Are you familiar with decals? Or maybe, like me, you call them stickers.

Sitckers / Decals
One of my ukulele cases with some stickers on it

Whatever you call them, they are “a design or picture produced in order to be transferred to another surface either permanently or temporarily.” or in other words, a decorative sticker. Apparently decal can be used as a verb as well, meaning to apply decals to (sth) [source].

I’ve come across the word decal in novels and other texts by American writers, but I hadn’t heard anybody use it in speech. Yesterday I watched a video made by a Canadian woman in Japan in which she talks about decals, and pronounces it [ˈdɛkəl] (deckle). This surprised me as I assumed it was pronounced more like [ˈdiː.kæl] (dee-cal).

Apparently, both pronunciations are used: [ˈdiː.kæl] in central Canada and Australia, and [ˈdɛkəl] in the USA, western Canada and Australia. If you use this word, how do you pronounce it, and where are you from?

Decal is an abbreviation of decalcomania (The process of transferring decorative designs onto surfaces using decals; a decal), from French décalcomanie (same meaning), décalquer (to trace, transfer [a design]), and -manie (a compulsion, obsession, a place where something can be found in great amounts).

A word that possibly comes from the same root is cockamamie, which means a foolish or ridiculous person; ridiculousness, folly or foolish nonsense; foolish, ill-considered, silly, unbelievable, triffling, and used to mean a decal [source].

Are there any words that aren’t pronounced as you’d expect based on their written forms?

8 thoughts on “Decals

  1. I’m in the western US and have never heard anyone around here use any pronunciation but [ˈdiː.kæl].

    “Decal” and “sticker” aren’t synonymous here, though. Decals are logos, insignia, decorations, etc. applied to cars and other vehicles. Stickers are applied to other things (except for bumper stickers, which are more often applied above the bumper than on it).

  2. In Sweden we say “dekal” [d.e.k.script-a:.l]
    (the dots separate the individual sounds).
    It usually means sticker (in Petréa Mitchell’s second sense).

  3. I’m on the east coast of the US and can corroborate that I’ve never heard the word pronounced like deckle anywhere in this country.

  4. I was born and grew uo in Alabama and we always said “deckle” but when I moved north I heard both “DEE-kal” and “duh-KAL”. I still prefer “deckle”.

  5. I’ve lived my entire life in the southeastern US and have never heard it pronounced in any way other than [ˈdiː.kæl], I had no clue that people pronounced it any other way til now.

  6. I live in Maryland, and I’ve only ever heard it pronounced “DEE-kal.” Like the previous commenter, I think that decals and stickers are different things. Stickers can have any words or pictures on them and have an opaque background. Decals tend to be more utilitarian, have some sort of logo, and are applied to things like cars and toys. If the logo doesn’t take up the whole decal, the background is clear.

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