The real Brexit debate: do you pronounce it Breggsit or Brecksit? – The Guardian
The question of how to pronounce a word that appears at least five times in every news bulletin is an increasingly urgent issue. The double-G variant beloved by Tim and Tony isn’t restricted to centrist politicians down on their luck. It has spread far and wide, prompting agreement and fury in equal measure. If Brecksit “sounds like a shitty granola bar you buy at the airport”, as John Oliver put it, Breggsit is redolent of a fry-up in a Little Chef circa 1987. Which, depending on your point of view, may be an improvement.
So, what’s going on? As any phonetician will tell you, all that separates the sounds “g” and “k” is an accompanying vibration of the vocal cords. It’s there in “g”, but absent in “k”, which are labelled voiced and voiceless consonants, or stops, as a result (you can feel this if you place a finger on your adam’s apple while saying “agah” or “akah”). In Breggsit, the vibration carries over into the “s” too, turning it into its voiced counterpart, “z”. Next time someone pulls you up on it, tell them you have taken back control of your intervocalic velar stops and they’ll almost certainly leave you alone.
Why the split, though? Brexit is a recent coinage and, linguistically speaking, a “blend” (like brunch or smog), so you would expect most people to take their cue from the words used to create it: Britain and Exit. If you say “exit” with a “k”, you will carry that over into Brexit. If you are in the significant minority of British people who say eggsit, you will say Breggsit.
If in doubt, blame the Americans. The usual pronunciation of exit in the US is voiced, which may be why Breggsit seems to have conquered the airwaves over there. (Interestingly, though, the commander-in-chief says Brecksit. Perhaps he took his cue from his first post-inauguration foreign visitor to Washington, although he spoiled everything at the press conference by calling her Teraser.)
A footnote to Breggsitgate is the number of people seduced into referring to the whole process as Breakfast. Perhaps John McDonnell had a continental buffet in mind when he referred to “chaotic breakfast” last year. Nicola Sturgeon quoted May in front of cameras as saying “Brexit means Breakfast” and Welsh Conservatives leader Andrew Davies wooed the Tory faithful at conference by saying: “We will make a success of Breakfast.” The lesson: however you say Brexit, it’s difficult not to end up with egg on your face.