There seems to be something particularly difficult about VCVCV strings involving nasals at different places of articulation. We can manage enemy ˈenəmi, but an enemy ən ˈenəmi can start to feel slightly like a tongue-twister. By the time we get to the flower anemone əˈneməni and give it an indefinite article, an anemone ən əˈneməni, we may have to monitor ourselves carefully.
I remember as a child being shown some wood anemones by my mother and thinking they were wooden enemies.
What started me on this line of thought was an email in which someone was discussing an employee’s “renumeration”. This should of course be remuneration. But the m-n pronunciation problem in riˌmjuːnəˈreɪʃn̩ is reinforced by an evident etymological/semantic confusion involving words such as numeral (count the salary!).
The prevalence of the spoken form (mispronunciation) with -ˈnjuːm- instead of -ˈmjuːn- leads often enough to the written form (misspelling) with -num- instead of -mun-.
Etymologically, remuneration has nothing to do with numbers. The -mun- part is the same as in munificent ‘generous’, and goes back to the Latin mūnus, mūneris, a word with several meanings, one of which is ‘gift’. Cicero used the term remūnerātio, -ōnis in the sense of ‘recompense, repayment’, and the word has been in use in English since around 1400.
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