CAROL A. FROM BUTLER, PA, ASKS: Please help me settle an argument, Ernie! My sister calls sherbet “sher-bert” and I tell her she shouldn’t pronounce the second R. She insists she’s correct, but I say she’s wrong. Who’s right?
Ahh, the classic sherbet/sherbert conundrum. It’s been causing arguments and dividing families ever since the word was invented to describe the sorbet-inspired treat back in the early 17th century. Personally, I pronounce it “shhermbetth” mainly because I usually have my mouth full of sherbet when I talk about it, but that’s just me.
I hope I don’t contribute to the rift between you and your sister, but you are correct, Carol. The correct pronunciation is “sher-bit,” which makes perfect sense considering it’s spelled “sherbet” (never “sherbert”).
I’m not sure when and why people started inserting that second R, but I’ve heard many ice cream savvy people throwing that extra consonant in there. It’s a risky slip of the tongue, because if you utter “sher-bert” in some ice cream circles, you’ll be laughed out of the room (and you won’t be allowed to take your French Vanilla with you). Of course, I don’t hang out in those circles because they tend to be a bit too rigid in the rules of “ice cream etiquette” for my taste.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to get more shhermbetth.