English is filled with words that are pronounced differently from how they’re spelled – and today’s spotlight is on the plural form, “women.”
“Women” rhymes with “swimmin’,” the informal way to say “swimming,” and seemingly the only word that rhymes with “women.” (If anyone can think of another word, I’d love to hear it!)
In any case, woman-women each places the stress on the FIRST syllable. This means, the second syllables (–man and –men) are unstressed, and therefore sound the same.
1 woman (WUH-mun)
2 women (WIH-mun)
A common mistake is to pronounce the singular (woman) and plural (women) the same way.
The male forms, “man” and “men” are easy because they are just one syllable.
To hear the difference between 1 woman and 2 women, however, the “o” sound in women becomes a “short i,” as in In, Sit, It, etc.
And thus, my memory tip: Three Women Swimmin’ …
A now little word history:
“Woman” is actually an Old English word that goes back almost 1,000 years. Back then, “man” just meant “human” and over time changed to a male adult.
That caused that the word “wif” (female) to attach itself to “man”: wif-man to specify “adult female” and later, “married adult female.”
“Wifman” then eventually contracted to “woman.”
Plurals, back in those days, were made not by adding an “s” but by changing something in the word itself. (Think of child-children.)
But considering 10 centuries have passed and the plural is still “women” and not “wimmin” is, well, typical of the messy spelling of English.
Hopefully, “three women swimmin’” just might help!