Forehead (pronunciation)

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The noun forehead has two pronunciations.

  • The traditional realization in RP - the formal British pronunciation - made 'forehead' rhyme with 'horrid' (IPA: /ˈfɒr ɪ (or ɛ)d/. This appears still to be preferred among older speakers, but, increasingly, younger speakers are using a spelling and etymological pronunciation 'FOUR-head', IPA: /ˈfɔːr hɛd/.
  • In American English, too, a generational change appears to be taking place. Older speakers are more likely to realize the '-h-' ('FOUR-Head' /ˈfɔː (or oʊ)r hɛd/), but a majority of all Americans leave it silent: 'Fore-edd' /ˈfɔː (or oʊ)r ɛd/.
The word, from For- - fore- + head, labels the broad nearly plane part of the front of the face between the eyebrows and the hair.

An old nursery rhyme illustrates the traditional British pronunciation:

There was a little girl,
Who had a little curl,
Right in the middle of her forehead.
When she was good,
She was very good indeed,
But when she was bad she was horrid.
This was written by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882). Longfellow's second son Ernest said: "It was while walking up and down with his second daughter, then a baby in his arms, that my father composed and sang to her the well-known lines .... Many people think this a Mother-Goose rhyme, but this is the true version and history" ([[1]]).



Currently, in the twenty-first century, the version in which the sixth line is "When she was good she was very very good" is probably more usual in the UK than the original.