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by Greg on November 11, 2012

My eldest son and I got in a heated debate over how to pronounce a word that doesn’t even exist in the English language and we need you to put an end to it.

The word is “sketen” as misspelled by one of Michael’s friends who was trying to write about skeletons. I feel that the proper pronunciation should be “skee-ten” and Andrew feels it should be pronounced “skeh-ten,” which of course, is wrong.

After mocking us for having such an inane argument, Heather suggested that we each write out our explanations and let the readers decide. If I’m right, I’ll once again be vindicated, and further entrench myself as the omnipotent dad who has no equal beneath this roof. But, should I be wrong? Well, then, he’s grounded.

In true debate format, I’m allowing him to type out his explanation first and then I’ll counter with the correct one.


It would be pronounced “Ske-ten” and not “Skee-ten” because there is only one e before and one e after the t. In order to be pronounced “Skee-ten” you would need two “e”s before the t. Plus, if the first e is given the long e sound, the second e is silent. If the second e was silent, then the t and n sound would be right night to eachother which would not work; a vowel is needed between the two in order for it to work. Therefore, the word is pronounced “ske-ten” and not “Skee-ten”.

Correct Dad:

It would be pronounced “Skee-ten”.


Because I said so.

Quite honestly, from a parental standpoint, that argument alone should be strong enough to land me a victory. But, in the spirit of competition, I suppose I’ll needlessly bolster my argument with three additional points.

#1: While I appreciate his completely unsubstantiated drivel, it should be noted that he spelled the word “next” as “night” in his answer. And we’re supposed to take grammar advice from this kid? Furthermore, he also mashed “eachother” into one word when it’s clearly supposed to be two. With his grammatical credibility now shot to hell after some healthy mudslinging, I shall move on to my next valid, albeit unnecessary point.

#2: For it to be pronounced “skeh-ten” there would need to be two T’s, as in “sketten.” But with one E flanking each side of the consonant in a two-syllable word, the first E’s pronunciation would be a long E, as pronounced in the following sentence: “Today’s futile argument was brought to you by the letter E.”

Let me ask you this. Would you pronounce “cede” as “said?” Should the word “athlete” really be pronounced “ath-let?” How about “deter” being pronounced “detter?” And when Andrew finally sees the light and agrees that I’m correct, will we have “met-ted” or “meet-ed” out our differences?

Furthermore, have you ever witnessed a “metteor” shower? Have your energy levels ever “pettered” out? And finally, if you run a 5K, have you run 5,000 “mee-ters” or 5,000 “metters?”

Clearly, Andrew is on the ropes and desperately reaching for the white towel. But I’m not done. This is the nerdy grammatical equivalent of the octagon and I have been trained to embrace the ways of the Cobra Kai Dojo. No mercy.

It’s time to sweep the leg.

#3: I almost feel guilty saving the best for last but please allow me to quote a passage from eHow Mom’s explanation of Long Vowel Rules:

If the “e” is followed by one consonant, followed by another vowel, it makes a long vowel sound (example: evil, deplete), but the “e” will not typically be long if there are two or more consonants between the “e” and the other vowel (examples: elder, enter).

Case. Closed.

No longer is it just my wanton opinion blowing my kids’ minds. Thanks to eHow’s legion of other parental know-it-all’s, my opinion is now a supported fact.

I think what Andrew can take away from all this is that parents are always right. Even when we’re wrong, we’re right. While it’s something he won’t grasp until he’s in a position to upstage and mentally trample his own kids someday, the simple explanation for our bewildering breadth of knowledge can summed up by one of two reasons:

1) Because I said so;

and 2) Magic.

Take your pick, son, because I believe this debate is as good as over.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this. Go ahead, pick a side.

Am I right?

Or are you willing to condemn this poor grammatically-challenged-when-it-comes-to-pronouncing-fake-words child to a grounding?

His fate and my credibility are now in your hands.


UPDATE 9:25am:

There has been a lot of discussion below that because it was the child’s intent to spell ‘skeleten’ that my son should win the debate. Considering this wasn’t even a smidgeon of his argument, I have come to the conclusion that you’re all nuts.

But, always one to respect loopholes, I am willing to accept a tie. He gets a point because of the word’s intent, even though he won’t have a clue why, and I get a point because of grammar rules, structure, and usage.

Now, referring to the rules of contest between father and son, I’m happy to report that ties go to the parent. I’m certain this will be fully supported by other moms and dads reading this. Otherwise, this country is in a lot of trouble.



kth November 11, 2012 at 11:39 pm

Well, I was reading it as skeh-ton as soon as I saw the post title. And for me, the first always sticks with me (but then English is definitely not my forte, nor my passion). Good luck to you both. 🙂

kortney November 11, 2012 at 11:49 pm

I read it as skee-ten.

Telling Dad November 12, 2012 at 8:25 am

You’re my favorite.

the diva November 12, 2012 at 12:13 am

Well, when I first read the word, I sided with your son. But when I read the explanation you gave on vowels followed by one consonant being long, I remembered having that same argument with my brother-in-law when he was murderously mispronouncing something. And I couldn’t possibly contradict myself and risk having to concede the argument (even in part) to him! So you must therefore be declared the winner!!! And all remains right within my own little world!!!!

Morgan November 12, 2012 at 12:30 am

Well, as an English major, I am sorry to report that a professor’s use of the word “cede” in one of my senior level classes elicited only blank stares and slack jaws. I could just picture them wondering why he was talking about plants.

That said, I think you as Dad have stumbled upon a secondary and possibly more important use for your meticulous research into this non-word: putting your son to sleep instantly. While your definition is amusing to us, you will have lost him at the classic “Because I said so,” and anything beyond that would be a somnolent.

You’re actually both insane. Do you have a list of other “almost words?” I’m going to award this one to your son. Obviously, he’s been led astray by important male authority figures in his life, so he needs all the help he can get.

Amy November 12, 2012 at 1:22 am

It’s “skeh-ton” because it was originally a misspelling of “skeleton.”
The kid who spelled it that way simply left out the syllable “le.”
If I had seen the word simply written down with no context, I would probably read it as “skeeton” because it only had one “t.” But knowing what was meant changes everything. Likewise, if the word were the caption of a picture of a skeleton, I would read it “skeh-ton.”

Alison November 12, 2012 at 5:17 am

Me too. If it were a real word, Greg, I’d agree with you, but given the attempt to spell ”skeleton” I have to agree with Andrew. He’s right for the wrong reason.

Joanna November 12, 2012 at 7:03 am

Bingo. What Amy said is exactly why your son wins. And on another note, I am so happy that you are writing again! 🙂

Nicole November 12, 2012 at 7:55 am

I was just coming here to write this! Amy is correct and your son is correct because the word written was suppose to represent skeleton. Sorry!

Jen D. November 12, 2012 at 8:27 am

What they said! Sorry, dude. :-/

Telling Dad November 12, 2012 at 9:37 am

This is like when my sister wins a hand at poker.

“Oh! I had a full house? Do I win?”

Alison stating, “He’s right for the wrong reason.” says it all.


Emma November 12, 2012 at 2:09 pm

Agreed- the rules in poker are – if you don’t know that your hand has won, you haven’t won.

Jessica November 12, 2012 at 3:39 am

I agree completely with Amy.

I first read it as Skee-ton, but then when I saw it was a shortening of skeleton, it makes much more sense as skeh-ton.

meredith November 12, 2012 at 4:16 am

I’d pronounce it as skeh-ton. But then, I’m from France where we pronounce things the right way 🙂

Michelle C November 12, 2012 at 6:00 am

Sorry Greg but since this is clearly a misspelling of skeleton, Andrew is correct in the pronunciation of the word. If it was a made up word that you were arguing, something with no link to a real word, then your argument would have merit, and I would agree with you completely. However, in this case, I believe you are going to have to admit that you are incorrect. Sadly, I realize this means the poor kid gets grounded, but at least he can sit in his room smug with the knowledge that this time he was smarter than dad.

Karen November 12, 2012 at 7:25 am

My daughter is a reading teacher and in an attempt to make sense of our inane and confusing language, she has decided that, if she were queen of the world, she would chang the English language. Every word would be spelled phonetically, with no unneccessary letters. The letters G, C and X would be eliminated as the sounds are repeated with other letters. Example: jeraf (giraffe) Also, to eliminate many, many problems with how to pronounce words, the rule is: If it’s a long e, it will be noted as an uppercase E. If it’s a short e, it is noted as a lower case e. Therefore, “sketen” is pronounced ske-ten. If it were to be pronounced skee-ten it would need to be spelled skEten. Your son wins.

Sheppitsgal November 12, 2012 at 7:28 am

I read it as ‘skeh-ton’ as well. However, I am English, so what do I know? 🙂

Christina November 12, 2012 at 9:33 am

I read this as “skee-ten”. Also being a mom to a almost 4 year old I am SO siding with you on the reasoning of “Because I said so”.

LOVE this part: “Even when we’re wrong, we’re right. While it’s something he won’t grasp until he’s in a position to upstage and mentally trample his own kids someday, the simple explanation for our bewildering breadth of knowledge can summed up by one of two reasons:
1) Because I said so;
2) Magic.”

Deejai1922 November 12, 2012 at 9:39 am

I immediately read it as your son did. Rules are meant to be broken, especially in English. The words ever, never, lever, sever and seven don’t follow the long E pattern, either, and those are just off the top of my head.

Telling Dad November 12, 2012 at 9:43 am


Neever, eever, give children leeverage to seever their belief that you know everything.

MitziW November 12, 2012 at 10:17 am

Technically, it would be pronounced ‘skee-ten’ because of the way the word is divided into syllables. The first syllable is considered an open syllable, where the vowel is long because there is no consonant after the vowel. But, since it was known that it’s a misspelling for skeleton, it could go either way. Wishy-washy…

Telling Dad November 12, 2012 at 10:29 am

Had we not known the word was supposed to be skeleton, I would have won in a landslide.

Mishka November 12, 2012 at 10:41 am

I am going with a tie….since the word skeleton already goes against the facts quoted from eHow…LOL. Definitely don’t want to see anyone get grounded…haha. And of course the tie goes to the parent….duh!

Audra November 12, 2012 at 10:41 am

I have to agree that, since the original word was “skeleton” it makes more sense, phonetically, that the non-word be pronounced “skeh-ton”.

Kim November 12, 2012 at 11:51 am

This is a response from my 11 year old for ya: “Spalding Rule #4. Vowels a, e, o and u usually say a, e, o and u at the end of a syllable (navy, me, open,

Sorry, Andrew!

Josanne November 12, 2012 at 11:52 am

If I didn’t know any explanation of the word, I would have to give it to you, Greg!

Stephanie November 12, 2012 at 12:18 pm

One word – “level”. You used it in your explanation, however it doesn’t follow the logic of the explanation. I agree that American English is flawed on multiple lehvels. I’d call this a true tie.

AuntyBert November 12, 2012 at 12:19 pm

Well, having missed the comment period, I’m going to comment anyway.
Sketen is pronounced skeh’n. My reasoning: it is an unknown word and I have to go fast with those.
Some of them mean sumpthin . . . just ask a techie or a texter.

Nancy B November 12, 2012 at 1:00 pm

Tie. And I think I’ll have a drink to toast the fact that my kids are grown. But I SO love hearing about the fun in your home! Makes me ALMOST want to relive those days. Cheers!

Naila Moon November 12, 2012 at 1:07 pm

Frankly, I think this whole conversation is nuts! However, since I must put my two cents worth in, I think it comes down to grammar and spelling in general.

Although your sons explanation seems quite valid, my Grandmother taught me to use spelling and grammar correctly. Therefore, you win Greg and not on the merit of “I said so”.

In Andrew’s defense, please do not ground said child. I appreciate, in a nonsensical way his attempt at the trivial matter.

This whole post has been brought to you by the letter “Y”.

valmg @ Mom Knows It All November 12, 2012 at 5:49 pm

To-may-to. Tow-ma-to. Tow-mater. Tamata.
I’d have to say neither – it would be skeheten.

Minnesota Red November 12, 2012 at 8:47 pm

What your son said is most definitely correct; when my children were little they couldn’t pronounce their L’s very well so skeleton was pronounced “sketen”, and lunch was “yunks” and toilet was “toit”. But now they are grown and can talk the s**t out of the Engish yanguage.

Danna November 13, 2012 at 8:45 am

I don’t think the word that was initially being written should come into play. We are talking about a nonword, thus it becomes its own entity. It is pronounced skeeten. I think the grounding should entail reading the dictionary to enlighten his vocabulary and further drive home the inconsistencies of the rules of the English language.

Emily in Oregon November 13, 2012 at 9:56 am

Awesome post! I’m a stickler about grammar (although, my focus is mostly on spelling and proper use of punctuation, and not necessarily sentence structure). I got a nerdy kick out of this one. 🙂

By the way, I also read the word as “skee-ten”.

Holly November 13, 2012 at 10:36 am

I agree it has to be ‘skeh-ton’ because it was known that the original word was skeleton and you have to say it with all of the letters pronounced exactly the same minus the l. Otherwise, we’d all have skeeletons, which sounds more like something you’d do at a resort with a lot of snow.

Trish November 13, 2012 at 10:46 am

This article was just put up today, and it fits this SO WELL! (And it basically implies that you’re both right 😉 ). It has a few strong words, but it’s funny and worth reading for the sake of this argument.
And to be honest…I read it as skeh-ton first too. 😛


Amber H. November 13, 2012 at 12:51 pm

I read it as skee-ten. Sorry little guy

Valerie November 13, 2012 at 7:32 pm

When I first read it, I totally said skehten in my head. So, I’m gonna trust my instinct on this.

But, I once spelled Half wrong. So I obviously can’t be trusted.



Dana November 13, 2012 at 9:27 pm

You spelled “skeleton” wrong. “child’s intent to spell ‘skeleten’ “

Leane November 14, 2012 at 9:28 am

Definitely “skehten” – case in point, it is not “skeeleton,” “eelephant,” or “teelephone.”

Amy November 14, 2012 at 12:06 pm

Exactly. The original word itself argues against Dad’s argument for the long E.

Sarah November 14, 2012 at 11:59 am

I read it as “skee-ten” and I am never wrong.

Skrell November 14, 2012 at 1:24 pm

Upon seeing the word and not yet reading the blog, I immediately pronounced it skee-ton in my head. Having said that however, one word that violates your rule number 3 comes to mind. Should that word’s correct pronunciation be Gree-gory?

Sara November 20, 2012 at 10:13 pm

I go with reasoning of “intent” because that’s what the kid wanted it to say.
BUT, I have to then question the pronunciation of my own last name: Roberson. Before I got married, it was CLEARLY Robe-er-son, because of that “e” rule (only one letter isn’t enough to keep the sneaky “e” from scaring the “o” and making him scream his name (can you tell I teach 2nd grade?). However, my in-laws pronounce it Robber-son, because apparently the name used to be Robertson and the “t” got dropped somewhere along the way. Hence, intent wins.
Yeah for breaking the rules of phonics!

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