How To Pronounce “Façade”

FAÇADE doesn’t behave like arcade.

The word is not pronounced fuh-KADE. Try this instead: fuh-SAHD.

Yes, this is one of those troublesome words in the English language that can’t be pronounced phonetically. Why would the consonant “c” at the start of a syllable take on not the voiceless “k” plosive sound, but a hissing sibilant? Here’s why: etymologically, it’s French.

Technically, the “c” in facade is not a “c” because of the cedilla, which looks like the hooked hand of a one-eyed pirate: ç. Let’s zoom right it and make it bigger: Ç.

cedilla |səˈdɪlə| (n)
a mark ( ¸ ) written under the letter c, especially in French, to show that it is pronounced like an s rather than a k (e.g., façade).

The letter is used predominantly in Romance languages—those descended from Latin, principally French, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, Catalan, Occitan, and Romanian.

Purists would spell facade like so:

façade |fəˈsɑd(n)

  • the face of a building, especially the principal front that looks onto a street or open space.
  • an outward appearance that is maintained to conceal a less pleasant or creditable reality: her flawless public façade masked private despair.

You don’t have to be a purist and go the little tail route, but you might want to remember this:

That second syllable is pronounced SAHD, not SADE. Even if you said fuh-SADE, you might have honored the cedilla, but not quite captured the essence of the French pronunciation. And what is it again?

Oui, fuh-SAHD.

Encore: fuh-SAHD!

*

To type a cedilla on your word processor, hold the “c” key down and you’ll find it there, the first of a trio of c’s.


I invite you to write to me at  viv@mywritinghome.com if you have any word ideas you’d like to share.

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