Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Ike or itch?

Having read one of his novellas in a sci-fi collection, I had a look through my John Wyndham books the other day and found one I don't remember reading: Trouble with Lichen.

My own 'trouble' with 'lichen' is that I don't know how to say it. Growing up, my dad always used to point it out on rocks as 'liken', with a long i and hard k. But I've met several people who call it 'litchen', with a short i and an English ch sound. And if you say it the wrong way to the wrong person they always correct you.

The online etymological dictionary says: "from L. lichen, from Gk. leichen, originally "what eats around itself," probably from leichein "to lick". That, frankly is no help, as the Greek word would have been written with a X(chi) which is pronounced like a Welsh/Scottish 'ch' (think loch, or Castell Coch). Lei would be a 'lie' sound in Greek, but I think li is shorter in Latin.

So, here we go - ike or itch? Cast your vote.


  1. No way Matt, blatantly Lichen like Litchen!

  2. Anonymous22/1/09 11:03

    If you believe the Wikipedia citation - and I do for reasons of my own personal preference - the OED says "liken". So there.

  3. Deffo 'liken' in my humble opinion

  4. another option is you create a new pronounication? how about Loooken?