Why is "medicine" pronounced differently?

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  • 10
    I think your question doesn't deserve a negative score, but any attempt to identify the rationale behind the one negative vote it received would quickly devolve into speculation. In short, people may downvote because there is something wrong with the question or because there is something wrong with them, or for any number of idiosyncratic reasons or nonreasons. Worrying about anonymous downvotes won't do you any good—and receiving a single unexplained downvote doesn't mean anything except that the first person who voted on your question didn't like it and didn't care to tell you why.
    – Sven Yargs
    Dec 12, 2017 at 7:41
  • 8
    I’m with @SvenYargs. Don’t sweat a single downvote. In fact, you can safely ignore downvotes until you get a handful or so, or they’re not outweighed by upvotes. If I had to hazard a guess about the single downvote, it would be that there’s a subpopulation on this site which disdains “why” questions of English. As English is not designed, a lot of answers to “why” questions are “because that’s how the chips fell, that’s all; there is no rationale beyond ‘a series of accidents of history’”. I don’t think that applies to your question, but someone might have.
    – Dan Bron
    Dec 12, 2017 at 12:04
  • 4
    There is a really good discussion about downvotes and how to handle them in How to guarantee getting downvotes without explanation Not all of that discussion is relevant to your situation, but the answers and comments in that discussion are a wealth of good advice.
    – ColleenV
    Dec 12, 2017 at 13:42
  • 4
    Tim Post lost his keys again. Hence the downvote.
    – NVZ Mod
    Dec 12, 2017 at 15:57
  • 2
    Thanks everyone. I was going to throw my hands up in the air and give up on SE. I was too sensitive
    – paulzag
    Dec 14, 2017 at 1:28
  • 5
    Not everyone who uses the Internet is totally sane.
    – ab2
    Dec 14, 2017 at 2:35

1 Answer 1


The accepted answer says

The present-day difference doesn't seem to have any clear cause.

Which is the answer to the Why question of the OP: 'Why is "medicine" pronounced differently?'

Such is the situation often caused by asking why questions. All the other information in the accepted answer, as swell as it is, does not actually answer the question as to why.

Thus, the answer itself is in jeopardy of receiving a downvote because it doesn't answer the question why except to say we don't know why.

I have not voted on either the question or answer. It seems a good strategy if users try to reword their questions so they don't ask why. Perhaps even is there a reason for... is better than a flat out why question. At least in this case the answer there is no apparent reason is an actual answer to the question.

As Dan Bron comments,

As English is not designed, a lot of answers to “why” questions are “because that’s how the chips fell, that’s all; there is no rationale beyond ‘a series of accidents of history’.

  • 1
    Downvoting because I don’t want this attitude to be adopted as EL&U’s policy towards “why” questions. I think each “why” question should be evaluated on its individual merits. I think “why” question’s of phonology, like this one, are much more likely to be amenable to explication than many other types.
    – Dan Bron
    Dec 14, 2017 at 17:38
  • 2
    Second note: I did not put the apostrophe in my previous comment. Autocorrect did. And now I’m beginning to think the markov chains used for predictive type are based on corpus data from actual users, unvetted, so the NLP AI is beginning to think the greengrocer’s apostrophe is correct for the same reason the greengrocer does!
    – Dan Bron
    Dec 14, 2017 at 21:11
  • 1
    @DanBron I think a lot of skepticism should be brought against why questions. There never is an answer to 'why' here, but there may well be a history or a comparison with similar words, or a description of similar phenomena? 'why' is more likely to be addressable with multiple similar phenomena, but for a single word might boil down to "on August 19th, 1832, 5 year old Tommy Hanrahan had his front teeth knocked out when .... and that's why we all say 'Shenanigans' instead of 'Shenanigan'". Which as you might guess is hard to verify.
    – Mitch
    Dec 14, 2017 at 21:11
  • 2
    @DanBron On many occasions, at least, as an Indian, I'd ask "why" while the intention is to ask "how" or "how come". So while the question I'd have is "how did x happen", I might be asking "why did x happen". I'm sure many non native speakers make the same mistake.
    – NVZ Mod
    Dec 14, 2017 at 21:32
  • @NVZ in my experience of English, how come is an exact synonym for why. Dec 15, 2017 at 19:11

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