Learn English – Why is “primer” pronounced with a short “i” sound


This word—used to mean an elementary textbook, not a painting material—annoys me to no end. Does anyone know why, exactly, "primer" is pronounced with a short "i" sound? I don't know why, call it intuition, but I can't see why this word isn't spelled "primmer." Are there any particular etymological reasons for this spelling/pronunciation combination?

EDIT: Apparently this situation is only recognizable to American English speakers. I've only ever heard it pronounced with a short "i," but this seems to be completely unheard of to British English speakers.

Best Answer

Personal experience: It's not. Primer is pronounced with a long i sound, like miner or buyer, and I've never heard it ever pronounced differently.

Linguistic answer: Dictionaries vary on which is the correct pronunciation, but the OED, which is generally considered the final word on the English language, accepts both pronunciations as valid. The "long i" pronunciation occurs in etymologically related words such as primary and prime.

The short i pronunciation doesn't seem to be predominant (at least not in Southern California), so that's why we stick with the single "m".