Today’s entry is not so much about pronunciation as about spelling. There are several English verbs that we can spell confidently in their base form, but which may throw us into uncertainty when we want to write the 3sg, the past tense, or the present participle.
Take to rendezvous ˈrɒnd(e)ɪvuː. What’s the 3rd person singular? Clearly, it’s pronounced ˈrɒnd(e)ɪvuːz. The Concise Oxford wants us to spell it when he rendezvouses with us, but I cannot be the only one who feels very awkward with this. But then it would also be awkward to write when he rendezvous with us. The other two inflected forms, rendezvoused ˈrɒnd(e)ɪvuːd and rendezvousing ˈrɒnd(e)ɪvuːɪŋ, are not quite so bad.
Then there’s to ricochet, another French word. On the assumption that we pronounce it ˈrɪkəʃeɪ or ˌrɪkəˈʃeɪ, it would feel quite wrong to double the t when adding -ed or -ing. I certainly prefer ricocheted, ricocheting.
A former Russian correspondent got very excited about the verb to prusik, a technical term in mountaineering. When forming the present participle, he wanted to know, is it correct or not to double the k? He was disappointed when I declined to deliver an authoritative answer. I still don’t know: in comparison I can only adduce to frolic, frolicking, which doesn’t really help. Americans, who write worshiping, may be confident with a single k in prusiking. But what about us Brits, who write worshipping?
What stimulated all this was catching myself writing stymieing, only be struck by doubts whether it should not perhaps be stymying. (The COD gives both possibilities.) The word stymie ˈstaɪmi originated as a technical term in golfing, though I imagine most non-golfers know only its general meaning ‘thwart, obstruct’.