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Proofreading Service - Pain in the English
Proofreading Service - Pain in the English

Your Pain Is Our Pleasure

24-Hour Proofreading Service—We proofread your Google Docs or Microsoft Word files. We hate grammatical errors with a passion. Learn More

Pronouncing “str” like “shtr” as in “shtrong” “shtrange”

Can you please comment on a trend that I have noticed recently. More and more people seem to be pronouncing words that contain the letters “str” as if they were written “shtr”. Strong sounds like shtrong, strange sounds like shtrange, and so on. I have noticed even my favorite NPR journalists mispronouncing these words. I first noticed this pronunciation in one of Michelle Obama’s early speeches. I’d appreciate any insight that you might have.

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Perhaps they're Sean Connery fans.

Warsaw Will Feb-26-2014

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I have found this:

Only the media could pick up and run with a complete misuse of pronunciation rules and thrust them into common usage. Even the army is doing this, with an obviously white announcer deliberately doing the 'shtrong' pronunciation in its recruitment ads targeted to black people.


Jasper Feb-26-2014

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@Jasper - A bit off topic, but I couldn't help noticing that the commenter at your first link refers to 'the effete pronunciation of "literally" as "litrally".' -which makes me effete, apparently. At Oxford Online I seem to have a choice - /ˈlɪt(ə)rəli/. Funnily enough, Oxford Advanced Learner's shows /ˈlɪtərəli/, but in their recording that e is barely audible. But I notice that there's a difference between the British recording and the American pronunciation where the e is much more distinctive. So for 'effete' read British, no doubt.

Warsaw Will Feb-27-2014

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@Warsaw Will,

I found something that pointed in the direction of its origin. I'm not agreeing with his literally/litrally distinction. The origin isn't definitive, but there's a possibility of it starting in Ebonics.

Jasper Feb-27-2014

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Forgot to post this: That is why I posted the links. Origins.

Jasper Feb-27-2014

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I hadn't noticed it. I'm still shaking my head at the announcers on the weather channel saying "temp-a-chur.'

Mona Albano Feb-28-2014

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@Jasper - It's OK, I wasn't suggesting you were responsible for his views. The 'shtr' thing is way outside my experience (I don't think I've heard it on British radio, apart from Sir Sean), although you might well be right about its source. Which is why I noticed the 'literally' remark, and found it interesting. But nothing, I admit, to do with the matter in hand.

Actually Mona's example of "temp-a-chur" is also quite interesting, as most of us don't pronounce all the syllables of that either - /tɛmp(ə)rətʃə/ (Oxford Online) - i.e. "tempr-a-cher" (and that goes for both BrE and AmE).

Warsaw Will Feb-28-2014

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Those remind me of German. On National Rail in Britain, I used to hear that in 'Liverpool Street'. Then I thought it sounding more like 'LeberPool Straße'. Even 'the next' sounded like 'die nächste'.

Nomi Mar-09-2014

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If you'll note: This alternate pronunciation is found among people of all levels of education and background. "Black" does not equal "Uneducated", by the way and "Ebonics" is not universally accepted among African-American scholars, although the concept of language evolving in conjunction with culture is. Keep race out of it, please. It is quite possible, as it is with many words and pronunciations that originate in Old English - a relative of German, by the way - that this may also be a holdover that has not fallen by the wayside. Like "offen" vs. "often" for the pronunciation of "o-f-t-e-n". Just my two-cents.

Mrs. Davenport Mar-10-2014

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@Mrs. Davenport

So, you're saying that African-Americans don't have their own dialect? I never said Black=uneducated, you interpolated that (although the poster may hold that position). I googled shtrong and shtrange, and that's what came up. I followed the evidence. Now if you can provide something that refutes that, then do that instead of speculating of where it came from.

Jasper Mar-10-2014

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@Jasper Actually, African-Americans have several dialects, just as regionally-derived as any other American. That has nothing to do with Ebonics, which is not a purely linguistic designation, but was created in a very dubious political context. I was very much a part of that conversation. In any case, the relevant point here is that you need to show some evidence that this is first even a mispronunciation vs. an alternate or comparatively outdated pronunciation, and secondly, that it is rooted in any African-American contribution to our language. It's cool to debate, however, but it shows a skewed set of priorities that the shtr- vs. str- difference is anything but noticeable (I'm talking about the "oh-how-annoying" comments.). But everyone is entitled to an opinion.

Mrs. Davenport Mar-10-2014

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In any case, this post was so interesting that I will have to squeeze some time at some point to do some more research, and see what pops up. It's anyone's guess what might evolve. Thanks for noticing!

Mrs. Davenport Mar-10-2014

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And please excuse the punctuation typo in my next to last response. Responding and editing on an iPhone has its positives and negatives!

Mrs. Davenport Mar-10-2014

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@Mrs Davenport - I agree with you that a lot of comments of the 'it really annoys me' variety do tend to be pointed at what seem to be aimed at expressions which come from one or other Afro-American dialect - we had something similar about 'on tomorrow'.

But is also possible to talk about dialect in a purely observational and non-judgemental way, which is what I think Jasper was doing. I'm from Britain where we have hundreds of dialects, mostly regional, a few to do with ethnic background. Just listen to any British black comedian - they'll be doing Caribbean, more specifically Jamaican, Nigerian and LME (London multicultural English). And that's before we even get round to British Asian accents.

For many of us this is simply the rich tapestry that makes up English, and something to be celebrated. Talking about dialect, or attributing something to a particular ethnic group isn't per se disparaging.

In any case, I imagine the majority of black and Asian Brits simply have the standard regional accent of the area they come from. And then of course you've got lots of 'professionals' from ethnic backgrounds with just as middle-class or posh accents as their white peers. Social class and regional geography probably play a much bigger role in accents in Britain than racial background.

In fact, most criticism of this sort in Britain is aimed at less-educated white kids, innit? (a word that probably has ethnic roots, but is now totally multi-racial, if not totally accepted).

Incidentally, I say black people (without a capital) because that's the standard term in the UK. Some people tried to introduce Afro-Caribbean thirty years or so ago, but it never caught on.

Warsaw Will Mar-10-2014

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@Mrs. Davenport,

Because of your post, I researched the term Ebonics (on wikipedia) and apologize that I may have offended you with its use. I only learned it recently, through this website no less, and use it solely as a quick synonym for African American Vernacular English (AAVE). I was not cognizant of the negative connotation that it held. As for evidence, I found this:

The most excerpt: "To add to what Prof. Stahlke said, this pronunciation is also found in Hawaiian English and in AAVE (African-American Vernacular English). One hears it a lot in New York, which is where a lot of American news organizations are based."

I probably should have said dialects in my last post too. And lastly, I did not claim that it was a mispronunciation, just showing a "possible" origin of it.

Jasper Mar-10-2014

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Glad to see that others have noticed the shtrange pronunciation. My theory is that it's a DC trend wherein people unconsciously began to mimic George W. Bush in a wish to sound like an insider, and the pronunciation became contagious.

Anne S. Apr-29-2014

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I just wish they would "shtop" it already. I'm tempted to write to some of these announcers and journalists and ask them to start sounding out words phonetically. Would they teach their children to read using this "shtrange" pronunciation?

thisbe Apr-29-2014

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Just to negate the argument that it is a northeast U S or African-American phenomenon...former president George W Bush does it but his father does not. And so does Michelle Dube, co-anchor on CFTO News in Toronto.

Roger Stoddard Aug-04-2014

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I don't necessarily think that these are examples of mispronunciations. As @Roger Stoddard pointed out, the "shtr" pronunciation is probably present in a number of different dialects (and ideolects!). As such, I wouldn't call it a mispronunciation; rather, I see it as an example of dialectal difference, linguistic change, and linguistic variation.

I also see the addition of the "h" to the "str"consonant cluster as just another example of the linguistic devices that we employ all the time to ease pronunciation. My initial reaction is to call "shtr" an example of epenthesis: adding a sound to a word. But I could be wrong...

M. Quinnes Sep-17-2014

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The first time i heard this,shtrong garbage, publically was michelle Obama. I have heard others, all blacks, throughout my lifetime With that way of pronouncing the word strong as shtrong. I do believe that since M. 0bama says it publically it is becomming a fad for her audience.

It is only recently that i have heard whites and others pronounce that word the wrong way.

Hey my experiences are mine and no one can tell me what I observe is not what I observe so don't even think of trying your racism B.S with me.

notanozombie Mar-20-2015

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I have been beefing about this to everyone I know since I first heard it from the first lady's campaign speech on the radio. I just heard it moments ago from the Charmin TP bear on tv commercial with Ultra Shtrong description. I thought it was just me but I found this article before I posted to Facebook. Someone has to make it stop!!!!!

Nancy Wirtes Apr-09-2015

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It's shpreading beyond 'str' now. Last night's episode of "The Shtrain" featured a shniper. Yes, a shniper.

spockers Aug-31-2015

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What is the significance of the yellow backgrounds that some comments have?

Warsaw Will Sep-01-2015

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@ Notanozombie:

Your linguistic opinions would be much more persuasive if you could spell correctly and use commas. Somebody whose writing is rife with errors probably ought not to be obsessing about other people's pronunciation.

DReese Sep-11-2015

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@Warsaw Will - More than 5 votes?

Warsaw Will Sep-12-2015

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Whoa, people are actually talking about this! I noticed myself at some point pronouncing words this way..then my partner, also my best friend does it too. I honesly dont know when it began and find it so weird lol, i thought it was maybe just a Sydney thing i had developed but maybe it has more to do with tv/film/media

katey Dec-18-2015

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I recall education Blacks in the 1960s using this pronunciation. It seems that when Blacks used this pronunciation back then it signaled an educated person. I just went back to recorded speeches of Shirley Chisholm. She used this pronunciation. Then from usage by education blacks that pronunciation seems to have entered into mainstream Black pronunciation and from there into common, widespread, mainshtream White usage. It's as fingernails on a blackboard for me. It's now 2016 and I'm noticing that the "h" is now being added to "st" strings as in "shtory". Anyone else follow this thread from educated Black speech? I know language changes. It's a natural process but my ear catches on every single pronunciation of "st" and "str" as "sht" and "shtr". The silliest pronunciation recently heard was largest trees pronounced as "largesht shtreesh". Totally mangled in other words and barely intelligible.

Chic Nerdstrom Jun-06-2016

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This mispronounciation of the words like strong, and destroyed, by Michelle Obama has been so annoying and distracting and in my opinion really so unbecoming of a first lady. It also seems to me, that other words, like America, for example, are said with a tone of complaint or disdain. It is so distracting that I have trouble following the context of her remarks on a given occasion. As a role model for the youth of this nation, and speaking publicly as the First Lady, it surprises me no one ever counseled her on the inappropriateness of mispronounciation of these words that in my opinion, diminishes what she was trying to say in any given speech.

Paisley Aug-27-2016

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Wow, I can't believe someone besides me has noticed this ever-expanding trend! For years I've been pointing it out to others and am consistently told that it's my imagination, that I'm just hearing it wrong.

I first noticed people "Germanizing" words containing the "str" letter combination in the mid-Eighties and it has become more and more common as time passes.

And like other posters on this thread I also first noticed that originally it was only black people saying "shtrong," "shtreet," "shtrange," etc., and then saw it quickly spread to young white kids emulating this silly affectation.

I've even heard people giving the Teutonic treatment to words that don't really qualify (as in no "str"), like "reshtaurant" and "hishtory."

And as pointed out above, even newscasters, announcers, voice artists and others who speak for a living are butchering the "str" words (Jimmy Kimmel is a blatant example).

Apparently all we can do is hope people come to their senses eventually and once again reserve the "shtr" sound for words that can actually have that sound. Streudel, anyone?

Todd8080 Sep-07-2016

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I have noticed 3 terrible things from public figures. One from a long time ago is that ten became "tin," along with "incintive," "sinator," etc. More recent is the response to an interviewer asking "How did that happen?" or "What was decided?" Rather than "Well, first we..." it seems that everyone now says "So, we..." as if "How bad was the earthquake?" doesn't deserve an exclamation! but a "So, our seismologists...." The third item is very shtrange. The shtrength of life of shtatements by shtentorious public figures who live on shtandard shtreets of our shtates is ashtounding. No wonder shtudents are shtruggling with shtrict rules of articulation.

jean Frank Sep-12-2016

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I came across an interesting study done by David Durian at Ohio State:

Getting [ʃ]tronger Every Day?: More on Urbanization and the Socio-geographic Diffusion of (str) in Columbus, OH.

I also cringe when I hear this pronunciation. The article helped me better understand its origin. However, even knowing how this came to be doesn't negate my distaste for the pronunciation! Don't even get me started on "try and" vs. "try to"!

Cathy W. Dec-21-2016

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I swear I think Oprah Winfrey started it. Now everyone is pronouncing str, "shtr". I'm just waiting to look in a dictionary and see the change in pronunciation.

vivian Jun-29-2017

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Laurie Johnson with NPR radio in the Houston area is the worst for this. She just loves to talk about how much "CONSCHTRUCTION" that local "INDUSCHTRY" is doing and how we should all read the "INSCHTRUCTIONS" and understand the "SCHTRUCTURE" of the new health care bill. Please. If you're going to work in radio, learn how to speak properly.

Fred Irritated Jul-31-2017

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I have noticed the shtrong,etc. pronunciation for a while now and wondered if it was a physical difference in the tongue causing it. A new ad on TV features a black man saying "shprite" instead of Sprite.

renee Paul Aug-29-2017

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@Anne S. This is not Bush's fault. ;)

spockers Aug-31-2017

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The answer is in the Book of Judges chapter 12.

Kron Feb-12-2018

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There are many who have ancestors of European descent in North America and Britain who've known this for thousands of years. Personally, I've never heard any white people pronounce 'street' as 'schreet' but I cannot dispute this either nor will I do this. There are two answers to this concerning the white people who pronounciate certain words as so. 1) Some are deliberately 'mispronouncing' certain words that they know they can pronounce correctly. 2) Some actually have the tongue to pronounce these words as such beyond their control. I won't post the reasons why numbers 1 and 2 is possible (in the case of both, black people are included as well), you'll just have to think about it.

Kron Feb-12-2018

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I have noticed this phenomenon in Americans under 40 mostly actors . I have not noticed a solely African-American input except for when it is an African-American actor speaking the SHTR sound is much more distinguishable. Case in point , the lead actress in the new CBS Star Trek episode one is almost unwatchable . She even takes it beyond one word such as "this traitor" becomes "thish traitor."

user106919 Jun-03-2018

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The first prominent person I noticed to speak this way was Michelle Obama, maybe it’s still an Obama support thing with the media. Very shtrange.

user107145 Aug-23-2018

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Sarah Huckabee Sanders almost exclusively pronounces "s" as "shtr". It's maddening and I can barely stand listening to her speak.

vivian Aug-23-2018

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I actually googled "pronunciation of strong" and came upon this site. It's something that I notice and wonder about often. I had a friend back in elementary school who pronounces "str" like "shtr." Every time I hear it, I think of her. I was guessing it's the way someone's mouth is shaped, like a minor speech impediment. I still don't know what to think of it but I hear it often.

user107307 Oct-16-2018

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I found this website after being driven mad by a Youtube camera tutorial. I'm glad to see that I wasn't imagining it. The link to the Penn research paper, shared by Cathy W. sheds some light on it. I believe its origin is with Polish immigrants in the early 20th Century, based in the Chicago area. The first time I ever heard this pronunciation is in the film "The Blues Brothers," which highlighted Chicago working-class speech patterns.

missdoray Dec-17-2018

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It doesn't matter what the explanation is, it's WRONG.
ABC radio news has a reader named Brian Clark that does this incessantly. Just this week he read a story about something that was 'shtrongly shtruck down' and I wanted to punch him in the face.
Seriously - a professional news reader ON THE AIR doing this. Much hate.

T2 Feb-22-2019

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I'm a former broadcast journalist, and I noticed this problem creeping into our national language. It's an ANNOYING trend, and nowadays it's prevalent among MANY to MOST Black or latino journalists. I think it's mostly a cultural thing. Kind of like saying "axe" instead of "ask".

DRTVEGAS May-05-2019

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It's NOT okay. Brian Clark reads the news on ABC radio news with this defect. NO professional news reader should be on air doing this.
Shtructure, shtrike, shtrict...I want to punch him.

Jerry S. May-09-2019

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Sean Hannity on fox has this defect (among many others)

bruce1 Jun-06-2019

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Can't believe I'm not alone in noticing this. Bravo to those who feel obliged to comment. As much as I love her, Michelle Obama was the first person I heard it from. And here I thought it was my perfect ear detecting an otherwise unnoticed flaw.

marks odds Aug-28-2019

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It's really awkward, but I'm going to point it out anyway:
Muriel Bowser, the mayor of the District of Columbia, pronounces the name of her territory as "Dishtrict of Columbia."
I'da thunk someone mighta tole her by now to get that problem fixed!! If, that is, if it is, indeed, a problem...

Harry B.

Harry Boscoe Nov-07-2019

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I found this site after wondering if Google would understand what I was looking for. Like another commenter, I started hearing this on a local station's top-of-the-hour news. I had to keep listening, just so I could find out what company and which reporter it was. Sure enough - it was Brian Clark. It's not just annoying. I'm incredulous that he's not been pulled off the air to get his speech impediment corrected. I wish I'd thought to write down what words it was that he mangled, but I think it was a 'demonshtrashun' or maybe 'inshtructions' - hell, it would be every word with an 'st' in it. PLEASE make it stop!
Thank you,
John C.

user108928 Jun-04-2020

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I believe people are emulating Michelle Obama who has a verbal tic and does not purposely do this. very annoying to see professionals do this.

user108996 Jul-06-2020

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watching an old Dateline and woman announcing 'the stranger's sounds drunk.

user108996 Jul-06-2020

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I also first noticed this with Michelle Obama and even inquired as to whether she had a speech impediment. Now, everyone does it. It makes me cringe. Why are people..journalists, tv announcers, etc pronouncing it this way? It's extremely irritating.

user108997 Jul-06-2020

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What about all the people who say "relator" instead of realtor... even some in the real estate business. Tics me off.

user109147 Aug-31-2020

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Wasn't Jimmy Shtewart transforming 's's to 'sh's many decades ago on the silver screen? I seem to recall Dubya also doing it, and in the comic strip Mutts, nearly every 's' is pronounced 'sh'.

berkboy1427 Oct-10-2020

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My only ‘exposure’ to American-English is on CNN and I have only noticed this ‘shtr’ in the last two years or so.... it is indeed very strange and I cannot see any reason for it. I am also hearing more and more people using the hiatus R... as in ‘the ideaR of it’. Very definitely a very British thing, maybe even English more than British. It certainly is not a feature in Irish-English thankfully. It sounds so awkward and unnecessary.

user109336 Nov-23-2020

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I first heard that pronunciation from Michelle Obama. I would suspect it is being adopted by those that agree with her politics and want to emulate her.

teamsturz Jun-13-2021

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Drives me crazy! Another one is “eeee chother”, instead of “each other”. Think I need a new hobby!

user110966 Aug-14-2021

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The phenomenon of the "shtr" is caused by the inability to hold the lower teeth behind the upperteeth, as in a severe overbite.

user111019 Sep-11-2021

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This habit drives me crazy , but then so much incorrect use of the English language seems to be the norm these days. I don't quite know what the source is - maybe young English teachers themselves don't know right from wrong - but it infuriates me!! Folk say it doesn't matter if you understand what they mean , but this still shouldn't make it acceptable. GRRRRRRR!!!

tigERlily Jan-24-2022

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I've noticed this before, but I've been wincing and turning the sound down every time I hear one of those Serena Williams commercials that start out, "You don't know your own shtrengh" or something like that. There's another lady "It might be Regina King" doing Cadillac commercials and in the first sentence she says a word that sounds similar. It makes me crazy. And I don't need any more help.

Mathildabee Feb-24-2022

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Michelle Obama said, “shtrength” in her narration of her entire book.
Might it be a Chicago dialect?

Kim Kuenlen Feb-28-2022

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I have also noticed this in recent years. It must stop. It has spread now to non-journalists, like some kind of virus. Even a neighbour of mine pronounced 'Western' as 'Weshtern'. He said it multiple times in one sentence and so I stopped him, and asked, "Are you saying 'Weshtern?'" ... He smiled, like he knew he had been caught doing it on purpose and admitted, "yeah". I then asked him why, and he shrugged. Weirdo.

user111317 Mar-27-2022

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Yes, it appears to be approaching vogue level and has increasingly grated on my ears lately. I first encountered "Germanic str" in a series of YouTube videos narrated by a Brit and put it down to a regional quirk. But I am hearing it elsewhere now in a variety of dialects. Something new to add to our basket of nettles along with creaky voice, "literally," "step foot," and "beg the question."

user111489 Jun-26-2022

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When I first heard this mispronunciation, I thought it was because the speakers I was hearing were younger or purposely trying to amplify their voice (SHTR has a stronger sound than STR) or perhaps, suffering from a physiological limitation.
I don't recall hearing this prior to the past year or two. Does anyone know how/where this kind of pronunciation originated?

Dancingwillow Dec-13-2022

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I too, noticed this misuse in Michell Obama's speeches. Unfortunately, it is becoming a trend that we need to speak out against. As much as I would like to test a particular product, I have no confidence in a retailer that advertises their product using a narrator that has less than an acceptable command of the English language. I have written this company, informing them of my disdain for what I consider, an intentional use of the non-word, SHTRONGER. The word is STRONGER, pronounced with an "st" sound as opposed to the "sht" sound. Whenever their commercial airs I cringe, and immediately mute the TV.

JoanInGA Dec-19-2022

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I, too, first noticed this aberration of the language during Michelle Obama’s speech. Now nearly every news caster, local and national, is using it. I wonder how the /str/ is being taught in schools. The other thing that drives me nuts and cannot listen to is the use of the glottal fry by young women and now by young men. Whatever happened to interesting, clear phonation?

SLP46 Feb-16-2023

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user111912 Mar-25-2023

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