Laboratory - lavatory

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The noun laboratory is pronounced in British English with the stress on the second syllable, and the following syllables very much telescoped: 'lab-ORR-e-t(e)r-i', IPA: /lə 'bɒ rə tə rɪ/; in GA, the stress is on the first syllable, and the final two syllables are much more clearly articulated: 'LAB-re-to-ry', /'læb rə ,tɔː rɪ/. The British pronunciation, which seems to have been first recorded in 1895, may have been influenced by the desire to distinguish it from 'lavatory' ('LAV-er-t(e)r-i', /'læ və tə rɪ/), then the common word among the educated for what is now usually 'the toilet', or in America 'the bathroom', an even deeper euphemism.

The common colloquial abbreviation for laboratory, lab, can also be mis-heard for a common colloquialism for lavatory - lav. (The final consonant in both, which they share with the consonants in similar positions in the two parent words, is a labial, and hence phonetically similar.)
  • Laboratory is also one of the 117 mis-spellings listed as 'Common difficulties' in the section on 'Spelling' within 'Writing' in UEfAP.