “Religulous”

By Maria Cypher

November 5, 2008

Word geek that I am, the movie title “Religulous” has caused me a great deal of consternation. Yes, that’s me you see, slowing down in my Miata in front of the movie marquee, silently mouthing the title, trying to accept and make sense of it.

Well, thank you folks at Daily Writing Tips, for this awesome clarification, and validation that I’m only slightly crazy:

Critics to the contrary, English spelling has rules and the portmanteau word “religulous”, a combination of religion+ridiculous, or religion+incredulous, breaks one of them.

The letter g represents two different sounds, “hard g” and “soft g.” The “hard” sound of the letter g is /g/ as in gun. The “soft” sound of the letter g is /j/ as in gin.

Here’s the rule: G has the “soft sound” when followed by the vowels e, i, or y. Examples: genuine, ginger, gypsy, and gyves (the little leather ties used on the legs of hunting birds).

Before you ask: the g in girl is not followed by the vowel i. It is followed by the vowel/consonant combination ir and retains the “hard” sound: /gurl/.

In spoken advertising, the movie is called /re-lij-u-lus/, but according to the rule, it would be /re-lig-u-lus/.

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