Just had a tussle in the pub over the word 'tousled'. I said it was pronounced 'tuzzled'. My sister and her partner laffed a lot. She said it was pronounced 'toozled'. Her partner and I laffed at her. Her partner said it was pronounced 'towsled'. I and my sister laffed at him.

Turns out he's right, dammit.

What powsles me is, how come I've been pronouncing it 'tuzzled' for so long and no one's said anything? That means that, for 46 years, people have been secretly laffing at me behind my back. This is why I moved back to my home town, I've decided, to be near my sister. Now, at least, although I'm being laffed at, the mocking and scoffing is all out in the open.

These words ending in 'led' remind me of when, in a school I taught at a while ago, a young teacher came into the staff room crying. She'd been teased by some sixth formers for reading out a passage from a book in which a character had been 'severely misled'. She, misreading it, pronounced it 'mizzled' and speculated intelligently for a while on what mizzling might be until her bad, bad sixth formers couldn't hold in their mirth any longer and, delighted to be able to do so, showed her where she was going wrong.

Why were we discussing the word 'tousled' in the pub anyway? The news was on and Russell Brand was on it. Enough (enowf?) said. My sister's partner commented on the fact that we never talk about the word 'tousled' except when we're referring to hair. I think it sounds rather charming, like a descriptive word a celebrity chef might use: 'Here we have (angle the camera this way, Bert) a rather stunning starter of towsled prawns with some brushed peppers and a garnish of mildly-combed rocket leaves. For the main course, some Permed ham, highlighted with sun-dyed tomatoes and roast lock of hare.'


  1. Followed by chocolate buffont with a frizzon of champagne drizzled over raspberry curlers.(In keeping with today's icy weather perhaps!)

  2. What a very interesting post. I like to ponder accent when working on my blog so it's nice to see it discussed here (and in pubs). Was your young teacher from the South-West by any chance? Words scanning like that seem to be more common there. 'Misled' does crop up in language as 'mizzled' in some cases - 'miseltow' springs to mind as a (semi-)case, so she needn't feel that bad.

    I say something closer to 'tuss-uld'. Your pronunciation sounds a bit northern northern, your sister sounds like she's from the Midlands and her partner sounds southern (hopefully that hasn't causes offence to any parties) - it's funny what accents can do!



    p.s. The OED suggests there should be more of a 'z' sound in the word 'tau.zld' (it's Germanic - so the consonant is pretty sharp) so you weren't that far from the official line! A

  3. I knew that! I clever monkey. Hee hee.

  4. Adam, thanks for your comments. I'm from the Midlands originally but lived near London for 25 years, hence all the teasing from the sis (see earlier posts). Her partner is from Derby, but tends to just know stuff! How annoying is that? You sound very knowledgeable - when I'm teaching English Language at school I shall use your blog, definitely.

  5. Very good, Miss Broomfield. We should set up a restaurant together.

  6. Thanks very much Mrs H, do please send any interested language-bods in the class my way, I'd love for them to have a read and comment. Seems I was a bit off with the partner's accent (don't tell him, ha ha!) but glad to hear I was near the mark with the Midlands twang. Where did you move (back) from (if I might ask)?

    Thanks very much for following De Factoids!


    p.s. I've left a shorter post back on my blog (summary = thank you and I'm very jealous you've heard Crystal!) A


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